Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

the alchemist book review

As some of you know, I have a never-ending list of books I’d like to read. Usually a friend recommends one, or I read about one on a travel blog. Whenever I see something interesting, I add it to the list. However, I often skip over the same book repeatedly because the small blurb on Amazon doesn’t sound appealing. That’s what happened to The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A shepherd goes in search of his dreams. Hmmm. Sounds kind of boring.

Thanks to the new restrictions about bringing your Kindle aboard a plan going through Abu Dhabi, I had no choice but to buy a real book for the sixteen-hour flight to New York. Luckily, there was one book in English that looked familiar. I picked it up, flipped through the pages and said, “Well, it’s on my list” and bought it.

The book itself is short, and the language is simple, but I wouldn’t call it an easy read. It’s so packed with meaningful sentences, that I’d often find myself rereading them several times to contemplate them fully. And yet, the book was never boring. Like the description says, it is about a shepherd who follows his dreams, and yet it’s so much more.

The Alchemist is the story of a boy named Santiago who lives in Spain. He decides to become a shepherd because it allows him to travel, and he has always wanted to see new places and meet new people. One evening, he has a reoccurring dream that he will find a treasure near the Pyramids in Egypt. After meeting a man who tells him he should follow his dream he sets out on a quest to discover his destiny.

Most stories give the main character an obstacle or two to overcome, but this story is full of relatable instances. Instead of getting discouraged from finding his treasure, he’s often tempted to give up when he starts to make a comfortable living or meets a beautiful woman. He constantly questions if he should just settle (for a good life) and stop chasing his dream. It’s a dilemma we all face. To risk everything for a pipe dream or to settle for something guaranteed?

In the search for his destiny, he meets people he would never have met in Spain, learns crafts/trades he never thought of studying, and learns to speak the language of the world. His quest proves that it’s not the destination, but the journey that is important. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has chased a dream, enjoys philosophy, or loves a good adventure. This book has it all.

Have you read the alchemist? What did you think?


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  1. Natalia says:

    I read this when I was quite young and found it really hyperbolic and self-consciously deep. Perhaps I need to read it again now I’m a bit older.

    1. fulltimeexplorer says:

      I’d definitely recommend reading it a second time. I feel like it’s the type of book that has different meaning to you at different points in your life 🙂

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