Collecting Paulo Coelho’s Works: A Guide and Review

It had always been my dream to read the best books ever written. I want to discover books that people hardly knew, but told exceptional stories. Authors than can be compared to those who wrote the bestsellers. I also want to read the works of the famous writer. I want to know firsthand if their fame is well deserved. To pursue the latter goal, I read the books that are commonly in bookstore shelves. This begun my journey with Paulo Coelho.

His first book that I read was The Devil and Miss Prym. This was a book I had read way back, years ago when I can’t even afford one of his books. I borrowed one from a cousin and immediately got lost in the detail of the story. A stranger arrived in an isolated town called Viscos where Miss Prym lived in. He offered a staggering amount of riches to the townspeople, that is if they commit a murder. Every person can justify a murder, and the book greatly revolved on the internal struggle of Miss Prym and the townspeople. It presented to me a bold and unique setting that questioned if money had become more important than moral.

I was impressed and promised myself I will keep an eye out for his books. Next, I encountered Veronika Decides to Die, through a close college friend. Veronika was a woman who neither felt happy, sad nor angry about her life. She looked at the future and felt indifference. Thus, she decides to kill herself. I became in love with the book. Suicide had always been a delicate topic for me, and I loved how Coelho explored the reason why people decide to kill themselves and what are their reasons to continue living. The book is a celebration of life and of living it. I would really recommend reading this one.

I was captured so I decided to collect his books. The Winner Stands Alone, was a book I wanted to buy ever since it came out. The title and the book cover lured me. As a newly promoted employee who had seemed to lose all my friends in the process, I knew I would greatly relate to the book. The novel told stories of different individuals brought together to the Cannes Film Festival by their desire for success. The book criticized our success driven society and tells the unseen consequences of winning. His novel detailed what was behind the fame and the lime lights, a setting that only few dared to write.

During small talk, I started telling people that I am collecting Paulo Coelho’s books and their first question was “Have you read The Alchemist?” When I say no, I receive a flood of exclamations, all telling me that I should read it. So, The Alchemist was my next book, and I have to say that it was much simpler and more optimistic than the first books I have read. The book had a classical approach to it, a fable to explain Personal Legend. The story says that every person knows what he is truly meant to be, their greatest potential. But people get swept away by the world, and soon forget. The story followed a young boy and his search for his Personal Legend. It was short and full of mythical things. But it speaks to the readers’ dreams directly and becomes very close to reality. No wonder it’s Paulo Coelho’s most famous book.

Another title that caught my eye was “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.” To my surprise, this novel was a love story. Though I am not really a fan of love stories, I decided to buy the book. For me, the story spoke of love in all it’s forms: the human, the divine, the parental, the sacrificial and the painful. Pain had always been a part of love, and the female protagonist Pilar struggled if she will believe and accept the love that was presented to her. I was not entirely impressed by the book though. I was beginning to feel a rift between the author and me as a reader in that book. The story was heavily detailed of religion; speaking in tongues, performing miracles, the introduction of a feminine god, talking directly to the Virgin Mary. The concepts of religion Paulo Coelho presented was certainly new to the original religion I know. And it overwhelmed me.

Supportive as ever, my boyfriend gave me a copy of Aleph. I was thankful and really looked forward to reading it. One book I did not entirely like will not make me change my opinion in a snap. So I excitedly started to read. I learned shockingly that Aleph was not a fictional story, but a story that happened to Paulo Coelho himself. My capability ‘to suspend my belief’ reached its limits when I read the book. Coelho claimed that the violinist he met at the bookstore was someone he had met in the past life. That he himself had seen his past lives. He also said fantastic details every few pages like “my wife speaks to her guardian angel as she paints.” Maybe I have a too conventional mind. Maybe I shouldn’t take the book literally? Whatever it was I did not finish the book. I just couldn’t. 

I had another unread Paulo Coelho book on the shelf: The Zahir. I gave Coelho the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps this book are not like the two previous ones. I checked the label, it definitely said fiction. I begun to read. The Zahir, is a book about a writer and his wife … I closed the book in disappointment. The book was too similar to the author, and I have not recovered from Aleph to read this one. I did try to peruse a few pages, only to find more reasons to dislike it. A writer who continuously cheat on his wife whines about his wife leaving him. He claimed his cheating was freedom in their relationship. His wife leaving him was freedom from relationships. I was disgusted.

Will I stop reading Paulo Coelho’s books? I might. I might also give him another chance in the future, but I will carefully search the synopsis and feedback before reading it. I might just stick with his earlier works. Coelho has talent but I can only read some of his works, the others I have to reject. It had been a great run, and I am saddened that I will end my journey with Paulo Coelho like this.
I will add to this article in case I get an opportunity to read another book of his. In the meantime, I am going to find my next favorite author.

Credits to the owner of the photo. I do not claim the photo or it’s contents as property.