Originally published in Portuguese in 1988, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist became a global phenomenon: it sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, sat on the New York Times bestsellers list for a staggering 400 consecutive weeks, and was translated into 81 languages. Here's our suggestions for further reading for those who enjoyed The Alchemist and are looking for more books like it.
The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd, Santiago, as he sets off for Egypt to fulfill his ‘personal legend’ that has revealed itself to him in the form of a dream. He meets many characters along the way, all of whom have something valuable to teach him—although earthly treasures are there for the finding, too. Coelho’s combination of mysticism and adventure roused a generation. If you are in need of further inspiration, you might also be interested in these five books like The Alchemist in some way: a selection that blends fable-like stories and magical realism with popular fiction.
The Arabian Nights, a classic collection of Arabian, Persian, and Indian folk tales has been a profound influence on both the Western and Eastern literary traditions. (The award-winning French novelist Mathias Enard described it as the “classic of classics” in his Five Books interview about the best books on Orientalism.) Upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, Sultan Shahryar has developed a burning hatred for women and in this frenzied rage he vowed to marry a virgin each night and kill her by morning. In order to survive, Shahryar’s latest bride Shahrazad has concocted a cunning plan. Each night she tells the Sultan a tale, leaving him in such intense suspense that come morning he cannot kill her. This forms the frame story, within which many other, shorter, tales are held. There are many variations, translations, and new editions; this 2013 retelling by Hanan al-Shaykh offers invigorating blend of romance, wit, and violence, and is suitable for the general reader.
Hermann Hesse’s Siddartha tells the story of a young man’s search for spiritual enlightenment. In it, Siddartha casts off his wealthy existence for a life of contemplation and ascetism after meeting with the Buddha. Later, restless, he abandons this too in favour of the temptations of life with a beautiful courtesan. Ultimately it will be as a simple ferryman that he finds true enlightenment. This is another another deceptively simple book that, like The Alchemist, draws from Eastern and Western philosophical traditions to create a story that is at once timeless and yet distilled from the period in which it was written. The Penguin Modern Classics edition features a foreword by Coelho himself.
Winner of the 2002 Booker Prize and more recently the basis of a movie adaptation direct by Ang Lee and a hit Broadway show, Life of Pi is a philosophical novel by the Canadian author Yann Martel. Published in 2001, Life of Pi tells the story of Piscine Molitor Patel—better known as Pi—whose family decides to move from India to Canada due to political unrest in 1977. They board a cargo ship laden with zoo animals, but when the ship begins to sink Pi finds himself stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The pair survive
together for a total of 227 days until Pi is eventually saved and taken to hospital. Life of Pi is
a rousing story of survival, perseverance, and faith; we’ve got a feeling that you’ll like this book if you like The Alchemist.
This landmark work of Colombian literature charts the story of seven generations of the Buendiá family, living in the mythical town of Macondo. Like The Alchemist, the story is set in motion by a dream vision: patriarch José Arcadio establishes Macondo after dreaming of a “city of mirrors,” and becomes the site of many magical and marvellous happenings. Author Gabriel García Márquez—known fondly as ‘Gabo’ across South America—won the Nobel Prize in 1982 “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” If you enjoyed the fable-like structure of The Alchemist, we think you’ll like the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez.
Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling debut The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir Khan, a twelve-year-old boy living in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul. Amir’s chief ambition is to win the local kite-fighting competition with his friend Hassan, who he has recruited to help him. However, the lives of both young boys are upended during the political tumult of the 1970s, as the Afghan monarchy collapses and the Soviet Union invades. Amir and his father flee to America to start anew. Years later, Amir receives a call from a family friend who bids him to return to his homeland to right the wrongs of the past. The Kite-Runner is a coming of age story of betrayal, guilt, and redemption; though darker and more realistic than The Alchemist, it shares some similar territory in its captivating storytelling.