The Alchemist
By Paulo Coelho

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

I came to know of The Alchemist through a Kobe Bryant interview where it was highlighted that The Alchemist was his favourite book. And if the 5x NBA Champion nicknamed the Black Mamba finds something interesting, well I thought to myself, why not read a fiction book for a change (Will Smith, Madonna and Pharrell Williams have also stood by The Alchemist).

To start off, I don’t usually do fiction books; non-fiction books along the lines of autobiographies, investment stuff and psychology books are more of my cup of tea. In fact, the last fiction book I read might have been Ronald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, close to two decades ago.

The Alchemist starts with the star of the story – Santiago as a shepherd boy having a recurring dream about finding hidden treasure in Egypt. He then meets people along the way telling him to follow his dreams, pointing him to the pyramids where he will find treasure. Santiago then sold his sheep and went into the unknown. Along the way, he got robbed, worked at a crystal store (he did pretty well there), and then landed up in the middle of the desert. Throughout the story, Santiago kept reminding himself “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

 What Can I Learn From This Book?

You might think that this is a run-of-the-mill motivational go-find-your-dreams kind of book. It’s that and much more.

To oversimplify: Most of us give up too easily on our dreams, yet if we are willing, we might be surprised at how much our determination (universe conspiring) opens doors along the way. Also, it doesn’t hurt to stop and smell the roses along the way.

Many (very generally speaking) fail to achieve their dreams, not because they cannot, but because they never try. Sometimes, the most important step is the first (i.e. Santiago selling his sheep and booking a one-way trip); it’s not easy to drop everything, either literally or figuratively and pushes through. That said, things will not be easy along the way, dreams have a price. On the other hand, not pursuing your dreams also has a price.

Like the old man in responded to Santiago when asked about the world’s biggest lie, “It’s this: that a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s biggest lie.

So What Are The Stuff To Look Out For?

Just enjoy the ride; took me just a day to finish the book.

The surprise at the end is worth the read.

 Who is Paulo Coelho?

Paulo Coelho, born in Brazil (1947), wanted to be a writer since his teenage years. Paulo Coelho’s introversion and opposition to following a traditional path (parent is an engineer) led to his parents committing him to a mental institution, from which he escaped 3 times before being released at 20. Well, he sure wanted to be a writer!

Along the way, he became a hippie, worked as a songwriter, actor, journalist, and theatre director. All that was before being a full-time author when he was close to 40. The Alchemist didn’t exactly sell well at the start but well, he wrote in his book that “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” It did.

The Alchemist took off, going on to sell more than 83 million copies, becoming one of the best-sellers in history, winning the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by a living author. That is pretty legit.

 What Makes This Book Stand Out?

The Alchemist was written in such a way that it could be relevant to almost anyone’s life. I would describe this as a more colourful (story-like) version of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich.

The book was littered with great motivational poster-like quotes:

If you start by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work towards getting it.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

 What Could Make The Book More Interesting?

Five stars!

That said, people might have different interpretations of the book. Because at the end of the day, for most self-help type of books, reading is not enough. You have to take action, otherwise, it is nothing more than words.

For me, this easy-to-read book (completed it in 1 day) is easily the best fiction book (which seemed more like a non-fiction book) I have read so far. And I would recommend anyone who hasn’t read it, to go read it.

Where Can I Get My Hands On It?

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