Diverging from my usual self-help book analysis and summaries, my favourite book is actually “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho which is a fictional novel unpacking heavy themes.
The New York Times bestseller “The Alchemist,” although fictional, was actually commended as being “more self-help than literature” in that it really is full of messages and lessons which helps you to elevate your life. It transcends two genres in the sense that it is a fictional book and follows an adventure, but with positive underlying messages that most people can relate to.
Holding the Guiness World Record for a book that’s been translated into the most amount of languages, it has an impeccable reputation, particularly amongst celebrities and self-help enthusiasts such as Oprah Winfrey.
The title “The Alchemist” is an interesting one as the practice of alchemy was a medieval chemical science and a philosophical practice of achieving transmutation of substances into another (i.e., base metals such as lead or copper into silver or gold). Despite alchemy being an ancient branch of natural philosophy and proto-scientific tradition, to date, no efforts have produced true alchemy.
The novel follows a young Andalusian (Andalusia is a region in Spain which was home to the tapas style eating) shepherd called Santiago. The story starts as Santiago leaves behind his life as a shepherd in an attempt to travel to the Egyptian pyramids after having recurring dreams that something spectacular awaits him once he’s there. He is convinced that his mission is to get to Egypt for whatever treasure awaits him at the end of this conquest. On his journey there, however, he constantly runs into unexpected obstacles.
Why do I love this book so much? Well, it follows a young man as he strives to realise a dream. On his journey from his small Andalusian town, he discovers far more than he initially expected. At each step, he overcomes the relevant obstacles and finds additional successes that he didn’t initially contemplate such as falling in love, being more connected with nature than he’s ever expected and self-realisation.
The crux of the novel’s message is that you must have a path that you want to follow for your own happiness. In that same vein, it reiterates that you are your own biggest obstacle and oftentimes, it’s your own fear that does hold you back from doing something that you want to achieve. I recently read a book called “The Mountain Is You” which really hones on this very same notion; that fear is our biggest inhibiting factor and we need to get out of our own way to achieve things. You’re in control of the decisions you make so remove the barriers that you impose in your own way.The novel is a great example of the message that it’s okay to make mistakes and stumble along the way, as long as you get up and try. A key message is that if you get up more times than you fall down, you will always be successful.
The Alchemist is one of my favourite books because it’s entertaining in a way you would want a novel to be, but it’s also stimulating and thought-provoking. It centres ideas that we would now say are strongly aligned with the theories behind the power of positive thinking and laws such as the law of assumption. A quote from the book that resonated with me very deeply was “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” – which is reflective of the fact that we are masters of our own reality and the pertinent position that our own thoughts and beliefs can have on our reality. With some remarkable principles to live your life by, the impact that it has had on my life is profound. A definite must read for everybody at least once.