The problem with a book everyone loves…

A few years back, the book everyone was talking about was THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho. I saw the book everywhere; online, in bookstores, in peoples’ hands, and everyone was saying what a fantastic book it was. It was recommended to me by several people, and I was both loaned a copy (that I – gasp – still have) and gifted a copy, but for whatever reason I never got around to reading it. I always believed that someday I would, but meanwhile my reading life went on, and very busily so, with many other books.

So when one of the gals in my book club chose it for this month’s read I was actually pretty jazzed. I would no longer be able to put off reading it because I didn’t want to be a flunkatoid – that’s the title we give ourselves in my club when we fail to read the book that’s been chosen. And I had two copies to read already!  I only had to find one of them.

Perhaps the reason I’d previously put off reading it was that I had heard it was allegorical, and a bit mystical, and about a shepherd boy (who, by the way, is not really a boy at all actually, but a man.) I had heard that it was enlightening, inspiring and philosophical. I like all those things, but I usually read fiction for pleasure and nonfiction for research, and allegory for nothing. But I was ready at last to read the book everybody had been talking about and that has sold millions upon millions of copies.

Here’s the thing with a book that all the world loves; your expectations of it are extremely high. Stunningly high, at least for me. I was ready to be wowed, undone, amazed. And while I enjoyed it, I finished the book a bit underwhelmed and kind of sad. I wish now I had heard nothing about it. And I also think I should’ve kept looking for the new copy that I have somewhere here in this house and hadn’t settled for the friend’s copy which had been underlined already. I would see those underlines coming up and I would feel like I was stumbling upon someone else’s discovery. I wanted to have my own discoveries, and when you read a borrowed book with underlines already inside, you don’t get them. And I do believe this is the kind of book where you need to have them.

I came across this blog post on the author’s website (penned by a Huffington Post writer) as I was pondering why I didn’t adore the book, and I actually love what this person said about why THE ALCHEMIST resonated with so many millions of people. It offered people a blueprint for how to live a meaningful life. This writer came up with the book’s ten most powerful passages and what they teach us, and of those ten, there are six that I see now did in fact resonate with me:

Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself
What is “true” will always endure
Embrace the present.
Make the decision
Keep getting back up
Focus on your own journey

Yes, yes, yes, I am a fan of all six of these pearls of wisdom. But in the reading I’ve discovered I don’t want to dive for pearls of wisdom by way of allegory. I did when I was a kid, but I don’t now.

I am fully of the persuasion that there are life lessons to be learned, but not all life lessons are learned the same way. My preferred learning style (I know this now) is to hear a lecture or read an essay rather than read a work of allegorical fiction. And I absolutely need to make my own highlights.

In my search to figure out why I didn’t adore the book everybody adored (I LIKED it friends. I did), I came across the article and was astounded that this book was written in only two weeks. You might also want to know that it was not a success until it was translated into English, and that it spent 300 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list. Click to read the rest of the article.

What this book’s phenomenal success tells me more than anything is that people are hungry to know their purpose in life. I find that wonderfully refreshing because it quietly speaks that at our core, we know we are more than former primordial ooze. We were made in the image of God, we absolutely do have a purpose, and our souls are restless until we discover it. I am glad this book encouraged so many to discover for themselves what it is.

And now, of course, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Author: Susan

This post has 14 Comments

  1. Shellie on February 15, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    I have not read this book, but I relate to reading one everyone has been talking about just because it was chosen for book club.
    I’m currently reading Secrets of a Charmed Life which I got to choose for my book club. 🙂

  2. Karen on February 15, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    I didn’t read this, but oh my soul is so restless to find purpose. Are you needing any help with research?? I fear not a day goes by where I don’t wonder about my purpose.

  3. Patricia Bowdish on February 15, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    I have to read it!

  4. Susan on February 16, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Hey, Karen! I will keep your offer to help me research in mind!! In the meantime, Donald Miller who wrote Blue Like Jazz, has a conference called Storyline that I went to a few years back. Really good. It’s about how to make the most of your own storyline, your life, your time here on earth. I wonder if there is an online version of it…

  5. Susan on February 16, 2019 at 12:01 am

    Let me know what you think when you do!

  6. Susan on February 16, 2019 at 12:01 am

    Well, that makes me happy! I do hope everyone enjoys it!!

  7. Melanie on February 16, 2019 at 3:50 am

    This is what One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp was like for me. Absolutely everyone loved it! But when I read it, all I could think of was that she used way too many words for everything. I made myself read the whole thing but it was painful.

  8. Barb Abbott on February 17, 2019 at 3:21 am

    I haven’t read that book either and after reading your comments I won’t read it. We think the same way, especially about purpose of life. So glad I found it and an God found me many, many years ago.

  9. Linda on February 18, 2019 at 3:26 am

    I know you are a believer, Susan, but what about the “everyone” you spoke of? I would not expect discernment from the minds of those who are not believers. It is super sad however when believers display a lack of discernment. We are instructe to try every spirit and to test all things always using God’s Word as the standard.

  10. Rose on March 4, 2019 at 4:39 am

    I read “THE ALCHEMIST” many years ago, and I love it. I am not a religious person, but spiritual. Sometimes we are looking so hard for the answers to life, that it ends up being in front of us the whole time.
    I also wanted to let you know I enjoyed listening to you at the Tucson Book Festival.

  11. Janet Slater on March 26, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I relate to what you’ve said about allegory. As an insecure writer attempting a first novel, I created an allegory of Christian redemption–a boy hunting for his father in a mystical land with a huge wall around it (yes, it was Sin). That novella (typewritten before computers) is stuffed under a bed somewhere. It takes courage to write about real people and what they face in this mixed-up world. I’m happy to say I’ve gained confidence–partly inspired by that first writing attempt–and now enjoy writing historical fiction as you do. Reality is so much more astonishing than allegory.

  12. Peter on October 13, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    I didn`t read this book, but your thoughts about it looks rather interesting, perhaps I`ll read it!

  13. WritingJudge on October 25, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    I love Paulo Coelho’s books, they are awesome! Recently I needed to write an essay on a favorite book, and I understood, that writing is not so easy for me like reading. I decided to apply for help, and find this site with reviews to choose a good writing service.

  14. Tasken on December 30, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    In our humanitarian school, we had such complex tasks, but they needed to be illustrated in the essay format. And I didn’t know what to do and how to write at that time. It was hard for me to write about subjects I know so little about. I had a manual on how to compose an essay that was successful. Because make sure to read what they write about the writing of an essay here . Here you can read it. What is required is very clear and precise. I hope I can somehow help with good luck and success. Good fortune and good fortune!