Ocls-blog logo

The Great American Read: The Alchemist


The Great American Read is a new eight-part series from PBS that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through America’s 100 best-loved novels. Join the conversation with PBS and WUCF! 

Read the list of 100 books.
Vote for your favorite.
Share your love of reading using #GreatReadPBS

The series returns to WUCF on September 11 at 8 p.m.
For more information and to vote, visit pbs.org/greatamericanread

The Alchemist has long been a traveler’s companion. I came to it not unlike many of its readers: it was given to me by a fellow nomad, a must-read for anyone setting out to see the world and all of its wonders. I first read it in Australia in 2001 and have gifted it and reread it many times since. 

It’s the story of a young man, a shepherd named Santiago, who gives up his way of life after he receives a message in a dream that he’s meant to travel to Egypt and find a great treasure in the pyramids. For those who have loved this Paulo Coelho best-selling phenomenon, the treasure is an obvious metaphor. It is the thing that calls us to set our lives aside, and with faith and courage, embark on an unknown path, often facing trials and triumphs. For some that treasure could be a staggering view, a grand adventure, an unfathomable encounter. But perhaps what the author really wants us to see is that the treasure is the journey itself. And to trust that the universe is designed to aid our journey.

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation,” the old king tells the young shepherd. “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” 

Inspired by the idea of having a Personal Legend, soon the young man sells his flock of sheep and heads into unknown lands. In the pages that follow, we read not only of a voyage filled with unexpected difficulties and diversions, but of a young man who becomes increasingly attuned to the ways of the world, including all of its omens and gifts. 

Paulo Coelho is a wise teacher; disguised as a skillful storyteller. The Alchemist is filled with these strategically placed thought-provoking insights and his personal life ethos, woven amidst the narrative. So many times, these insights have had me pause, close the book, and sit in contemplation for a few minutes.

Here are a few of my favorites: 

“The secret to happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and to never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.” 

“All things are one.”

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

The Alchemist is the type of book deserving of the label “classic” for so many reasons. For starters, it’s beautifully written and has a page-turning story. But the narrative is simply a veil for important life lessons we all can learn from, even if we never leave our own backyard. Because in the end, what Santiago really teaches us is that we are our own treasure.

Kristen Manieri is a prolific writer who has been blogging about relationships and date night for 11 years through her sites: Orlando Date Night Guide and Date Night Guide. She is the creator of Do Good Date Night, a national, nonprofit event series that combines date night with volunteering. Kristen is also the host of The Synced Life podcast, which explores topics related to human connection and seeks to inspire listeners to upgrade the quality of their life by upgrading the quality of their relationships. She lives in Orlando with her husband, Marc and their two daughters.

Content written by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of OCLS and its staff.