The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I first read The Alchemist when I was around eleven or so. The book was confusing to me, and although I enjoyed it, I felt as if I was missing the bigger picture in some way. The book contained a lot of symbolism and themes that I was slightly too young to fully comprehend.

Revisiting this six years later, I understand this book to be more than a fantastical adventure across Africa towards untold riches and going through trials and tribulations to come out on top. It is deep and the message resonated with me after I finished reading it.

This novel is not about the practice of alchemy or the journey of a young man, Santiago. At least, not solely about either of those. The main idea, or theme, is how fear often controls people. The novel proposes the idea that everyone has what it calls a Personal Legend. A Personal Legend is a goal that the universe has put out for someone or a dream they want to accomplish. This is supposed to bring someone ultimate satisfaction for completing it and in order to continue living a satisfactory life and achieve happiness new Personal Legends are continuously set out after one has been completed. However, throughout the book examples are shown of people who are often too afraid to fulfill their Personal Legend, and thus find themselves stuck in an endless routine, or feeling empty as a result of the fear holding them back.

Although following your Personal Legend can come at a price, like Santiago losing all his money while in a foreign country, this is the universe testing people and seeing if they are truly strong enough or dedicated enough to keep going. It rewards people who push past obstacles or get up to continue trying even when they fall.

Coelho is trying to encourage the readers of the story to go out and experience their own adventures, fulfill their own Personal Legends, lest you fall into a cycle, doomed to dissatisfaction.

Santiago is someone we look at as a reflection of ourselves. He has a comfortable life living in a certain way without changing, but his life is stagnant. Until he makes that decision to look at signs being given to him and taking a leap of faith to begin his journey. At first, it does not go well. He goes to a foreign country, loses nearly all his money to a con man, and has nothing but the clothes on his back. However, he begins working for a crystal merchant, and over time gains money. Although he is deciding to go back to Andalusia, at the last minute he decides to continue his journey to completing his Personal Legend in Egypt. He faces many hardships, almost dying along the way, but eventually, he makes it back to Andalusia, where he finds treasures waiting for him.

The story as a whole is actually inspiring. It shows that achieving your goal is not easy, nor should it be. But it is rewarding seeing it through to the end, and the satisfaction of fulfilling a goal that you worked hard to achieve is (in Coelho’s opinion) the way to have a happy, good life.

-Farrah M. 

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

I Am Malala

I Am Malala is a story about Malala Yousafzai. Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan. Mingora is a place where not many women have that many rights. Malala always wonder why this is and why she isn’t able to go to school. That rule wasn’t in place, but Mingora was taken over by the Taliban, and they enforced that rule and many other harsh ones.

Because of the circumstances she is in, Malala starts writing blogs about what has happened under the pen name “Gul Makai”. Shortly after, the Taliban start getting forced out of town by the Pakistani army. The Pakistani army force the Taliban out of town, but they still stay in the rural areas on the borders of town.

Then, someone at The New York Times sees Malala’s blogs and features her in a documentary. The documentary is about protecting girl’s rights and education. The Taliban see the documentary, and Malala becomes a target. As she’s on her way to her father’s newly reopened school, two Talibans stop the bus, and one shoots Malala in the head. Malala miraculously survives, and is taken to the United Kingdom for treatment. The news spread extremely quickly, and people around the world are now praying for Malala’s recovery. After Malala gets discharged from the hospital, she joins the rest of her family in Birmingham. She continues to this day to campaign for women’s rights and mainly for their education.

-Emilio V.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Grit by Angela Duckworth

The word “effort” shows up often and is used quite often as the main point of a success story. There is often much emphasis on efforts and hard work, but our attitude in accepting good efforts needs a bit of change. Instead, we should also focus on the limitations that were faced. Grit is instead good enough and able to surpass this hollow and overused shell of effort.

This book took a scientific approach from the beginning to the end. I preferred this approach as it is based on research and experimentation. Furthermore, it can be applied for to most part to many peoples’ lives. It is a great and hopeful message that grit is much more important than talent to ordinary people like you and me. This book clarifies that we can develop and improve grit, and proves that our efforts in doing so are important.

This books also opens the discussion about grit and broadens its scope from personal territory to the surrounding environment. If everyone supports and encourages and never gives up and instead chooses to teach others and the next generation about the importance of grit, it will give them a chance to experience its importance in developing more grit in one’s life. The future of society would be brighter.

-Kobe L.

Grit by Angela Duckworth is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Image result for a single shard plotAn orphan boy named Tree-ear lives in a village in 12th-century Korea. Tree-ear lives under a bridge with Crane-man, a very nice but destitute vagabond. Tree-ear’s story begins after watching a potter named Master Min make flawless potteries.

Nowadays, it’s hard for us to imagine how bad conditions might be if our parents passed away. Often times, books are not just elucidating a story to us, but also teach us lessons for life. When children in our modern society are asking for a brand new iPhone X, Tree-ear was busy scrounging for food.

One day, Tree-ear was a little avid to take a peek at Min’s pottery, so he sneaked into his backyard but accidentally broke a pot. You can’t really say it’s a calamity for him, but a surprise. As recompense, Tree-ear lived in Min’s house and learned how to make potteries until one day he was being sent to the King and exhibit him Min’s masterpiece. It wasn’t until the village dwindled its shabby shadow he realized that his life’s been edited.

This book incorporated a lot of life lessons that everybody needs to learn. If life gives you an absinthe, someday you will receive a fondant.

-April L.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library