Book Review: The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho


There are books that come to us when we are ready for them. Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”  is one of those books.

Many believe that the universe sends us signs and that it takes perception and intuition to notice them. However, the universe sends signs to anyone who is willing to receive its message, even a simple shepherd from Spain.

In “The Alchemist,” the protagonist, Santiago, dreams of treasure buried beneath the Egyptian pyramids while he tends to his flock in the fields. When the  dream comes to him more and more frequently, he decides to make it a reality. Leaving his flock, he sets off across the Strait of Gibraltar to discover his fate.

Along his travels, Santiago encounters various people who help him. A king with no kingdom tells Santiago he must realize his Personal Legend, a dream that your soul insists you make real and won’t allow you peace until you do. A gypsy woman advises him to follow his dream because it is the “language of the world.”

Santiago also meets a crystal merchant who sadly will never realize his Personal Legend, and therefore, pushes Santiago to pursue his.

Santiago meets an Englishman so absorbed in his books that he will never discover his soul’s true dreams, and a desert woman Santiago is destined to love. Finally, while traveling with a caravan to the oasis, he meets the great Alchemist himself, who helps Santiago discover the Soul of the World — the truth to all the elements in the universe, which brings everything into balance.

Passionate, spiritual, and moving, “The Alchemist” encourages us to read the signs of the universe, go with the flow of life, and to discover and realize our Personal Legends. The universe wants us to achieve our Personal Legends, which starts us with what is known as “beginner’s luck,” as the king describes it to Santiago.

However, challenges will also arise to test our resilience. The lesson, then, is that if we fearlessly and resolutely pursue our Personal Legends, the universe will conspire to help us — but test us, too.   

At the end of his journey, Santiago learns a new truth about his Personal Legend and also develops a new perspective on the world around him.

From the flourishing meadows of southern Spain to a desert oasis and finally to the great pyramids of Egypt, the journey that “The Alchemist” takes us on is more than we can imagine.

Coelho’s book leaves us feeling like we belong to something much greater than ourselves, which is both inspiring and humbling.