The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

One of the most transformative novels ever written is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book was originally published in Portuguese in 1988, but has since been translated into numerous other languages, making it a bestseller across the globe. 

The novel chronicles the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago, who receives a prophecy from a fortune teller regarding a dream that he has had in the abandoned church he calls home. The fortune teller explains to him that he will seek great treasure at the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Santiago begins his journey across the continent to reach Egypt, when he meets King Salem. King Salem introduces one of the most pivotal ideas in the novel, which is the concept of “Personal Legend.” According to King Salem, your Personal Legend is the goal you are always destined to want to accomplish. Santiago’s “Personal Legend” is to reach the Egyptian pyramids and uncover their great treasure. As he travels through Africa, Santiago is robbed of the little money he has for his journey, so he finds a job as a merchant to earn enough money to continue. During this time, Santiago also falls in love with a girl named Fatima, who he eventually proposes to. However, she only promises to marry him after he has achieved his “personal legend.” This later teaches the resilience of true love and the importance of sacrifice in achieving one’s “Personal Legend.” 

Santiago finds another travel companion in an alchemist, who helps him achieve unity with the “soul of the world” and reach a deeper level of self-discovery and awareness. The two finally reach the pyramids, where Santiago digs for treasure to no avail. That night, Santiago is robbed yet again, but discovers that the treasure he was searching for actually resides in the church where he had the initial dream. 

Santiago’s trials and tribulations teach the reader to treasure the path to success. While the destination may be the achievement of a goal, true growth and learning come from the journey. Additionally, this novel shows the importance of personal aspiration and goals through the concept of “Personal Legend.” In order to achieve one’s goals or “Personal Legend,” one must sacrifice complacency and familiarity in favor of risk and determination. The lessons taught through the pages of The Alchemist are powerful and revolutionary in sparking a mental, emotional, and spiritual transformation. Because of this, The Alchemist is a crucial read in achieving personal growth and is highly recommended.

-Katie A.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

It’s not very often that you find a book that you think about on the daily. A book whose plot is so intricate and thought-provoking that its messages are imprinted into your brain. But The Alchemist is just that. A beautiful combination of fantasy elements intertwined with real-life lessons, this is definitely worth reading for those looking for a far-from-cliché book.

This book follows the journey of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd, with a dream that ironically keeps him up at night. In order to decipher what he believes to be a prophecy, he encounters many different people who give Santiago their own two cents. One of the most memorable meetings is with a man named King Melchizedek, who brings up this idea of a “Personal Legend”. In the words of the king, it is “what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is. That theme is weaved throughout the book, and continues to fuel Santiago’s thirst for knowledge and adventure, and through his ups and downs of finding love and struggling through failure, he discovers the treasure his dream has been showing him.

The Alchemist is unique in the sense that it allows the reader to really immerse themselves into Santiago. They can easily relate and absorb the lessons Santiago receives along the way, rather than just skimming over them. Though this story is only a little over 160 pages (and I wish it was longer), there is so much wisdom packed into every page of this story.

As an avid fantasy and science-fiction reader, I was a bit wary starting this story. But, I believe the valuable teachings within The Alchemist are worth reading and knowing about, no matter what type(s) of genre(s) you enjoy! After all, anyone could use a little bit of enlightenment. 🙂

-Julianne T.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is an allegorical novel by George Orwell that tells the story of the Russian Revolution through farm animals. At first glance, the book is nothing more than a fairy tail, but behind this façade is the barely concealed rage from Orwell, who grew disillusioned with the ideals of communism after watching how its system of government played out for Russia. The book follows Joseph Stalin’s rise to power as a dictator in a society that, in theory, was supposed to be shared among all of the working class. In spite of the cruel treatment that the ruling class dishes out to them, the working class remains oblivious of the freedoms being stripped from them until it is too late to fight back against it.

As I mentioned before, the book is about Stalin’s rise to power. However, the story is about animals. So, which animal represents Stalin? Finding out is half of the fun of reading the book. With minimal knowledge about the Russian Revolution, you can deduce which animal represents each political figure or societal class, as well as which events in the book represent major turning points in Russia’s history.

When reading Animal Farm, I could not help but be in awe of how flawlessly Orwell seamed each historical event into the book. Every turn of the page brings new excitement, and I found myself actually getting emotional throughout some points in the story. It is a strange experience to watch as a group of people, or “animals”, slowly become oppressed by a government that they thought would save them from their oppressors. Whether this cycle of power is told through the eyes of animals or humans, the disturbances that it can cause can shape the course of history, as we have seen it do time and time again. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history, or simply wants a read that will make them think.

-Mirabella S., 9th grade

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Hoopla.