The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist


The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride around my house. There was a wedding, a job change, sickness, and even a death. Some of these changes have been good, some sad, and for some the end is not clear but it looks bright. All this while the calendar turned to a new year.

I think that timing when reading a book can make a difference in your feelings about the book. I remember clearly that I read the book Pentimento by Lillian Hellman when I was in my late teens or early 20’s. I loved the book. I then re-read the book in my 30’s and was not exactly sure why I was so enamored with it.

I am also a little concerned when an author is famous not as much for his writing as he is presented as more of a “prophet”. I easily admit that I am a bit cynical about “prophets”. But sometimes I am intrigued by what I read in the press and decide that I have to see what I think about an author.

This is what led me to Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist. The book was originally written in Portuguese and published in Brazil in 1988. It was published in the U.S. in 1993.


The book tells the story of Santiago, the shepherd boy, who is driven to go on his personal quest. Santiago is an unusual shepherd. He is more educated than most shepherds – he was in the seminary until he was 16. He left the seminary because he felt such a strong pull to travel the countryside and get to know more than just the place where he was born.

It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

And then he started having a re-occurring dream. The dream told him that if he went to the Egyptian pyramids that he would find a hidden treasure. He went to a gypsy who made him promise to pay her one-tenth of his treasure when he got it. She told him that he would have to go to the Pyramids and that there he would find his treasure.

He then meets an old man. He doesn’t really want to talk to the old man but he is polite and they have a conversation. The old man starts talking about the book Santiago is reading. The old man dismisses the book because he feels the book ends up with the world’s greatest lie.

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” The boy asked, completely surprised.

“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

Santiago tells the man about his dream and the gypsy. The old man then tells the shepherd that it is good that he has found his Personal Legend and that he should follow it. (Note: “Personal Legend” is capitalized in the book.)

The story then goes on to follow Santiago while he goes after his Personal Legend.


I really loved this book. Easily, it may have been my frame of mind. I needed to hear the lesson of believing in what you think you should be doing with your life. A lesson of listening and believing in what your heart tells you.

What I found interesting is that in the preface, the author talks about the four obstacles in reaching your personal legend. At first, I was a bit taken back that he was explaining this before I knew anything about  the story. After reading the book, I understood the preface more. I actually would recommend reading the preface again after reading the book.

This book is perfect for someone thinking about  what they should be doing with their life or someone having a hard time and feeling discouraged about reaching their goals. In the preface, the four obstacles in achieving our goal are explained.

Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.

It is not a long book. Most of the editions are under 200 pages. Because it has been available for a long time, you can probably get a copy from the bookstore or used book store. I read an eBook copy from the library. I am sure the library has copies also.

Thanks for reading!

Worth Reading

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
This entry was posted in Talking Books, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

  1. Sabra says:

    I liked the Alchemist. I read it years ago, so it would be interesting to see what I think now. I’ve given it as a gift, too. Can’t imagine I wouldn’t still like.

  2. Julia Tomiak says:

    Carol, I’ve never heard of this book, but it does sound intriguing. I totally agree with your thoughts on the importance of frame of mind when you read a book- it really does influence your response.
    I hope the roller coaster ride ends soon.

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