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

Book Review: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March: One Book, One Chicago Fall 2011 ...

The Adventures of Augie March tells the story of Augie’s life from 1920s to 1940s. Augie worked as a newspaper boy, a handyman in the army, a sailor in the merchant ship, went to Mexico to seek opportunities. Even as a thief in the drifting years he threw himself into a new line of work and suffered all kinds of indecent treatment. As Augie grows into adulthood, he discovers that society is a tangled web of absurdities from ideals to reality. He felt that he was in a vaguely hostile world full of constraints surrounded by people who wanted to influence and change him, all trying to shape Augie into the person they wanted him to be. Along with his girlfriend Thea, Augie sets off on a journey to Mexico, but the failure of hawk training, physical damage, and his girlfriend’s betrayal make his dream come to nothing. The trip to Mexico not only left Augie severely injured physically, but also plunged his spirit into a pain that could not be healed. Emotionally, Augie becomes a loner, living in a world of opposition and disappointment. All this makes him seem like a marginal man who has been randomly thrown into the world, abandoned and helpless. The world was nothing to him now.

The Adventures of Augie March shows the mottled spirit and soul of modern Americans, vividly presenting the American social condition. In the absurd society, everything is quite different from Augie’s wish — an individual person is ignored, people’s desire is suppressed, and people’s life is devalued. But Augie refused to be controlled and refused to change. So again and again he had to confront the powerful reality of escape and face this meaningless world alone. Life is an endless process of discovery until it reaches death. As long as a person’s life does not come to an end, the accumulation of its essence will not be completed, the spiritual journey will not end, and the process of free choice will continue. Augie’s double journey, both physical and spiritual, as well as his pursuit of meaning of life all emphasize the free choice of human beings. This reflects the essence of existentialist philosophy: man is free in this world, and so is his choice of action. This freedom gives one the right to choose and act in the face of the absurd world. Therefore, people should realize the importance of free choice, dare to make free choice, and create their own meaning of existence through actions.

-Coreen C.

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

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is about a young boy named Santiago who hears about buried treasure and actually discovers it is his personal legend. He must go and find his personal legend to fully complete his life.

The book adds a new component in books that I’ve never read before, a philosophical element. When Santiago is on his journey he meets an Alchemist. An alchemist is a person who can turn lead into gold. In this book he possess the Philosophers Stone and the Elixir of Life. They give him the power to turn lead into gold and give him immortality.

They have many philosophical conversations about life attracts life and how most of the times people don’t believe the ridiculous things people say. Most of the things the Alchemist say is actually true. There are many sequences in the book that seem really weird but most of the time they are actually pretty cool. At first usually he has to channels the soul of the world and use it to do the amazing things he does

At the start of the book there is a main idea that you can be whatever you want to be. You don’t have to listen to your parents or anyone else. If they say one thing but you say the other then go what you say. Then as the book begins to fold out you start making progress to your treasure. There were many times that Santiago said that this journey is worth nothing but truthfully at the end it was worth every penny.

He has met many people such as the crystal merchant, Fatima his love of his life, and The Englishman who first tried to do alchemy. Later on in the book it is realized that the true treasure that lied at the end of the pyramids was the journey itself.

The Alchemist is a great read if you ever have the chance you should read it

-Max U.

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