Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is one of those books you’ve seen a million times – in airport bookstores, on the subway, on your own shelves… At least, that’s how it seemed to me and yet, it took me until now to finally get around to reading it. Naturally, my expectations were high because of the book’s overwhelming popularity and longevity.

But to be honest, I was a little bit disappointed with this read. I anticipated a philosophical book with insightful or enlightening messages. And while certainly the book feels philosophical throughout, it’s primary message seems to be nothing more than the age-old “listen to your heart” (along with a few secondary messages that feel equally uninspired for me, like “follow your dreams”, “money isn’t everything”, and “love conquers all”).

I will say that I appreciated the accessibility of the language and the natural flow of the story, which combine to make the narrative fable-like in tone. It occurs to me that this might just be a book that found me at the wrong time in my life or in my reading journey, and I am at least glad that it seems to have resonated with so many readers who found it more inspiring than I.

What did you think of The Alchemist? Am I totally missing something? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo turned up on my radar when I started seeing posts about the book on Instagram with a variety of covers. I soon learned that the book has been translated into more than a dozen languages, sold millions of copies in South Korea (where it was first written and published), and even inspired a film of the same title.

And if that wasn’t enough to pique my interest, I also learned that the book did a lot to fuel the struggle for gender equality and the #metoo movement in South Korea. The story of Kim Jiyoung depicts the pervasive, incessant discrimination against women in South Korea in the home, workplace, and public spheres, and the negative impacts that discrimination has on one woman’s self-worth and mental health. Needless to say, I think the issues touched on in this novel are important, complex, and timely.

However, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t as swept up in Kim Jiyoung’s story as I expected to be – after all, her life is rather mundane, and that’s a big part of the point Cho Nam-Joo is making in this story. But at the same time, I couldn’t ignore that Kim Jiyoung was hard to feel close to as a reader, and at times the writing in this story feels almost clinical (not to give away the twist at the ending. 🙂 But there’s a lot here to unpack, so I have to ask: did you read this one? What did you make of it?

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