1,660 of 1,754 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2003
Yes, much of what negative reviewers of this book have to say is true: the writing is blunt and simple, the characters lack depth and complexity, it is quite male-focused in its subject matter and language, it has a bunch of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo, and so on. This book should not be put on the list of great literature for the ages. There are doubtless many novels that cover subject matter from this book far more artfully. As I read the book, I was aware of its hokeyness and lack of redeeming literary qualities. I am, in fact, usually the first person to criticize books that read like this.
And yet, I have to say - and I feel a bit sheepish about this - that I found it meaningful, even profound at times. How can I say this, given my criticisms? First of all, unlike many reviewers, I did not approach this book with great expectations. No one told me that this was Shakespeare or Tolstoy; I had never even heard of it until it was recommended to me recently. And by the end of page 2, I had adjusted my expectations further. This clearly was not going to be winning the Booker prize.
But I found the book moving in its simple way. The characters deliver their statements without subtlety, but subtlety is more a literary virtue than a philosophical one. In fact, I essentially came to view this work as a life philosophy expressed as a fable, so I didn't particularly mind that its messages were not buried far beneath the surface.
Are those messages novel? No, but what of it? Novelists have been recycling themes for centuries, becuase many themes are of enduring interest and relevance. The point is, the messages are worthwhile and deserving of consideration. They are simple, but I think that simplicity is itself one of the central themes of the book: that life is not that complicated when one follows one's dreams honestly and passionately, or as the book says, "with love and purpose." And yet the book reminds us that it is very easy to give up dreams and abandon one's passion.
I have to disagree with one often-mentioned criticism of the book, namely, that it advocates pure materialism. That is, in my opinion, a serious misinterpretation. The book is written in the style of a fable, and therefore the goals people strive for are the typical gold-and-buried-treasure stuff. But I think one would have to misread the book quite severely to think that it is advocating material gain. The book is not at all about the specific goals that the protagonist pursues. It is about the importance of wanting something urgently and how the wanting seems to reorient the universe in harmony with that goal (just as a magnetic field can reorder the particles around it), how genuine passion and enthusiasm are rewarded with success, how those who love us encourage us to pursue our goals, and how the act of reaching for goals - whatever they are, and whether or not ultimately reached - plunges us into a strong current that carries us to places that we can never expect or know when we embark. There is something here in common with the beliefs of the Romantics, in that much of the value of the goal is in the journey that it leads us on -- the experiences gained and the lessons learned.
It's not a fair criticism of the book, I think, to say that it doesn't tell us what happens when people's goals conflict with one another, or disclose that circumstances outside of our control often render us unable to reach our goals however sincerely we may pursue them. We don't need a book to tell us that. Anyone who has made it out of childhood knows that, and I have to believe that the author is well aware of this as well. I suspect that through his simple tale, he is trying to provide some kind of argument against the kind of cynicism or fear that the world can sometimes instill in us, and encourage us to keep diving into that "strong current" to see where it takes us.
460 of 511 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2001
I checked this book out from the library, but I'm going to buy a copy and re-read it at regular intervals.
I read it over the course of one day, thought "nice fable" & began reading another book as soon as I finished this one. But I found that the lessons contained in this simple story of a shepherd boy seeking treasure, won't be dismissed so easily. They must have taken up residence in my subconscious and kicked up some dust, because my mind keeps returning to the lessons of the story to find new and more subtle insights having formed.
These are lessons that we all know in our hearts, but that we forget as we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of our material lives. Lessons about listening to our hearts and following our dreams. Lessons about living in the moment, the transient nature of possessions and the illusion that we can even "possess" something to begin with. Lessons about freeing ourselves from fear and about understanding our lives as part of the energy of the Universe and understanding that everything will work out the way it was intended to. Lessons about trusting in signs, knowing that our lives have a grand purpose and that the forces of the Universe will conspire to help us fulfill that purpose. And the lesson that all of the fortunes and misfortunes we encounter in life are part of our spiritual education, and that it's not the earthly "treasure" we seek that's important but the lessons learned while in pursuit of it.
If you like to ponder the meaning of life, then let your mind and spirit mull over the lessons in this book. It's a quick and enjoyable read that will provide some new insights, or remind you of some old one's that you've forgotten.
132 of 147 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The Alchemist - 10th Anniversary Edition is a book that has still to this day had the power to change a lot of peoples life with the lessons that it provides to the readers. It was not until I took this book and began to truly read it that I discovered that I was not really living my life. The whole world was in front of me and I was not looking at it and seeing all that was presented to me. The Alchemist - 10th Anniversary Edition turned my way of thinking around and made me see life for what it really held in just a few grains of sand.
Manifestation Magic: Attracting Abundant Wealth, Incredible Health, Great Relationships, and Limitless Success Into Your Life, was another example of the world being put in front of you and the entire meaning of life being explained. I was hooked from the moment that I started to read and found myself unable to set it down and put it away. I soon saw that we control our destiny and that if we want things to change, then we and we alone have the power to make that happen. While this book will not single handily change everything in an instant, you will begin to see noticeable changes to certain parts of your life. This in turn will lead to you having more happiness and therefore feeling like things are actually going your way for a change.
If you are looking to make some serious changes in your life, then you will want to make it a point that you read these two books and see for yourself the number of improvements that will come your way. Taking the time to read and actually follow the words that you will find in these books will be the first steps towards your new life.
180 of 205 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2012
October 26, 2012
A review of the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This review is written by Anthony T. Riggio. After reading the above book, given to me by my youngest sister, as a gift, during a recent visit, I promised her I would read it. My sister, who suffers from a mental illness, said the book had impacted her and thought it a spiritual work. Mental illness is certainly a stigma in our society but I have come to see it as a blessing by God to allow my sister to see things in an unvarnished way. She has lost everything and lives a most simple life in a therapeutic family care environment. She lives there because neither of her siblings are ill prepared to handle things when the chemical unbalance occurs, which it inevitably happens at the unscheduled moments.
Even in her limited world, she has been able to see the spiritual where most of us cannot. That she spent the full publisher's price infuriated me but then I stopped to think about the genuineness of her generosity and love she has for her older brother, I decided to graciously accept her gift.
The Alchemist is a simple story which some might refer to as a fable. It is however the story of a boy, Santiago, who search for the meaning of a dream which hopes to lead him to a treasure. It is the story of one finding his/her Personal Legend (roughly destiny and/or meaning for life).
The book emphasizes the reason for each living in the now as opposed to one's past or future. This is often a difficult task but a profound spiritual experience when fully accomplished because in that now moment we experience ourselves and get a glimpse of God. This book however is not a religious book because as the author advised religion provides the discipline for the community experience in its devotion to God.
I had to look up exactly what an alchemist was, as I was always informed he was a pseudo-chemist who always tried to turn lead into gold, but this is a rather shallow definition and one that will be better defined by reading this exquisite book.
The alchemist in this book is more like the "Desert Fathers" who fled to the desert in search of God and the meaning of life. It is most interesting how three of the world's largest religions have their roots in the desert. What is it about the desert and communion it allows with our maker?
This book is a delight to read and very quick, though I have found myself reviewing past pages to understand fully the very simple message the author is conveying. This book can be read in one sitting very easily but I advise against it because it has a lingering flavor you want to savor.
I highly recommend this book for those that enjoy a compelling simple story and for those caught in the niche of other genres; I recommend it as a book to pull you back to your center.
Writing a review for book's that someday will be the tool for future study and analysis is an intimidating undertaking and I hope that I have not misinterpreted or offended the author who will be / is, one of the great authors of our time.
This book was given five stars and is available on Amazon Kindle for a most reasonable price.
300 of 346 people found the following review helpful
More parable than novel, "The Alchemist" uses the story of young shepherd Santiago's search for his Personal Legend as an allegory for everyman's struggle to break from the comfortable confines of conformity and pursue his life dreams. Along the way, of course, our young everyman is beset by all manner of setbacks, testing his resolve and forcing him to become attuned to the Soul of the World in order to survive. By paying attention to the details in the world around him, which serve as omens guiding him towards his goal, young Santiago becomes an alchemist in his own right, spinning unfavorable circumstances into riches.
Aside from the ubiquitous theme about the power of perseverance, my favorite part of the book was its glorification of simplicity. Like the pared-down manner in which the story is presented, Santiago's rare ability to get in touch with the Soul of the World comes not from the procedures described in arcane tomes pursued by traditional alchemists, but rather from a simple honesty and observance of the workings of the world. While the lack of character or plot complexity precludes this minimalist work from being considered a great novel, it will be a satisfying read for those seeking inspiration of the purest sort.
-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I read The Alchemist many years ago and it had a profound effect on how I viewed my life. The story is timeless and tells the story of a young boy, Santiago, on his way to find the riches and treasures of the world. But, beyond that, the book acts as a metaphor for turning your life around. Only you have the power to change your progression in life. I read this book as a kid, and it helped inspire to own my own business and do what I wanted to do despite other's opinions of me. It was certainly transformative for me then and it continues to be transformative to this day. I love the fact that this story has remained a timeless classic and one that I will be glad to show my grandchildren someday.
But, transformation isn't easy. And, of course, there are times when transforming your life may be more difficult than imagined. I picked up a book called 27 Quick Life Transformation Tips: Simple & Effective Methods For Making This Your Best Year Ever the other day, and I've found that the insights are incredibly powerful and uplifting. Most people think that transforming your life is a long process, but as this book and the main character of The Alchemist illustrate, changing your life depends on making an active choice. The tips in this book are full of brilliant little tips for changing your life one step at a time. Again, changing your life doesn't have to be difficult. In many cases, it may just take a different mindset.
The mindset and philosophy of The Alchemist is certainly transformative. I love books that are inspiring and powerful and end up making a change in my life for the better. If you're looking for a change in your life, then I'd suggest picking up a copy of The Alchemist. Once you've done that, find yourself a copy of 27 Quick Life Transformation Tips for actionable and convenient tips on changing your life. I know that my life has certainly improved as a result and I'm glad that these works of literature have entered my life. I'm sure that you'll all be glad to have them in your life as well.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
There is a quote I've made since finishing the Alchemist; There are some books you will read, then there are stories that you can experience.
The Alchemist is definitely a story to experience. I read this book at a questionable point in my life. As I read on, I found myself in the characters shoes. I was amazed on how the story spoke directly to me. This was the first time I put a book down in astonishment. As if I was suppose to read it at this very point in my life. I took the advice and now I am a better place with more accomplished goals, a new healthier lifestyle, and a favorite author. I would recommend The Alchemist to ANYONE.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The Alchemist is an inspiring saga about the journey of life. It reminds us that the story of each of our lives can be a great adventure if we are wise enough to read and follow the spiritual omens along the way that constantly nudge us closer to our true destiny. This tale shows us that when we summon up the courage to follow our own dream the result is always remarkable, rewarding, and never exactly what we anticipated. What we discover as we follow our dream is usually better than anything we could have ever imagined and it helps us grow in ways that are uniquely transformative, enjoyable and enchanting. This book is an engaging, easy read and is well worth the small financial investment required to travel life’s road with the main character along a path that promises to refresh our understanding and increase our passion for our own quest.
139 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2014
For those of you who may not have time to gather the many pearls of "wisdom" in this book, I'll summarize a few here:
1. Follow your dreams--note, DO NOT follow your hopes, your ideals, your beliefs or your ambitions. You must literally follow your DREAMS. Santiago the shepherd boy, has a dream one night that he will find a treasure. Thus begins his quest. Well, last night I had a dream that I was being chased through Disney World by a gorilla in a tutu. Sucks for me, but apparently that's what the Soul of the World intends for me, so I guess I better head to Florida.
2. There is a secret Language of the Universe. Can you guess which one it is?
3. Yes, of course it's love. Good news is, the verbs in this language are extremely fun to conjugate. If you're not sure how you will learn this secret language and see into the Soul of the World? Well, you'll need three things:
c. a desert
4. If you are open to the secret Language of the Universe, you will know your intended spouse the moment you see him or her. Unfortunately, for all you married folks, if you didn't immediately recognize that your spouse was your intended mate, like say if you actually took the time to get to know them, GET DIVORCED IMMEDIATELY! You are married to the wrong person. Try to be more open to the secret Language of the Universe next time. Hint: walk in the desert.
5. Oh yeah, back to following your dream. Even if your dream is physically impossible, like say, turning lead into gold, follow it anyway. What matters is that you GO FOR IT!
6. Don't believe the Bible when it says things like "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." SIGNS are the way to go. God is constantly sending you omens letting you know what you should do next. You just gotta take the time to see them. (See Hint above).
7. If you're a woman, stop holding your man back from reaching his dreams with your clingy "love." Don't you understand that there is TREASURE for him out there? Your job is to wait till he finds it. Then maybe he'll come back for you, or, hey, maybe he'll die, but that will be okay cause then he'll be like part of the rain and the dirt and stuff.
8. If you meet some random old man on the street who tells you he is a king, there is NO WAY he can possibly be lying. Do whatever he tells you.
9. "There is only one way to learn...through action." Good news for all you college students--dump those useless expensive textbooks now! (No offense Amazon)
10. "Listen to your heart. It knows all things because it came from the Soul of the World." I have been listening to MY heart because apparently it knows neurosurgery. (Although it only seems to say ka-thump ka-thump, still, I got me a scalpel. If you have a brain tumor, I am open for business!)
11. Gold is the metal that has evolved the furthest. HA--you thought is was just a shiny, yellow, highly conductive but still vastly over-priced metal. Pay attention to your heart and the Soul of the World, you fool. Maybe then some of that highly evolved metal will lead you to itself. (Like with omens and stuff)
12. "There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." True enough, I suppose...though so far I am having trouble finding a tutu that will fit a gorilla...still I will try not to fear failure so that my dream of being chased through Disney World by a tutu-wearing gorilla can come true.
13. The winds know everything...you know, kinda like the heart.
14. "When you are loved, you can do anything in creation." So, dude, if you find that there's anything whatsoever you CAN'T do--bad news, it means you ARE NOT LOVED! (Feel free to test this axiom by performing a triple back somersault...NOW!)
274 of 327 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
Last spring I read "Illusions," by Richard Bach. When I read the reviews online, one guy mentioned he thought "The Alchemist" was superior to the story of "Illusions." I finally got around to "Alchemist" and I must say I was quite disappointed.
First off, yes I realize it's considered a fable, but the writing style is far too simplistic. I don't know if it's the translation, but it reads like a book an elementary schooler would read for a report. Annoying points: there are page after page of adolescent terms like "Master Work" and "Personal Legend" and "Language of the Universe", repetitious redundancies of quotes, just in case you haven't been paying attention, and very little masking of points. Coelho must not trust the reader to pick things up because he screams them at you.
But, that's just the writing style. As for the writing, there is a clear spiritual basis to the story, which is welcome, but the incessant talk of fate was a complete turn-off. I also felt there was an air of superiority to it. Santiago would pass people who seemed happy in their lives, and he would feel sorry for them because they weren't on a trek. In the case of the crystal shop owner, yes, he was pathetic for not pursuing his dream of going to Mecca. But to look at another shop owner and judge he has not pursued his dream, when perhaps his dream was to settle with his family, was distracting.
On to love....um, he meets a woman midway through the story and falls in love before they speak? Oooookay. And this woman he supposedly loves, and with whom he could settle with and be rich, he leaves to discover a treasure. Why is his dream that of a material/monetary nature? I had a tiny problemo with that one.
So, before this becomes a lecture. I give it 3 stars for some of the dialogue Santiago has with the alchemist, and for its basic idea: pursue your dream, as it will haunt you if you don't. However, this is hardly a fantastic book....it just speaks to the masses, where others may require one to think more.