I stumbled upon The Alchemist when I was struggling in this little pursuit called life, trying to figure out a general direction that didn’t involve staying in a job I desperately disliked.
This book played into my particularly receptive mindset by suggesting that we all have a personal legend, or life purpose, that we must follow.
It reminded me to look inward and cultivate a sense of intuition for what I wanted to do, encouraging the adventure which would eventually deposit me here, enthusiastically typing this missive to you.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy life lessons that are delivered in an engaging, story-driven format.
So, here are 5 books like The Alchemist which might give you some equally pleasurable goosebumps.
“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.”
5 Books Like The Alchemist
1. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
Ever since getting into meditation, I’ve been keen to read about the Buddhist principles that underpin the practice.
Enter The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, a semi-autobiographical novel about a college gymnast who meets an older mentor and learns about living in the present moment and finding inner peace.
As I’ve always loved sport, reading about someone committing to their craft with a meditative presence was particularly inspiring.
Although it might be a bit formulaic for some as it follows a kind of hero’s journey format, I found it to be a quick, enjoyable read that left me with many shiny wisdom nuggets…
The dialogue between the teacher and the student yields, in particular, yields some excellent and insightful passages.
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Ever since reading adventure novels when I was younger, I’ve loved travel in the search of new lands and new knowledge.
But the double edge of this rather sharp sword has always been that I’ve been a restless little fellow, unwilling to settle down and invest in my pursuits, much to the chagrin of my mother!
In Siddhartha, the eponymous character seeks enlightenment through a variety of teachers and life experiences, including living as a wealthy businessman and finding solace as a lowly ferryman.
Hesse’s writing is beautiful and evocative, and I found myself wanting to take notes on Siddhartha’s journey as it mirrored my own desire for self-discovery and understanding.
Whether I can claim to be as enlightened as the protagonist at the end of the book – well, that remains to be seen!
“You, Venerable One, may indeed be a seeker, for, striving toward your goal, there is much you do not see which is right before your eyes.”
3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
I love motorcycles and have done a few long-distance trips in my time, so naturally, this book caught my eye.
I will preface this well-worn book recommendation with the caveat that it’s not for everyone, as it’s pretty dense and complicated in places.
It’s the type of book that you must sip like a fine wine, digesting one page at a time and really internalizing the philosophy presented.
In the story, the main character (who remains unnamed throughout the book), embarks on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son.
Throughout their journey, he reflects on his past as well as various theories of quality and Eastern philosophy.
For me, this book struck a chord because it explores the connections between technology, art, and spirituality in a way that I had never considered before.
It also emphasizes the pursuit of quality as an important avenue for self-actualization, which I found compelling.
“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I randomly read this book in South America, when I was trying to learn Spanish – mainly because it uses simple language for younger readers.
However, I quickly learned that its simplicity belies a great depth of wisdom.
The Little Prince tells the story of a pilot stranded in the desert who meets a young prince from another planet.
The prince shares his experiences and reflections on life, love, and loss as he travels to different planets and meets a variety of bizarre characters.
A true classic, this book will give you plenty of food for existential thought.
I’ve re-read it in English and now love it even more.
“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.”
5. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
To continue the close spiritual connection that Santiago shares with animals in The Alchemist, I bring you this tale of a humble seagull.
Written in a fable format, the book tells the story of a seagull who is dissatisfied with the mundane life that his flock leads.
He sets out to learn how to fly higher and faster, ultimately leading him to be ostracized by his flock.
But Jonathan continues on his quest, eventually finding a community of like-minded seagulls who are also seeking to push the limits and explore their capabilities.
This book taught me the importance of being true to oneself and always seeking knowledge and growth, even if it means going against societal norms.
Plus, the beautiful language and imagery of flight make for a truly uplifting read.
“Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”
Sometimes I think that self-help presented in the traditional evidence-based format is a bit dry.
While research-backed literature is vital to support the field and promote safe behavior change, I also feel that this style runs counter to our innate yearning for a well-told story.
It also ignores our own inner wisdom that’s arguably uncovered more effectively by using a narrative format.
The books above all contain crucial life lessons from protagonists that learn through action, rather than theory.
And that’s something I can certainly support.
“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”