The Illustrated Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream

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Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. Paulo Coelho1s The Alchemist is such a book. Since its original publication in 1988, The Alchemist has sold millions of copies throughout the world. This handsome new edition, beautifully illustrated by the artist Moebius, will allow Coelho1s charming fable to inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.

The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd...

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Overview

Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. Paulo Coelho1s The Alchemist is such a book. Since its original publication in 1988, The Alchemist has sold millions of copies throughout the world. This handsome new edition, beautifully illustrated by the artist Moebius, will allow Coelho1s charming fable to inspire an even wider audience of readers for generations to come.

The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels in search of a worldly treasure. 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 life1s path, and, above all, following our dreams.

Author Biography:

Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the city where he now lives. His own life has in many ways been as varied and unusual as the protagonists of his internationally acclaimed novels. Like them, Paulo Coelho has followed a dream in a quest for fulfillment. His own dream, to be a writer, met with frustration throughout much of his early adult life, a time in which he worked at various professions, some of them materially rewarding but spiritually unfulfilling. "I always knew," he says, "that my Personal Legend, to use a term from alchemy, was to write." He was 38 when he published his first book.

In 1970, after deciding that law school was not for him, he traveled through much of South America, North Africa, Mexico, andEurope. Returning to Brazil after two years, he began a successful career as popular songwriter. In 1974, he was imprisoned for a short time by the military dictatorship then ruling in Brazil. In 1980, he experienced one of the defining moments of his life: he walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. On this ancient highway, used for centuries by pilgrims from France to get to the cathedral said to house the remains of St. James, he achieved a self-awareness and a spiritual awakening that he later described in The Pilgrimage.

Paulo Coelho once said that following your dream is like learning a foreign language; you will make mistakes but you will get there in the end. In 1988, he published The Alchemist, a novel that explores this theme, and it launched him as an international bestselling author. Specifically, Paulo Coelho is recognized for his powerful storytelling technique and the profound spiritual insights he blends seamlessly into his parables. Since then, The Alchemist has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been translated into some 41 languages. In addition to The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho has written luminous novels about the different streams of our lives, including By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept, The Valkyries, The Fifth Mountain, and Veronika Decides to Die. A winner of numerous literary prizes, Paulo Coelho is also a prominent speaker for humanitarian causes. In 1999, he received a Crystal Award for Artistic Achievement at the Davos Economic Forum Conference.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060192501
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: ILLUSTRATE
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho
Brazilian author Paulo Coelho broke sacred ground -- and crossed over into worldwide fame as an author -- with his symbolic masterpiece, The Alchemist. Since then, Coelho has dedicated his work to the ideal of helping people to follow their wildest dreams.

Biography

His books have been translated into 56 languages, topped bestseller lists throughout the world, and scored him such celebrity fans as Julia Roberts, Bill Clinton, and Madonna; yet for Brazilian publishing phenom Paulo Colho, the road to success has been strewn with a number of obstacles, many of them rooted in his troubled past.

As a youth, Coelho was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, a professional engineer. When he rebelled, expressing his intentions to become a writer, his parents had him committed to a psychiatric hospital where he was subjected to electro-shock therapy. He left home to join the 1970s countercultural revolution, experimenting with drugs, dabbling in black magic, and getting involved in Brazil's bohemian art and music scene. He teamed with rock musician Raul Seixas for an extremely successful songwriting partnership that changed the face of Brazilian pop -- and put a lot of money in Coelho's pockets. He also joined an anti-capitalist organization called the Alternative Society which attracted the attention of Brazil's military dictatorship. Marked down as a subversive, he was imprisoned and tortured.

Amazingly, Coelho survived these horrific experiences. He left the hippie lifestyle behind, went to work in the record industry, and began to write, but without much success. Then, in the mid-1980s, during a trip to Europe, he met a man, an unnamed mentor he refers to only as "J," who inducted him into Regnum Agnus Mundi, a secret society that blends Catholicism with a sort of New Age mysticism. At J's urging, Coelho journeyed across el Camino de Santiago, the legendary Spanish road traversed by pilgrims since the Middle Ages. He chronicled this life-changing, 500-mile journey -- the culmination of decades of soul-searching -- in The Pilgrimage, published in 1987.

The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemist, the inspirational fable for which he is best known. The first edition sold so poorly the publisher decided not to reprint it. Undaunted, Coelho moved to a larger publishing house that seemed more interested in his work. When his third novel (1990's Brida) proved successful, the resulting media buzz carried The Alchemist all the way to the top of the charts. Released in the U.S. by HarperCollins in 1993, The Alchemist became a word-of-mouth sensation, turning Coelho into a cult hero.

Since then, he has gone on to create his own distinct literary brand -- an amalgam of allegory and self-help filled with spiritual themes and symbols. In his novels, memoirs, and aphoristic nonfiction, he returns time and again to the concepts of quest and transformation and has often said that writing has helped connect him to his soul. While his books have not always been reviewed favorably and have often become the subject of strong cultural and philosophical debate, there is no doubt that this self-described "pilgrim writer" has struck a chord in readers everywhere. In the 2009 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records, Coelho was named the most translated living author -- with William Shakespeare the most translated of all time!

Good To Know

Few writers are able to accomplish what Coelho can in just two to four weeks -- which is how long it takes for him to write an entire novel.

Before become a bestselling novelist, Coelho was a writer of a different sort. He co-wrote more than 60 songs with Brazilian musician Raul Seixas.

Coelho is the founder of the Paulo Coelho Institute, a non-profit organization funded by his royalties that raises money for underprivileged children and the elderly in his homeland of Brazil.

In our interview with Coelho, he shared some fascinating facts about himself:

"I have been practicing archery for a long time; a bow and arrow helps me to unwind."

"In writing, I apply my feminine side and respect the mystery involved in creation."

"I love almost everything about my work, except conferences. I am too shy in front of an audience. But I love signings and having eye contact with a reader who already knows my soul."

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    1. Hometown:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
    1. Education:
      Left law school in second year
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Part II

"When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it;" the old king had said.

But the old king hadn't said anything about being robbed, or about endless deserts, or about people who know what their dreams are but don't want to realize them. The old king hadn't told him that the Pyramids were just a pile of stones, or that anyone could build one in his backyard. And he had forgotten to mention that, when you have enough money to buy a flock larger than the one you had before, you should buy it.

The boy picked up his pouch and put it with his other things. He went down the stairs and found the merchant waiting on a foreign couple, while two other customers walked about the shop, drinking tea from crystal glasses. It was more activity than usual for this time of the morning. From where he stood, he saw for the first time that the old merchant's hair was very much like the hair of the old king. He remembered the smile of the candy seller, on his first day in Tangier, when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to gothat smile had also been like the old king's smile.

It's almost as if he had been here and left his mark, he thought. And yet, none of these people has ever met the old king. On the other hand, he said that he always appeared to help those who are trying to realize their Personal Legend.

He left without saying good-bye to the crystal merchant. He didn't want to cry with the other people there. He was going to miss the place and all the good things he had learned. He was more confident in himself, though, and felt as though he could conquer the world.

"But I'm going back to the fields that I know, totake care of my flock again." He said that to himself with certainty, but he was no longer happy with his decision. He had worked for an entire year to make a dream come true, and that dream, minute by minute, was becoming less important. Maybe because that wasn't really his dream.

Who knows . . . maybe it's better to be like the crystal merchant: never go to Mecca, and just go through life wanting to do so, he thought, again trying to convince himself. But as he held Urim and Thummim in his hand, they had transmitted to him the strength and will of the old king. By coincidenceor maybe it was an omen, the boy thought-he came to the bar he had entered on his first day there. The thief wasn't there, and the owner brought him a cup of tea.

I can always go back to being a shepherd, the boy thought. I learned how to care for sheep, and I haven't forgotten how that's done. But maybe I'll never have another chance to get to the Pyramids in Egypt. The old man wore a breastplate of gold, and he knew about my past. He really was a king, a wise king.

The hills of Andalusia were only two hours away, but there was an entire desert between him and the Pyramids...

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, has a dream about finding a treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. A gypsy woman and an old man claiming to be a mysterious king advise him to pursue it. "To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation," the old man tells him. "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

With the courage of an adventurer, Santiago sells his sheep and travels to Tangiers in Africa. After a thief steals his money, Santiago takes a job with a crystal merchant who unwittingly teaches Santiago important lessons for his long journey ahead. After working at the crystal shop for a year, Santiago earns enough money to cover his losses and return home. But then something unexpected happens. On a desert caravan, Santiago meets an intriguing Englishman. The Englishman's passion for knowledge and his relentless quest to uncover the secrets of alchemy inspire Santiago to pursue his own dream of finding the treasure. As the Englishman searches for the two hundred year old alchemist who resides in the desert oasis, Santiago falls in love with a young woman, Fatima. Exposed to the greatest and eternal alchemy of all - love - Santiago thinks he has found the treasure. But the greatest test of all is yet to come. With the help of the alchemist, Santiago completes the last leg of his journey - dangerous and infused with discoveries of the most profound kind - to find that the treasure he was looking for was waiting for him in the place where he least expected.

This story, timeless and entertaining, exotic yet simple, breaks down the journey we all take to find the most meaningfultreasures in our lives into steps that are at once natural and magical. It is about the faith, power, and courage we all have within us to pursue the intricate path of a Personal Legend, a path charted by the mysterious magnet of destiny but obscured by distractions. Santiago shows how along the way we learn to trust our hearts, read the seemingly inconspicuous signs, and understand that as we look to fulfill a dream, it looks to find us just the same, if we let it.

Topics for Discussion
1. At the start of his journey, when Santiago asks a gypsy woman to interpret his dream about a treasure in the Egyptian pyramids, she asks for one tenth of the treasure in return. When Santiago asks the old man to show him the path to the treasure, the old man requests one tenth of his flock as "payment." Both payments represent a different price we have to pay to fulfill a dream; however, only one will yield a true result. Which payment represents false hope? Can you think of examples from your own life when you had to give up something to meet a goal and found the price too high?

2. Paulo Coelho once said that alchemy is all about pursuing our spiritual quest in the physical world as it was given to us. It is the art of transmuting the reality into something sacred, of mixing the sacred and the profane. With this in mind, can you define your Personal Legend? At what time in your life were you first able to act on it? What was your "beginner's luck"? Did anything prevent you from following it to conclusion? Having read The Alchemist, do you know what inner resources you need to continue the journey?

3. One of the first major diversions from Santiago's journey was the theft of his money in Tangiers, which forced him into taking a menial job with the crystal merchant. There, Santiago learned many lessons on everything from the art of business to the art of patience. Of all these, which lessons were the most crucial to the pursuit of his Personal Legend?

4. When he talked about the pilgrimage to Mecca, the crystal merchant argued that having a dream is more important than fulfilling it, which is what Santiago was trying to do. Do you agree with Santiago's rationale or crystal merchant's?

5. The Englishman, whom Santiago meets when he joins the caravan to the Egyptian pyramids, is searching for "a universal language, understood by everybody." What is that language? According to the Englishman, what are the parallels between reading and alchemy? How does the Englishman's search for the alchemist compares to Santiago's search for a treasure? How did the Englishman and Santiago feel about each other?

6. The alchemist tells Santiago "you don't have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation." With this in mind, why do you think the alchemist chose to befriend Santiago, though he knew that the Englishman was the one looking for him? What is the meaning of two dead hawks and the falcon in the oasis? At one point the alchemist explains to Santiago the secret of successfully turning metal into gold. How does this process compare to finding a Personal Legend?

7. Why did Santiago have to go through the dangers of tribal wars on the outskirts of the oasis in order to reach the pyramids? At the very end of the journey, why did the alchemist leave Santiago alone to complete it?

8.Earlier in the story, the alchemist told Santiago "when you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed." At the end of the story, how did this simple lesson save Santiago's life? How did it lead him back to the treasure he was looking for?

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Customer Reviews

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( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2010

    Mediocre Book

    I am in eighth grade and had to read this book for school. What a bad book! It is very difficult to understand and the messages are too implicit. The beginning was good, the ending was decent, but the middle was terrible. There is little action.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2006

    Inspirational.....

    I read this book in One day. It was delightful and magical. I was so inspired, I acted upon my own personal legends the very next day and it's changed a way of thinking that has always been inside me.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    WOW!! What a great book!

    This book is an excellent work of literature. Paul Coleho is a very good author. The Alchemist goes very deep. I have the 10th anniversary edition and it is a very good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2003

    Have you ever 'LOVED' a book???

    Alchemist is a satisfying read, an understanding mentor, a bible of sorts all packed into one. The not more than 250 pages of text has a charm that remains even after the illuminating pages are read. The book is about a young shepherd boy who makes a journey to follow his dream. Many a times the comforts of a simple life try to dishearten him but ultimately the he does what he wanted to do. The story is based on a fable from Arabian nights but the impeccable style of coelho breathes life into it. Life posses many questions and very few of them are answered, if you are lucky. The Alchemist is a story which unravels so beautifully that before you expect or comprehend so many illuminating things have been said that you slow down and ponder for a while, and all these things happen without disturbing the storyline in the least. This is the only book that for which I have written a review. Spend the few bucks it cost I personally proclaim that you will never regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2002

    Sandiago

    A boy named santiago was going throuhg his journey and trying to find his dream of treasure and as he walking through his journey somehow he star believing on his heart and what ever the heart says, and he does it and does good,'cause our heart is neverwrong.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2002

    amazingly thought provoking

    i was refered this book...and i remember i couldn't keep it down after the page number, when he meets the old man....it felt so true, so sencible, as if i knew about his advices deep inside somewhere, but couldnt relate to them, it helped me to relate it and once again search for my destiny that i had thought didnt exist amymore...or shall i say i left it on fate....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    All the tips of life is in this book!

    I've read this book more than 10 times and the more I read this book the more I like it. Each episode is good for your bedtime reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2002

    Simply Wonderful

    It is a amazing book and like many have said a life changing book.It is a book that makes you reflect on your own life and dreams that you have for yourself.I would recomend it to anyone that I know.Don't lend it out you may not get it back,I give it as a gift to friends who don't have it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2001

    Wish I had known about this one back in 1988

    The only version available when I bought the book was the illustrated version and those few illustrations really give your imagination a boost. This book could have changed the path of my life had I read it when it first came out. I think this book should be a reading requirement in high schools or colleges. After reading this book I have seriously thought about my life and my dreams in a different way. I can't wait to start following my own dreams.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2000

    the story of anyone and everyone...

    Coelho is himself a true alchemist... his story in its simplicity is brilliant, inspired, and mesmerizing.... he has told the story of all our lives... our dreams... our fears... and most especially the truth that hinders us from seeing what we already possess... this book spoke to me in a way that no other ever has... this is trully Coelho's 'master work'...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2000

    Uplifting little story

    A beautiful little story with simple life lessons.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    . . . . Amazing!

    This book is the most wonderful book i've ever read. As soon as i finished reading the last page, i was left staring at the back flap,having an introspective look at my life; for i was forever changed. Never thought a book this small could mean so much. It's absolutely wonderful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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