The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho I originally saw this book a little over three years ago while taking my son Joe, who was then a junior in high school, to look at colleges. The book was in the college books store of one of the schools that we were looking at. At the time, I had never heard of either the book or Paulo Coelho and had no idea of the huge following that he has. The book looked like something that I might like, however, so I put it on my list of books to read.

Flash forward three years, and I finally got around to reading this book. I can certainly see why Coelho's story of the Andalusian shepherd has such a huge following. The book details the personal journey of the main character as he searches for his "personal legend", Coelho's metaphor for our journey toward our destiny. The shepherd's journey is both mythical and mystical as Coelho populates the book what one presumes is his personal philosophy of life. At times, the book reads like more of a fable, used to teach, than a story, but that is fine since there is so much to digest.

I read this book with a number of friends, one who had already read it, and a few who were new to the story like me. As the book ended and we began to discuss it it rapidly became apparent that although we all liked the book a great deal, each of us got something different out of it based on where we were in our lives at the current time. In some cases it was just that different parts of the story spoke to each of us, but in other cases, even though we all read the same words, we each had a different interpretation of them. Interestingly, all of the interpretation fit. That is one of the beauties of this story. It may not speak to you the same way that it does someone else, but I guarantee that it WILL speak to you.

Another aspect of the book is the sheer volume of ideas and thoughts presented. I am still digesting the many profound thoughts and ideas that were presented throughout the story. I think this may be one of those books that I will buy, just so I can refer to it at times and remember some of the quotes and ideas that I particularly liked. Whatever happens, I know it will take me a while to process everything that was presented.

There were only two things that colored my enjoyment of the book. One was that, at times, I felt that it came off a little too much like a philosophy book and not enough like a story, but that was only a minimal distraction. The other centers around the large volume of ideas and thoughts put forth throughout the story. As I said before, it is going to take me a while to digest it all, but I intend to enjoy doing it.

I actually read this book back-to-back with The Zahir, by the same author, and would highly recommend reading them together as they are perfect compliments to each other.

In closing, I could see this book being used in a philosophy class. The discussion among the students would be fascinating to hear. A great effort.