The Alchemist is a philosophical fantasy novel published in 1988, written by the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho.
Coelho wrote the book in Portuguese before it was translated, becoming an international bestseller.
An allegorical tale, The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who goes on a quest to the pyramids of Egypt after recurring dreams wherein he finds a great treasure hidden there.
Unable to shake the possibility of his dream becoming reality, Santiago consults a gypsy in an attempt to interpret his dream.
Santiago then finds himself on a quest to Egypt when both the gypsy woman and a strange older man- claiming to be the King of Salem- tell him that his dream is a foretelling of his fate and that he must travel to Egypt to complete his “Personal Legend.”
If fantastical stories and allegorical themes like those found in The Alchemist are your thing, you are sure to love novels such as The Kite Runner and Life of Pi, so keep reading to discover our list of 11 books to read after The Alchemist.
Themes In The Alchemist
Santiago is told by the gypsy woman and the strange man that he is destined to find the treasure in his dreams if he ventures to Egypt, leading to him gaining his Personal Legend, which is a fate every individual has and the only way that can feel satisfaction from their life.
The themes of fate are prevalent in The Alchemist, with the entire story revolving around the idea of chasing your destiny.
The barricade that fear can become when it comes to success in life is another major theme of The Alchemist, with Santiago having to face his fears in order to move forward on his journey.
Some of the fears that Santiago must conquer include letting his sheep go, joining the caravan by leaving Tangier, and allowing the gypsy woman to interpret his dream in the first place.
The importance of love is another major theme in The Alchemist, with Santiago’s resolve being strengthened by the love of his life Fatima, whom he falls for whilst he is in Al-Fayoum staying at the oasis.
Fatima’s encouragement pushes him onwards on his quest when he falters. Love makes Santiago bolder, braver, and more willing to achieve his Personal Legend.
Pantheism refers to the doctrine wherein God is identified as a manifestation of the universe itself, being present in our surroundings and unifying within nature.
Throughout the story, Santiago realizes the connection between natural elements and living beings, as all have to go through the same process of life and death.
This ties in with the pantheism ideology of everything in our universe sharing the same essence in a spiritual sense.
Books Like The Alchemist
Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Amir is a 10-year-old Sunni Muslim who has experienced traumatic events that leave him searching for his place.
He also struggles to build a close relationship with his father Baba as they struggle to rebuild their lives in the United States.
Amir’s relationship with his best friend Hassan, the son of his father’s lifelong servant Ali, is also key to the story, with Amir unable to understand the class differences intended to divide them.
Kite Runner shares similar themes with The Alchemist, including themes of self-discovery and the importance of the relationships we choose.
- Simple yet powerful themes of tradition, religion, social values, and more.
- The author’s real-life experiences mirror the protagonists, and it shows in the fantastic and emotional writing
- Some consider it unsuitable to be read by teenagers in high school
Themes: Atonement, Familial Relationships and Tradition, Socioeconomic Culture, Social Values, Trauma, Betrayal
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The narrator of The Little Prince is the protagonist, who meets The Little Prince after his plane crashes in the Sahara Desert.
The Little Prince is a being who visits the Earth and shares humanity with stories of his travels throughout the universe.
The Little Prince finds that on every planet, he is taught about human nature by narrow-minded adults.
The Little Prince was published in 1943, but is still considered to be one of the best pieces of modern French literature thanks to its philosophical themes, much like those found in The Alchemist.
- Suitable for children and adults
- Simple yet strong values
- Some believe that the English translation does not do the story justice.
Themes: Compassion, Open Mindedness, Love, Respect, Exploration, Enlightenment, Responsibility, Relationships
Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
Lin is an addict and convicted felon who arrives in Bombay, India, following his escape from an Australian prison.
The book is a collection of experiences of Lin as a foreigner living in Bombay, and has been heralded for its excellent portrayal of life in the Indian city during the 1980s.
The combination of a travel story with philosophical teachings and writings offers a connection to The Alchemist in more ways than one.
- A realistic look at life in 1980s Bombay
- Combines philosophical elements with travel
- Some readers find Roberts’s method of writing narcissistic
Themes: Freedom, Crime, Friendship, Multicultural Relationships, Trust, Exile, Betrayal
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig
This fictional autobiography tells the story of a father and son undertaking a summer motorcycle trip and focuses on various philosophical and personal themes, with the narrator- the father- experiencing a strong sense of self-reckoning thanks to his developing relationship with his son.
The process of motorcycle maintenance leads to discussions of humanism and religion as well as the ideal of existence itself, much like Santiago’s journey into pantheism stemming from his travels.
- Very original
- Profound messages wrapped within a simple premise
- Readers have found it difficult to grasp at times
Themes: Self Acceptance, Romanticism versus Classicism, Mental Health, Freedom, Travel, Quality, Modern Technology, Human Responses
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Wild is the true story of author Cheryl Strayed and her decision to walk over a thousand miles on her own via the Pacific Crest Trail.
Strayed’s story is one filled with travel and whilst it isn’t heavy on philosophical elements, there are definitely spiritual undertones to be found.
It is hard not to see the similarities between the narrator in Wild and Santiago on his journey to the Egyptian pyramids.
- The emotional connection to the narrator feels stronger due to knowing this is a true story
- An excellent look at grief and how it can lead us in different directions
- Some do not find the narrator to be a particularly sympathetic character.
Themes: Grief, Loss, Travel, Motherhood, Isolation, Solitude, Self Reflection
One Hundred Years Of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Another philosophical read, One Hundred Years of Solitude revolves around the seven generations of the Buendia family in Colombia.
Part fantasy and part realism, the novel delves into major events in the lives of the members of the Buendia family via a unique magical realism style.
The philosophical musings of the story include the major theme of solitude, which acts as a metaphor for feelings such as seclusion and sadness, as well as mental illness issues.
Some of the other themes explored via this style include time fluidity and elitism.
In comparison to Coelho’s story, One Hundred Years of Solitude has similar allegorical and philosophical themes, as well as a similar uniqueness in terms of literary styles.
- A unique style that blends reality with fantasy
- Engaging writing style
- Some readers found it difficult to follow.
Themes: Solitude, Family, Time, Magical Realism, Civilization
The Book Of Speculation – Erika Swyler
A librarian named Simon Watson lives alone, with his parents having died long ago and his sister Enola running away to join a traveling carnival to read tarot cards.
Simon receives an old, waterlogged book about a traveling carnival in the 1700s that reports odd, magical events occurring.
One of these events includes a circus mermaid drowning, the same way his circus mermaid mother died.
The book also reports that these mermaids have lived for generations in Simon’s family and that they always drown on July 24th.
Fearing for his sister’s life, Simon must uncover the mystery of their family before it’s too late.
The Book of Speculation is all about fantastical and magical themes, with a strong emphasis on gypsies, fate, and fortune-tellers much like in The Alchemist.
- A must for lovers of magical fantasy
- Interesting focus on tarot cards and fortune-tellers
- Some find the book disjointed
Themes: Family, Fantasy, Fate, Fortune Telling, Mysteries, Curses
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma
Julian Mantle is a high-powered lawyer who finds himself confronting his own unbalanced life, leading to a spiritual crisis.
He embarks on a life-changing journey to the Himalayas that not only gives him invaluable wisdom but also allows him to reflect on his sense of self and build a new life with purpose, peace, and passion.
There are direct comparisons to be made to The Alchemist here, most notably a long journey combined with philosophical themes and discovering one’s true self.
- Combines the best of both travel stories and philosophical tales
- Inspired by real-life experiences from the author
- Some feel it lacks depth
Themes: Conquering Fears, Self Reflection, Self Discipline, Purpose, Cultivation of the Mind
Life Of Pi – Yann Martel
Pi is a sixteen-year-old boy and the sole survivor of a sinking cargo ship transporting wild animals. He finds himself trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger.
Pi is able to coexist with the tiger, and they survive for 227 days at sea until they reach the coast of Mexico, where the tiger flees.
Pi’s story is not believed by authorities, and he is pressed to be truthful, at which point he tells another, less fantastical story.
The allegorical elements of Life of Pi offer a similar nature to The Alchemist, as does Martel’s writing style.
- Interesting theme of using fiction to find meaning.
- A unique take on the coming-of-age genre.
- Some readers weren’t fond of the violence and gore.
Themes: Spiritualism, Coming of Age, Faith in God, Survival, Reality vs Fiction, Humanity and Nature
Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha is a wealthy Indian Brahmin who- after living a life consumed by greed and lust- decides to cast off his privilege to find his true self and discover what his life really means.
Siddhartha encounters various people on his travels and experiences a range of important life events, leading him to eventually discover inner peace and wisdom.
The focus here is on achieving enlightenment and wisdom, aligning with the philosophical nature of The Alchemist.
- A powerful tale on the pursuit of enlightenment
- Encourages feelings of humanity, sympathy, and empathy
- Some find the story repetitive
Themes: Personal Enlightenment, Travel, Human Experience, Wisdom, Inner Peace, Fatherhood
Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is the true story of American college graduate Chirstoper McCandless, who opts to go traveling and give up his life savings to charity with the goal of reaching Alaska and living remotely.
McCandless would tragically be found dead four months later, having starved to death in the Alaskan wilds.
His pilgrimage is a compelling story to be told, though, even with the tragic ending.
The journey of McCandless can be compared to Santiago’s in The Alchemist, though admittedly his odyssey ended much more brutally.
- A real-life story of the pursuit of meaning in life
- Endearingly heartbreaking
- Some find Krakauer to have a biased opinion towards McCandless
Themes: Living off the Land, Travel, The Harshness of Reality, Humanity and Nature
So there you have eleven books that are similar to The Alchemist and are sure to be an excellent read for those who enjoyed Paulo Coelho’s classic.
If it is the story of enlightenment via a journey that you enjoyed most in The Alchemist, then consider Wild, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, or Siddhartha.
If it was the philosophical musings that you preferred, you might want to try One Hundred Years of Solitude or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
No matter which book you choose, you can be sure they are all engaging stories in their own right, with each offering something unique and enjoyable to sink your literary teeth into!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Main Message Of The Alchemist?
There are various messages to be had in the story, such as the message that everyone needs a dream and that fear is a much larger obstacle than the actual obstacle.
What Is The Most Important Quote From The Alchemist?
The Alchemist is chock-full of quotes that are meaningful and important, though some of the most notable include the following:
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
“If it’s still in your mind, it is worth taking the risk.”
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