Book Review: The Alchemist



Arts

Book Review: The Alchemist

By Andrew Goldstein / January 29, 2017

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has sold more than 150 million copies, won 115 international awards and prizes and has been translated to more than 80 languages. ERIC SCHMID/THE STATESMAN

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho has sold more than 150 million copies, won 115 international awards and prizes and has been translated into more than 80 languages. ERIC SCHMID/THE STATESMAN

A story about a boy who follows his dreams by leaving his home to travel and learn about the world, “The Alchemist” is a wonderful metaphor for college, graduate school or any step toward achieving our goals we make.

As the new year and spring semester start, I decided to go back and read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Last year I set a goal to read 100 books and was able to read 87. This is one of the few books I reread as I renew my resolution to read 100 books.

“The Alchemist” follows the journey of a shepherd boy named Santiago to the Egyptian pyramids after a recurring dream where one of his sheep leads him to a treasure inside of the Egyptian pyramids. Later, a fortune-teller reveals the dream to be a prophecy.

On his way, he meets a king named Melchizedek who advises him to sell his sheep and follow his dream and discover his Personal Legend. Melchizedek explains that a Personal Legend is “what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is… when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

As Santiago travels, he is faced with obstacles both natural and unnatural. He is robbed and avoids sandstorms and clashing armies. He meets characters who fail to achieve their Personal Legends for various reasons. One man has a Personal Legend just to have something to hope for, but in reality, he does not desire to achieve. One character only desires the treasures of his Personal Legend, but does not care to put in the effort to achieve the goal itself.

If I were a middle school teacher, I would have my class read this book. I have lent this book out to friends suffering from depression. It’s spiritual and allegorical, yet so positively real. I challenge others to read through the about 180-page novel and tell me they aren’t inspired to do something toward achieving their destiny. There are entire blog posts dedicated to lessons learned from “The Alchemist.”

Coelho wrote “The Alchemist” in two weeks in 1987. In an interview with The Guardian in 2009, he said the book was already written in his soul.

Since being published in 1988, “The Alchemist” has been translated into more than 80 languages, setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author. By 2014, it had sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and won 115 international prizes and awards. 

As the spring semester gets underway, it will only be easier to choose to read a bit less and loosen up on the goals we’ve set for ourselves. As January ends, how many of us have pretty much already given up on our New Year’s goals to eat healthier, run more often or study more? These are the moments when books like “The Alchemist” are perfect catalysts for extra motivation to continue striving for our own Personal Legends.