Book Review: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

As the eighth book in my reading order, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo made for an interesting three days. While I primarily read it on my train ride to work, it was incredibly light to carry and a breezy read. The story was simple to follow, and it didn’t have many characters or storylines to confuse the reader. Which is funny because the protagonist in the book says the exact same thing, that if he ever wrote a book, he would a few characters so the book wouldn’t be hard to read.

The prevailing expression related to this book is that it is a modern fable. And I didn’t know what that meant. What could an older person fable consist of? What would it talk about that they don’t already know? How would it be any different from the millions of self-help books that they have tried to read? ‘Modern Fable’ can be constituted as the general description for the book because now I agree with it.

It is the story of a young Spanish boy, Santiago who sees a recurring dream of a treasure under the Egyptian pyramids. So he sets forth from his life of shepherding to try and obtain that treasure. He meets an Old King on the way who gives Santiago two magic beans for his path ahead. Santiago also meets the love of his life on the way to the pyramids and learns alchemy. He takes up small, diverse jobs to earn enough money to reach Egypt and then the pyramids. Meeting all sorts of people on his journey, learning from their experiences and developing his own deep thoughts and conclusions.

An Alchemist would be someone who creates an object through a seemingly magical process. The most common example would be to create gold from any metal you hold and that’s what draws a lot of people to the art of alchemy. While what we learn through the book is that the story of Santiago is just the backbone of the flesh of human existence, and a metaphor for explaining our purpose in life.

The book is filled with thought-provoking questions, little reminders that life is short and we must march towards our goal all the time. Or at least work in the direction of our goal. Paulo Coelho incorporates the old wisdom into different scenes and includes the burning questions as thoughts that Santiago would have. Also, he addresses them heads on in a way that you could pick up clues as to how that applies to YOU. Which is a very big deal because millions have read this book and resonate with the ideas that it proposes.

It is as much difficult to explain in words how the book is, as it is to explain the meaning of life. But I can tell you this much that you will not regret reading this book. It is easy to read, interesting and will be on your mind all the time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Complexity Rating: 3 out of 5

General Pace of the book: 3 out of 5

Life Recommendations: Immense!

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