Gold! Always Believe In Your Soul: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

February 18, 2013 Coming of Age, Fantasy, Mythology, Supernatural 40

Bonjour Bookworms!

I like getting my reading material for free when I can, so I’m constantly checking up on my library’s digital selections. Though they’re not as extensive as I would like, sometimes I’ll get the chance try something out that I’m too “on the fence” about to purchase. In my most recent foray, I sampled The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist tells the tale of a young shepherd from Spain who dreams of traveling the world. The entire book is written in parable form, and it focuses on finding the truth in life and discovering one’s own personal legend. The meaning of life and whatnot. Deep stuff.

Our hero decides to take his chances in the wide world and sells his flock of sheep on the advice of a gypsy and a “king” (I have doubts of his actual monarchical pedigree.) The little shepherd is advised to seek his own personal legend and find his treasure near the pyramids of Egypt. Along the way, he gathers lessons from a crystal merchant, a British man obsessed with alchemy, a really cool camel, and a lovely lady from a desert tribe. All seem to be pointing him toward his purpose in life.

the_alchemist2 (1)

Y’all, this book was just not my thing. I’m not great at getting into this kind of head space. Like… I take yoga, right? I find it relaxing, I appreciate the stretching and the way it makes my body feel. However… At the beginning of each class we’re taken through a sort of mini meditation. We’re instructed to clear our minds and concentrate on the present and our sense of being.

You know what I concentrate on? The fact that we’re trying to meditate in the basement of a recreational center that has a basketball game going on directly overhead and a Zumba class across the hall. I think about the old dude and his shiny blue pants. Are they pants? Are they tights? Were they made for cycling? Does this dude shop at a fancy yoga store I know nothing about? Perhaps my cheap Target yoga pants are laughable to this master of yoga. Wait. Did somebody just fart?!

I'm seriously concerned about the man tights.

I’m seriously concerned about the man tights.

I have no doubt that this book really resonated with a lot of people. I mean, it must have, because it’s a best seller. I am NOT a risk taker, so I have a hard time with encouraging people to, um, metaphorically sell all their sheep and go treasure hunting at the pyramids of Egypt. I don’t want to sound like a big grouch who lives to crush dreams. By all means, have dreams! Pursue them… But, you know. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or something. And thus, I leave you with this random song my eccentric dance instructor once choreographed and has thus become an earworm in my brain for all of time. Gold = Alchemy + “Always Believe In Your Soul” Lyric = Appropriate. (The beauty of fake math is that it need not make sense.)

Bottom line? I’m glad I got this from the library and didn’t pay for it.

Anybody else read this book? What did you think? Anybody else take yoga? Are the blue man tights a thing?

40 Responses to “Gold! Always Believe In Your Soul: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho”

  1. Quirky Chrissy

    I prefer pilates to yoga. No one is telling me to focus on my inner chi…They’re just like, “Feel the burn! Feel the burn in your abs! Use your core! It will hurt but you will be awesome.”
    Joining the gym TODAY.

  2. Sarah Says Read

    I remember reading and liking The Alchemist… but it’s been a while, and that was during a slightly more idealistic phase in my life, so maybe I should revisit. Cause I am totally with you on not really digging the meditation stuff.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth I really liked Eat Pray Love. I don’t think it’s earth-shattering or anything, it mainly just made me want to travel and eat delicious food. Some people criticized the author for being too whiny or spoiled or some crap… anyways if you ever read it, I’ll tell you my little (huge) rant against those people.

    • Words for Worms

      Like, I can SEE how this could have inspired people. But I was like “kid, don’t sell your sheep. Be content with what you’ve got. Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.” When I mentally give advice, sometimes TLC “creeps” in. Bazinga.

  3. Emily

    I read The Alchemist after finding out A. Very short read and B. International best seller has to say something. I am of firm belief that everything happens for a reason and this book really drove that home. Meditative? Yea, maybe. Sometimes I get meditative depending on my mood. Perhaps if I joined a yoga class I could get my mind to stop thinking about random annoyances and be more zen. Anyway, good book, I liked it.

  4. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    I looooooooove my library’s digital selections! I am always using that area to find books I can read for free!

    I did not enjoy The Alchemist that much. . . I get it and all, but I was a little underwhelmed. Have you read The Devil and Miss Prym? I really liked that one! It’s worth the read for sure, and you’d probably actually enjoy it. Still have the moral compass within it, but The Devil and Miss Prym was definitely better!

  5. therelentlessreader

    I haven’t read this one and it just doesn’t sound like my sort of thing. BUT yea, it’s a big ol’ best seller so what do I know? Of course so are a lot of crappy books. I’m a snob, I ADMIT IT. I did read Eat, Pray, Love and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t as preachy as I thought it would be.

    I’m reading a book about yoga RIGHT NOW. Weird huh?

    • Words for Worms

      You’re reading a book about yoga? Crazy! Maybe you’re part of my personal legend! Only. Nah. Because that would mean this book was right about life, the universe, and everything, and it’s been well established that the answer to those queries is 42.

  6. alenaslife

    I’m with you on Yoga, but I love books that get me into that “head space” you speak of, and I was a big fan of this book when I first read it a few years ago. I haven’t returned to Coehlo, but I hope to this year.

    • Words for Worms

      I almost wish I could have gotten there with it… I just couldn’t stop thinking that it wasn’t worth risking a perfectly contented life to go out treasure hunting… But again, not a risk taker.

  7. Brittny

    I saw this book in one of my shelf awareness emails, and after reading the description decided it probably wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. I love yoga (although I’m totally with you that men should not wear tights!) and Eat, Pray, Love (both the book and the movie). I also read some “head space” type books and have several written by the Dalai Lama on my to read list this year, but thought that this one just looked too out there for me, so I’m glad I’m not alone. :)

  8. didibooksenglish

    I’m sorry honey but I hated this book. Boring and too moralistic! I’m not into yoga at all but I am a Chi Gong/Tai Chi girl, with a little zumba on the side. I have to be off zumba for another year to let my Achilles tendon rest a bit, but Tai Chi and Chi Gong should be uplifting. After I read The Alchemist, that put me off reading any of Coelho’s forever.

    • Words for Worms

      Really wasn’t my thing either, I hear you. I have no idea what Chi Gong is, but it sounds like you could probably kick my butt. So… Remind me not to anger you :)

      • didibooksenglish

        No it’s not Kung Fu, although some of the basic movements come from there. It’s a Chinese gymnastic which is great for relaxation, concentration, and healing the body when ill. It’s a real life saver. You should try it some time. :)

  9. S.M. Hutchins

    I’m a fan of Paulo Coelho’s work and his exploration of human behavior. That being said, I read The Alchemist after having read a few of his other books and it didn’t do much for me either. A few that I enjoyed better by him: The Witch of Portobello, The Devil and Miss Prym, and The Winner Stands Alone.

    As for yoga, I’m with you! I enjoy it for the stretching, but I always feel distracted and self-conscious during meditations. “Am I positioned right? Is my butt hanging out of my pants? I need to go to the grocery store for bread. Lots of cars just went by. Oh, and yogurt… need yogurt.”

    • Words for Worms

      Thanks for the recommendations! And thank you for making me feel less alone in the yoga meditation scenario. Last night when I was told to concentrate on nothing, I imagined a lemon. It helped me think about, uh, lemons and lemon related things. Which was somewhat better than thinking about blue man tights… So i guess I win?

  10. Ashley F

    I could not get into this book either but I have enjoyed some of his other books. This one was just too high brow for me.

    As for Eat, Pray, Love. Hate it. Hated the movie. Boring. Didn’t connect with it. Don’t know why people enjoy it.

  11. Lori

    Oh wow this book has been on my shelf forever and never read. Someone gave it to me and I do believe they liked it. After reading your review and comments I don’t think this book is for me either. Since I really try to make it a point to finish every book I start I don’t want to get stuck in this one. I thank you for trudging through it and informing (warning) the people. I’m glad I’m not the only one who buys their fancy yoga gear at Target :-)

  12. H. Stern

    I read this as a member of a book club. The guy running the club was like, “The lesson is to always, ALWAYS, follow your dreams!” and I was like, “If everyone followed their dreams and lived their bliss, there would be no janitor to clean up the puke in high schools.” I know that’s a jerky line, but I was kind of annoyed. This isn’t my type of book either. I can APPRECIATE it, and the lesson, but it’s a little highbrow for me. Meh. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one!

  13. Keila S

    I think you either love Paulo Coelho’s books, or hate them. The Alchemist is actually my favorite book, and I’ve read it many times. That being said, I know a lot of people don’t get into his type of writing. That’s what’s fun about the literary world though, right? So many choices! Veronika Decides to Die is another of my favorites by him, maybe you could try it if it pops up free in your digital library!
    Oh, and I have the same problem with yoga…love how I feel afterwards, but I need to work on the whole meditative thing…the girl on the mat next to me that can bend like a pretzel and that the instructor gushes over is way to distracting!

    • Words for Worms

      That is definitely what’s fun about literature- there’s so much to choose from! It’s fun to dabble and try new things, even if they don’t turn out to be favorites. And seriously. The yoga. I’m fairly limber compared to my class (luckily.) At least I’m not distracted by a pretzel girl.

  14. Jenifer

    I share your sentiments. I absolutely loathed the book, thought it was ridiculous, am baffled by the hype and rather annoyed that people quote him extensively. I also do a lot of yoga and have many of the same thoughts you do. PC is quoted often at my studio, I have perfected the art of no judgement on my face but my word the internal dialouge is totally un-yogic :)

    • Words for Worms

      Ha! I don’t think I could handle PC being quoted to me while yoga-ing. My instructor is kind of a purist with the chanting and the Indian words for stuff. I still wonder about blue tights guy though… Every darn class! :)

  15. Mandy

    “I have no doubt that this book really resonated with a lot of people. I mean, it must have, because it’s a best seller. I am NOT a risk taker, so I have a hard time with encouraging people to, um, metaphorically sell all their sheep and go treasure hunting at the pyramids of Egypt.”

    THIS! I have a really hard time with books that get super metaphor-y and deep. I feel like sometimes books like this are representative of the author’s ego. They tend to bore me to tears. I feel like saying “I get what your meaning. I understand the prose. Let me just give ya a pat on the back because You. Are. So. Wise. Also, here’s a cookie.”

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