I loved writing this book review of The Alchemist as it’s among the best books I’ve read. It is a simple story with deep philosophical underpinnings. The story is about a boy who is referred to throughout the book as “the boy”. His story is not of a particular person, but of each of us.
The boy has dreams to travel the world and so becomes a shepherd. Along the way, he encounters strange people sent to help him realise his destiny. His courage in trusting strangers, following omens, and listening to his heart makes his dreams come true.
Coelho’s choice of shepherd as the boy’s occupation echoes Christianity. At the same time, the customs of the people in the story reflect the Muslim faith. It is a respectful and beautiful blend of religions. The message is that at some level, all religions point to the same truth.
This book asks the dreamer in all of us whether we have given up on our deepest desires, or whether we will have the courage to own and seek our individual destinies.
Who should read this book
Those who have dreams
The Alchemist gives heart to those pursuing their dreams but meeting insurmountable obstacles. It assures us that every difficult step along the journey has a reason, though not be obvious at the time.
Seekers of knowledge
As the title implies, alchemy is a key topic in the book. The book gives a simple yet profound twist to our understanding of alchemy. It describes the transformation, not of metal but of ourselves.
Those who want to travel the world
Travelling is a luxury these days. Yet there is another way to travel – with your life itself. This requires the courage to leave loved ones and the comforts of life behind, in search of places that you want to see. The book inspires those yearning to see the world to stop procrastinating and do just that.
Quotes from the book
My favourite quote
“When people consult me, it’s not that I’m reading the future; I’m guessing at the future. The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances. How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve upon the present, what comes later will also be better.” (page 108-109)
“When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming part of that person’s life. And then they want the person to change. If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” (page 16)
“Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realise their destiny.
It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth… To realise one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” (page 22-23)