Book Recommendation For May I Oxford Open Learning
The Alchemist

Book Recommendation For May

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Just to be very clear about this recommendation, The Alchemist is not for everyone. Which is exactly why it’s one of those books everybody should read. It’s a highly regarded piece of literature, has won plenty of awards, and has heaps of praise from prestigious people. Aside from news outlets and glowing reviews, actors, musicians, authors and many more have acknowledged the novel at some point in their careers, even pointing to it as a contributing factor to their success.

The Alchemist has inspired a pretty devoted following worldwide, yet it is a very polarising book. The literary equivalent of Marmite. You’ll either love it or hate it, and that’s exactly why you should read it, to find out which side of the coin you’re on.

The Alchemist is considered to be Coelho’s masterpiece and tells the mystical story of a young shepherd boy called Santiago. Like any young kid, he yearns for excitement and adventure and embarks on a journey to find treasure. But his quest will lead him to a different and far more satisfying kind of prize than he ever imagined. It’s a book about the wisdom of self-learning, recognising and acting upon opportunities that pop up in our lives, and as corny as it sounds, following our dreams.

A Divisive Tale

Well-written, Coelho’s literary background certainly shines through the story, with his language easy to read as he tells his captivating fable. It’s no easy feat to create strong imagery with accessible prose, but he manages it well and makes it look easy. At its heart, The Alchemist is a self-help book. And this is where it splits the audience. For every person who finishes that last page and thinks, “Wow, this book has changed my life, it’s taught me so much, it’s a beautiful story with a very important message,” there’s somebody else who thinks the complete opposite. “Ugh, this is so simplistic and cliché, it’s about as deep as a paddling pool, it’s way overhyped.”

Some will find it inspirational and some will find it naively optimistic. It’s a book that provokes strong reactions in those who read it, and like it or not, your reaction will tell you a lot about yourself. If you love it, you may be open-minded, optimistic, or very self-reflective. If you’re not a fan, you may be more of a critical thinker, pragmatic and realistic, or it could just be a clash of cultures. And that’s exactly why you should read it – because you’ll learn something about yourself. Teenagers are often in a bit of an existential crisis, trying to figure out who they and what they like or what to do. That’s not to say that this book will change a life, far from it, but reaction to it will at the very least give you some clarity as to who you are—even if it’s just to say that you love or hate The Alchemist.


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