From Whitney’s Shelf: The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho*

I am having to tell you about this book, which I know  you’ve already heard of because everyone’s heard of it, and which you’ve probably already read because everyone’s read it, and you might even love because APPARENTLY everyone from Julia Roberts to Will Smith to Dayo Okeniyi to my little sister loves this book.**

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you will know that I rarely give negative reviews. They’re a waste of everyone’s time, and I don’t have enough energy to devote more towards meanness. Also, I’m striving to become a kinder person, especially this year, and well yes, it’s a sort of kindness to say “OH MY GOODNESS.  YOUR BRAIN CELLS WILL DIE IF YOU READ THIS BOOK,” it seems like a fairly limiting kindness.

I don’t know why this is on Whitney’s Shelf. Maybe it was a gift from someone well meaning with no taste. Maybe she liked the color of the binding. Maybe it came into her life at a very impressionable time. I have no idea. I accidentally read this (like accidentally stepping in dog poo), and then realized it was on her shelf, and then asked her about it, and she said, “Hm. I don’t really remember that book very well. I would need to reread it again.” It’s a quick read, but even five minutes spent on that book is more than I would condemn a thinking person to. I told her not to bother, that I would just write something quick.

So here’s something quick: I hate this book. It’s written capably enough, but it’s full of all this contemporary “affirmations,” “follow your dreams and all love and success with flow to you,” feel good nonsense that gets in the way of actually Getting Stuff Done. No. Just. No.  You don’t just… send your desires out into the universe, and, if you desire it faithfully enough, the Universe give it back. Because you know what? Starving people really desire something to eat, and they still starve to death. I’m pretty sure no child wants to be molested either, but guess what else? There’s a worldwide human trafficking epidemic. Welcome to the world. To paraphrase from a stellar book that you should read instead, “The world, apparently, is not a wish-granting factory.”  You want something? You work for it. And even then, you don’t always get it. For Coelho to suggest otherwise is just staggeringly offensive.

I’m almost certainly oversimplifying. Maybe I misunderstood something in the first five pages, and wasn’t able to see past it. I’ve misread plenty of things. I mean, there must be something good in this book.I really wanted to talk to someone else who has read this book who has something positive to say about it, but the people I contacted also couldn’t remember anything about it. If you are a person who has read this book, and you liked it, please tell me why. I promise not to throw rocks at you (Really. I mean, if rocks get thrown at you, it’s just because you’re really close to achieving your dream and you need to work harder. But I won’t throw them on purpose. Unless, you know, that’s your destiny. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuughh.). I just don’t see the point.

So: this book has no swearing and no sex and is therefore morally acceptable by most standards. I just find it insufferably idiotic, and I find stupidity and pablum far more objectionable than the vagaries of human expression. Read at your own risk.


*I am purposely not linking to it in the hopes that if you have thus far avoided this book, you will not be exposed to it. It is so awful.

**The Internet claims these people love this book, but I have doubts. When I asked my sister about this book again, hoping to add her voice to balance out my tirade, she also claimed memory loss. So. That’s a good sign in a book?


7 thoughts on “From Whitney’s Shelf: The Alchemist

  1. thank you so much for the kind and thoughtful review.I was considering purchasing it for my grandson but will now forbear.

  2. I really tried to remember reading this, but I just can’t. I DO remember reading “The AlchemYst: The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flammel” I liked it.

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