The Alchemist

I know this is a wildly popular book - several people have recommended it to me - but I don’t think it hit me the way it probably hit others. It seems like the type of book 40-year-old wine moms would feel mildly inspired to change their life by. There’s a boy that undertakes a quest that seems as it if was directly taking from the “Hero’s Journey” paradigm identified by Edward Tylor. There’s a lot of feel-good spiritual things that are nice to believe (really, they are) but don’t quite seem to hold up under literary scrutiny.

As the boy undertakes his journey, he interacts with a vast number of people and changes their lives forever in search of his “Personal Legend”, which is just a fancy term for purpose or life goal. These people are often moved to understand their original personal goal that they’re forgotten in the midsts of daily lives and attempt to rekindle that spirit of hope. It’s a cutesy image, but perhaps the audience isn’t for someone like me (a young college student) already working towards my dreams. I can imagine that if an older person read it, the realities of their life might come crashing down upon them giving them a real good crisis of faith in what they’re doing.

I don’t like how the book revolves so strongly around the spiritual as an attempt to justify the ideas of the book. I’m really not a nihilist, but believing that the entire world conspires to help achieve your goal is perhaps a little too far. Or the happy endings of being rich and famous after finding your purpose need not ever exist as an appropriate motivation. I really think this is a book that can appeal to lots of people in different ways, but I unfortunately don’t fit in that category.

Regardless, it’s a cutesy little book with a well-structured hero’s journey that’s apt and interesting. Although perhaps really spiritual, it’s inspiring to read and really gives strength to people that want to undertake their dreams, as difficult as they may be, which really isn’t something very many other books do.


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