I was in middle school when I started noticing that Paulo Coelho was making increasing appearances in people’s lists of “Favorite books”, “Favorite authors”, and “Inspirational figures”. His books though, with their mellow covers and overtly philosophical synopses, certainly did not appeal to the teenager whose reading list was mainly made up of vampire tales, historical fiction, and sci-fi. So all throughout highschool, I never found out what the big deal about Paulo Coelho was.
Then, one day in our first year in Jordan, I found Coelho’s claim to fame, “The Alchemist”, laying on the coffee table at home (it is/was one of my brother’s favorite books), and decided to start reading it quickly out of having nothing better to do. Afterall, the book was supposed to not only be a really good read, but it was also supposed to be well, inspiring, and I always love being inspired.
Forty-five minutes later, I was sitting speechlessly on my bedroom’s floor staring at it’s last page, and thinking, “Man, people actually like this book?”
Hands down, it was one of the worst books I’ve ever read; a 100 pages of beating around the bush on how if you believe in something hard enough the whole universe will conspire to help to attain your goals. Lovely. Perfect for anyone who is naive enough to believe that there are rocks floating on air in the world and that eyes have magical powers.
“The Alchemist” is filled with simplistic spiritual cliches and philosophical buzzwords, as can be seen in excerpts such as, “The wise men understood that this natural world is only an image and a copy of paradise. The existence of this world is simply a guarantee that there exists a world that is perfect. God created the world so that, through its visible objects, men could understand his spiritual teachings and the marvels of this wisdom.” Add to that, the language is so basic and simple that it seems to be written at a fourth grade level; warm, fuzzy spirituality crafted to appeal to those who enjoy self-help books written to sell.
I cannot say that I enjoyed any of his other books much more either. In fact, best-seller “Eleven Minutes” was probably a tad worse than “The Alchemist”.
That’s exactly why I tend to roll my eyes and say “oh, please” when someone tells me that one of their favorite authors is Paulo Coelho. Hey, at least they’re always quick reads (but Cosmopolitan tends to be much quicker, cheaper, and more ripe with food for thought).
Will someone please explain to me why the world famous “writer” and bestseller in 25 counties – Paulo Coelho – is so overrated?
Hallmark cards are more inspirational.
Other book reviews on AndFarAway:
The Mists of Avalon
All My Friends are Superheroes
The Lord of the Rings
His Dark Materials
Blood and Gold
The Time Traveller’s Wife