Customer Reviews: The Alchemist
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on June 6, 2015
i can't believe some one wrote the head line as terrible copy. The book comes that way with uneven pages gez.

All time favorite
my go to book.
Gotta say it is plain and simple.
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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2006
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"
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on September 9, 2014
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.
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on September 29, 2014
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.
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on May 24, 2014
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.
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on January 22, 2002
When I thought about reviewing this book, I had many things to say...but after reading some of the other reviews which pick apart and criticize it, I can see the meaning of the book even more clearly.
The writing is simple and clear- not juvenile. It's entertaining and brings a message which does not need to be complicated, except for those who are not ready to see the truth. They are the ones who like their truth heavily veiled and masked, as their self-gratification is in the pursuit. The reality is, the only place you need to look for the truth is in yourself. There is no search required- just your own personal journey.
Life does not need to be complicated, and the folks who have made negative comments about those who enjoy this book have obviously missed the point of it entirely- and they bring to mind the phrase "Casting Pearls before Swine."
You are not going to get anything valuable from this book unless you are READY for the spiritual knowledge which it contains. And that is one of the main points of the book anyway.
Personally, I received deep spiritual messages and peace from reading The Alchemist- and I have been on my own spiritual path for over two decades. This book presents information that only those who have actually paid attention to their journey would understand and appreciate.
If you read it and don't like it, I suggest you forget about it for at least 5 years and pick it up again. You might be surprised.
Update, 10/2003:Oh. My. Gosh. I can't believe how many people just "don't get" this book!!! Look: the point is not about anyone's "Personal Legend"!!!
THE POINT, is that what you search for is usually RIGHT THERE all along, and that the journey you take to find it is about learning lessons and growing as a person. Get it yet? LIFE IS IN THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION!!
Santiago set off to find his "pot of gold," and after a long journey during which he grew mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he finally discovers the location of the treasure. He follows the directions and find it RIGHT WHERE HE STARTED!
GET IT?!!!
You have what you need inside of you all of the time. You don't need to search outside yourself- you need to look within. THAT is the point.
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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, 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 just speaks to the masses, where others may require one to think more.
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