The Alchemist
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  • The Alchemist

The Alchemist

4.2 1747
by Paulo Coelho

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"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky." Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams."

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of

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"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky." Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams."

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. The Alchemist is such a book. With over a million and a half copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has already established itself as a modern classic, universally admired. Paulo Coelho's charming fable, now available in English for the first time, will enchant and inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.

The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Spencer Johnson
“An entrepreneurial tale of universal wisdom we can apply to the business of our own lives.”
New York Times
“[This] Brazilian wizard makes books disappear from stores.”
London Times
“[His] books have had a life-enchanting effect on millions of people.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A magical little volume.”
Indianapolis Star
“A touching, inspiring fable.”
M. Scott Peck
“A wise and inspiring fable about the pilgrimage that life should be.”
Gerald G. Jampolsky
“A most tender and gentle story. It is a rare gem of a book.”
Anthony Robbins
“A remarkable tale about the most magical of all journeys: the quest to fulfill one’s destiny.”
Rudolfo Anaya
“An adventure story full of magic and wisdom.”
Austin American-Statesman
“As memorable and meaningful as Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.”
Joseph Girzone
“A beautiful story with a pointed message for every reader.”
With the help of several enchanted strangers, an Andalusian shepherd boy learns to listen to himself.
Palm Beach Post
The unmatched Jeremy Irons reading this book makes it an instant audio classic.
“It’s a brilliant, magical, life-changing book that continues to blow my mind with its lessons. [...] A remarkable tome.”
“it changed my whole life. I realized of all of the people who had conspired to get me to this place.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Plus Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Part One

The boy's name was Santiago. Dusk was falling as the boy arrived with his herd at an abandoned church. The roof had fallen in long ago, and an enormous sycamore had grown on the spot where the sacristy had once stood.

He decided to spend the night there. He saw to it that all the sheep entered through the ruined gate, and then laid some planks across it to prevent the flock from wandering away during the night. There were no wolves in the region, but once an animal had strayed during the night, and the boy had had to spend the entire next day searching for it.

He swept the floor with his jacket and lay down, using the book he had just finished reading as a pillow. He told himself that he would have to start reading thicker books: they lasted longer, and made more comfortable pillows.

It was still dark when he awoke, and, looking up, he could see the stars through the half-destroyed roof.

I wanted to sleep a little longer, he thought. He had the same dream that night as a week ago, and once again he had awakened before it ended.

He arose and, taking up his crook, began to awaken the sheep that still slept. He had noticed that, as soon as he awoke, most of his animals also began to stir. It was as if some mysterious energy bound his life to that of the sheep, with whom he had spent the past two years, leading them through the countryside in search of food and water. "They are so used to me that they know my schedule," he muttered. Thinking about that for a moment, he realized that it could be the other way around: that it was he who had become accustomed to their schedule.

But there were certain of them who took a bit longer to awaken. The boy prodded them, one by one, with his crook, calling each by name. He had always believed that the sheep were able to understand what he said. So there were times when he read them parts of his books that had made an impression on him, or when he would tell them of the loneliness or the happiness of a shepherd in the fields. Sometimes he would comment to them on the things he had seen in the villages they passed.

But for the past few days he had spoken to them about only one thing: the girl, the daughter of a merchant who lived in the village they would reach in about four days. He had been to the village only once, the year before.The merchant was the proprietor of a dry goods shop, and he always demanded that the sheep be sheared in his presence, so that he would not be cheated. A friend had told the boy about the shop, and he had taken his sheep there.

"I need to sell some wool," the boy told the merchant. The shop was busy, and the man asked the shepherd to wait until the afternoon. So the boy sat on the steps of the shop and took a book from his bag.

"I didn't know shepherds knew how to read," said a girl's voice behind him.

The girl was typical of the region of Andalusia, with flowing black hair,and eyes that vaguely recalled the Moorish conquerors.

"Well, usually I learn more from my sheep than from books," he answered. During the two hours that they talked, she told him she was the merchant's daughter, and spoke of life in the village, where each day was like all the others. The shepherd told her of the Andalusian countryside,and related the news from the other towns where he had stopped. It was a pleasant change from talking to his sheep.

"How did you learn to read?" the girl asked at one point.

"Like everybody learns," he said. "In school."

"Well, if you know how to read, why are you just a shepherd?"

The boy mumbled an answer that allowed him to avoid responding to her question.He was sure the girl would never understand. He went on telling stories about his travels, and her bright, Moorish eyes went wide with fear and surprise. As the time passed, the boy found himself wishing that the day would never end, that her father would stay busy and keep him waiting for three days. He recognized that he was feeling something he had never experienced before: the desire to live in one place forever. With the girl with the raven hair, his days would never be the same again.

But finally the merchant appeared, and asked the boy to shear four sheep. He paid for the wool and asked the shepherd to come back the following year.

And now it was only four days before he would be back in that same village. He was excited, and at the same time uneasy: maybe the girl had already forgotten him. Lots of shepherds passed through, selling their wool.

"It doesn't matter," he said to his sheep. "I know other girls in other places."

But in his heart he knew that it did matter. And he knew that shepherds,like seamen and like traveling salesmen, always found a town where there was someone who could make them forget the joys of carefree wandering.

The day was dawning, and the shepherd urged his sheep in the direction of the sun. They never have to make any decisions, he thought. Maybe that's why they always stay close to me.

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What People are saying about this

Spencer Johnson

“An entrepreneurial tale of universal wisdom we can apply to the business of our own lives.”

Joseph Girzone

“A beautiful story with a pointed message for every reader.”

Gerald G. Jampolsky

“A most tender and gentle story. It is a rare gem of a book.”

Anthony Robbins

“A remarkable tale about the most magical of all journeys: the quest to fulfill one’s destiny.”

Rudolfo Anaya

“An adventure story full of magic and wisdom.”

M. Scott Peck

“A wise and inspiring fable about the pilgrimage that life should be.”

Customer Reviews

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The Alchemist 4.2 out of 5 based on 6 ratings. 1747 reviews.
pucketth More than 1 year ago
Although I feel that previous reviews will make mine look incompetent and childish, i still feel like putting my two cents in. This novel portrays Coelho's view on the meaning of life, that everyone has a preset dream and destination, but it is their choice to take the journey or not. Paul tells his story by using a shepherd boy that decides to follow his path to get to his destiny. the shepherd, Santiago, meets several people that open his eyes and show him why he has decided to do this. What I liked about this book was the great imagery Coelho uses throughout the novel. Also, I love that this book is different than any others I have read. It takes you on a journey, not an adventure to slowly get the author's point across. You will feel yourself getting smarter and more adventurous as you read this book. What i disliked about this book was that it is slow at points and gets a little monotonous, but if you keep pushing, it will all be well it. I am only 14 and I have read this book 2 times. It makes you want to make sure you don't hold back in your life, that you achieve something amazing. Forget about the normal way of life. I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to read a book that will question the way you are living and will make you want to drop everything and go find your alchemist.
OldBob More than 1 year ago
As I get older, it seems I discover more about life. I'm 70 now. This is a book I wish I read years ago. You will learn things that I did and did not in this book, all of which will help you find your way through life. It is a great read too. Fun, hard to put down. Wonderful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seems like it would be a quick read, but it's a book that you should take some time with. Very thought-provoking and helps you reflect on your own life. Next time you have 2 days off, clear your schedule and read this book with blanket and cup of cocoa on the couch. :)
brianjohnson2 More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read! Highly Recommended.
R_Jay More than 1 year ago
I originally read this book about 18 years ago after finding it in a small bookstore. At first I thought it was a children's book because the wording and tale was very simplistic. I'm so glad I read the entire thing. The story is uplifting and puts a smile on your face. Though it is a an allegory, the book is well-written and timeless. The character's journey through the desert is really a journey of self-discovery and growth - one that all of us need to take from time to time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a masterpiece, well written in a simple form. One that inspires me to listen to my truth. One that encourages me to go for my dream, despite how insignificant it seems at first. A great book like this reminds me of life's magnificence in the everyday mundane. If you enjoy the Alchemist, check out another incredible book by Ariel and Shya Kane. "How to Have A Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating and Marriage".  I had never read a book that's done in a more creative format: you get to watch stories coming alive through the video links in the book.  These are videos of real people in their real lives; how their lives transformed as they discovered that new possibilities open up in their  relationships. It is down to earth yet nothing ordinary. The Alchemist, even though structured in a different way, is such a gem that inspires me over and over again.  I gain new perspectives for life and feel renewed and refreshed whenever I read them. I highly recommend both books!
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
This book was okay. I think the message of theis book is follow your dreams. I liked it; but I am not sure that I would recommend it. I enjoyed the imagery of The Alchemist. The story moved a bit slowly. It wasn't a page turner, but it wasn't a tough read either. The Alchemist is a nice fable;but, that's it.
iloverochester More than 1 year ago
Open this book and you will be on your way to a new adventure. An adventure beyond your wildest dreams. Talk about motivating...this is the ultimate motivator. This journey will remind you of the importance of endurance, strenth and above all loyalty. Its brilliant, my own little treasure!
literature_king More than 1 year ago
Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, has reoccuring dreams about a hidden treasure in the Pryamids of Egypt. Along his journey, he gets his life savings stolen twice, meets a Gypsy, a 'king', an Englishman and an Alchemist. Through Santiago's search for treasure, he learns the true meaning of life, and how humans and nature should help with one another to sustain the life of Earth. This book is very touching and is equipped with many of life's lessons. Although The Alchemsit is an easy read, the book is very ambigupus and can be veiwed upon in many different ways depending on the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Alex_Ades More than 1 year ago
Although Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist conveys an uplifting message about the individual's potential for greatness, the novel's over-simplicity and dependence on a message of reassurance detract from the strength of this central theme and its pertinence to the human experience. Through the narrative of a young shepherd boy named Santiago, Coelho constructs the age-old story of an individual pursing a dream. However, what distinguishes Coelho's story from all the others is the bold universalization of this theme that he makes when he claims that, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation." Now although this is certainly an empowering message, and one that contributes to the novel's widespread appeal, the underlying message of Coelho's feel-good story of Santiago's journey across continents in search of his "Personal Legend" should not be taken at face value. In spite of its apparent self-empowerment, Coelho's simplistic reduction of achievements to desires actually diminishes the individual's role in the pursuit of his or her Personal Legend. One concept that the young Santiago is taught before his quest even begins is that when in pursuit of a Personal Legend the entire universe aids one in achieving it. This message, central to the worldview that Coelho advances in the novel, would seem to be encouraging, but in fact it is highly misleading. To say that just because a person desires something it is within the realm of his or her possibilities to achieve it is in stark opposition to the facts of reality. A person does not realize his or her goals by the mere fact of experiencing hardships as Santiago is counseled to do under the banner of the adage that the world works in mysterious ways. Instead, one triumphs over trials and tribulations by means of one's efforts and abilities, not by a naïve reliance on fate and destiny. And it is for this reason that The Alchemist is not really a novel in praise of the individual's capacity for greatness, but one that denigrates this potential by devaluing the individual's role in influencing his or her own destiny. In all, if you are looking for a book that truly lifts your spirits and speaks to the true nature of your infinite possibilities, look elsewhere, you will not find it here. In The Alchemist all you will find is a striking fatalism hidden beneath the guise of one boy's quest for his Personal Legend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was well written and made the reader think for themselves as to the true meaning of the answer given by the Alchemist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't listen to the reviews saying The Alcemist is boring. It is a huge lie. This novel cuts in deep and leaves you hungry for more. I read this book for my Advanced Placement English class years ago and I can still feel its powerful words today. I have a hard copy of the novel at home and with me on my Nook COLOR. No regrets whatsoever.
YaHaYa More than 1 year ago
The book is one of the most touching and inspiring books one have ever read. I am recommeding it to my friends!
dungeon_master More than 1 year ago
The book The Alchemist is an exception read. You follow the journey of a boy named Santiago on his journey to achieve his Personal Legend. While reading, you are forced to reflect on your own personal journey through life. At a plethora of moment you feel as if you are besides Santiago, making his decisions. This book is not only a good story but also teaches the reader valuable lessons. You won’t be let down by The Alchemist.
k80sbooks More than 1 year ago
This is a short read with a simple yet thought provocative message. Following the story of a sheepherder we learn that life is about following dreams and living your authentic truth. When we decide to follow a dream or take a risk the universe tries to help us along. If you like Ekhart Tolle, Siddhartha, Carlos Castaneda you will love the message in this book. I just wish it had been a little longer.
Girl-from-Zzyzx More than 1 year ago
I can't understand what all the excitement is about surrounding this book. Yes, it is a story of self-discovery and remaining true to one's dreams, but there's nothing here that's new. The message is simplistic and superficial, and delivered in a heavy-handed style. As literature it is weak. There is no character development to speak of. The writing is repetitive and tedious, as though intended for children who often need to be reminded of key points. The fairy tale style is engaging at first, but is not enough to sustain interest. The best thing about this book is that it is very short.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Alchemist is a bad self help book that tries to disguise itself as a fable. Delving into this book I was deceived into thinking it was about a young boy on a quest for treasure. Nope. Instead I got to read a book constantly preaching a load of shoddy morals otherwise known as “The Language of the Universe.” Paulo Coelho would’ve been better off shortening this and putting it as an article in some religious magazine. I come from a non-religious background, so maybe I am sounding biased. But  the book is simply overrated, and constantly repeats the same cliche “morals”. Upon seeing the spiritual aspect of this book come to the surface, I thought I was about to jump into an ocean of deeper meaning. Upon jumping, however, I hit the bottom of what turned out to be a meaningless puddle. The premise of this book was very surface level and could’ve and should’ve gone much more deeply into spiritual content. It also had little to no characterization, as if written by the boy depicted in the novel. I’ve seen instruction manuals with more sparks of literature than this watered down Mad Libs book of philosophy. The characters were treated as if they were inanimate objects, going by names such as: the Boy, the Girl, the Englishman, the Alchemist, etc. The book didn’t even describe the physical appearances of the characters.  All this being said, I did enjoy the very first part of the book when Santiago, the main character, was simply a shepherd. After he meets the Old King, however, is when the book loses its temporary spark. The failing point in the novel came when Santiago changes the course of his entire life based on the advice of a complete stranger. This is especially annoying to me considering he has crafted his own life and seems happy. Coelho seems to be teaching us to look to strangers for life advice. There are some inspiring parts of the book. For example, after being robbed Santiago doesn’t give up on his dream of traveling to Egypt to find the treasure he dreamed about. Rather, he works for nine months in a glass shop to raise money for his journey. The problem is the original parts weren’t inspirational, and the inspirational parts weren’t original. In the end, the reader finds Santiago beaten by robbers, left penniless in the desert laughing at the pyramids. Upon finishing the book I found myself frustrated and more than disappointed. I’ve heard that Paulo Coelho has written great works of works of literature, but I wouldn’t classify this as one of those.  
LoisFL More than 1 year ago
I kept trying to enjoy this book because I was told that it was good. It contained bits and pieces of wisdom from various sources but the storyline itself did not grab my interest. so much imagery without real clarity in the story. just one avid reader's impressions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lightweight, new age, claptrap. Completely transparent and uninspired.
Spetsnaz1220 More than 1 year ago
In all honesty, if one were to choose to read a single book in their lifetime, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho should be a top contender. This book was referred to me by a teacher and I am quite glad that I went through with the recommendation. The story is written in a very simple writing style which allows nearly any person to pick up the book and comprehend it fully. Originally having thought the beginning of the book was a bit dull, I quickly realized the valuable lesson weaved into the plot. The story follows a young boy who chose to leave his family to live the simple life of a shepherd. The author mentions the boy's name only a single time because it's not the name that's important, but the values that the boy learns. The boy learns of treasure and an alchemist, a clairvoyant man with the capabilities of turning any metal into gold. This alchemist resides in Egypt, a long way from Spain, the boy's homeland. The simple shepherd sells his entire flock and risks it all to find this treasure as well as his destiny. The boy encounters many events that would make even the most determined people turn back home, but he continues. The meaning of this book is cleverly embedded into this short tale. I'd prefer to avoid spoiling the entire message of this story, but in all honesty it will make you smile on the last page. * * * * *
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little disappointed when I opened up this nook book after purchase to see it was only 90 pages. However, this book is a definite example of quality over quantity. I found it extremely inspiration. The story is all about following your dreams and it will definitely encourage you to follow yours.
PhuongHa More than 1 year ago
I know it when I read stuff that not only affirms what I already know, but also that there are like-minded people. The book really does a great job of pushes your thoughts to your realization of that you have what you need to accomplish anything in life from within yourself. Belief is the key. Believe in yourself. It's all of nothing. Like I say all the time and what this book talks about, this is a one shot deal, no do-overs or retakes in this life. This is not a dress rehearsal, it's the real thing, you get one shot at this, make it count.
Humanities2 More than 1 year ago
The Alchemist is about and Andalusian shepherd boy named Santaigo who leaves Spain to find a hidden treasure. Along the way he meets a gypsy, a man who calls himself a king, and an alchemist all who point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is or if Santiago will be able to overcome the obstacles along the way. The story of Santiago teaches us of the importance of listening to our hearts to make decisions. It makes you think about things differently and why certain things happen, like good luck. It is a great book and you must read it. The beginning is intriguing and mind blowing.
CHatfield More than 1 year ago
Read it, you will feel better!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Alchemist is a fantastic book. It is better for older children and young adult. I recommend reading books by this author if you like older books. It is a very popular book and i would recommend it to the book club for discussion.