25 Books Similar to The Alchemist

The Alchemist book along with a stack of other books on a table with cloth.

Paulo Coelho’s tale of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd in search of treasure, comforted many readers as they were inspired to look deeper into themselves. The Alchemist reminded people that they deserved love and not to allow fear to hold them back while appreciating the smaller things in life.

In the heavy days of the pandemic, more and more people are yearning for books that help us sort out our emotions, ground us, and help us move forward. That there is value in living in the present, without dwelling so much about where we have been or where we are going.
When reading books like The Alchemist, people feel seen and heard, even if it is only through the pages.

Thus, we’ve put together 25 books for readers who enjoyed The Alchemist. We have some traditional favorites, such as Shantaram. But we’re bringing up some overlooked titles too, such as Two Old Women by Velma Wallis: a wonderful inspiration, especially to those with older, less reliable bodies.

Table of Contents

1. The Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage, The (Cover image may vary) (Plus)

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  • Author: Paulo Coelho
  • Genre: Fiction, Philosophy, Spirituality
  • Awards: He’s won many, but it doesn’t appear to be for this specific title
  • Published: 1987

In 1986, Coelho went to Spain to take part in the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This journey inspired both The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist. It is a travel story about self-discovery and finding your own path.

Many readers enjoyed the mysticism elements of this tale that is filled with symbolism. As the fictionalized Coelho travels he encounters others, including a possessed dog, a demon disguised as a gypsy, and a guide, Petrus. In the end, Coelho achieves insight into the simplicity of life.

2. Pillars of Salt

Pillars of Salt (Emerging Voices (Hardcover))

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  • Author: Fadia Faqir
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Awards: runner up for ALOA Literary Prize (2001)
  • Published: 1996

Two women come together at a mental hospital in Jordan. Both were committed by abusive men in their lives: the first, by her brother with the support of other men in the village; the second by her husband and son. The two women are at first wary of one another. But gradually, the tension between them subsides, and a friendship emerges.

Told in lyrical prose, this is a tale of misogyny and how it can grind women down. The story is intense and told from three voices. The man’s voice in the book provides a glaringly different narrative to one of the women who is telling the same tale. Thus, the story is about perception, voices, and whose truth gets to be heard, and who is silenced.  

3. Journal of a Solitude

Journal of a Solitude

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  • Author: May Sarton
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Awards: None found for this title
  • Published: 1973

“I am here alone for the first time in weeks,” opens Sarton’s journal, “to take up my ‘real’ life again at last. Sarton, a poet and novelist, was a very social person, but she retreats in the winter of 1970/1. Through her year alone, the quotidian of her life is treasured. She takes solace in the changing seasons as she cares for her garden and pets.

As much as she craves the solitude to both write and appreciates the richness of life, she does have a history of depression. She asks, “Does anything in nature despair except man?” But even as she battles her mental health, she persists in her quest: “Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.” A soul-filling read.

4. The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

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  • Author: Randy Pausch
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Awards: Time’s “World’s Top-100 Most Influential Peoples”
  • Published: 2008

Randy Pausch, a father to three and a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give “the Last Lecture.” It asked him to consider his end and what matters most. Pausch, diagnosed with terminal cancer a month prior, was already contemplating such a question and more. The speech he gave went on to inspire many, including the then-president of the United States.

Pausch’s lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” did not dwell on dying. Instead, he spoke on seizing the moment and overcoming obstacles. He gives advice and thoughts on what really matters when you are alive.

5. The Forty Rules of Love

The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi

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  • Author: Elif Shafak
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Awards: Nominated for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2012)
  • Published: 2009

In the thirteenth, Rumi encounters Shams of Tabriz. The whirling dervish will become Runi’s spiritual mentor.

In the modern age is forty-year-old Ella Rubenstein, who has recently taken the position of a reader for a literary agent. Her first task is to read Sweet Blasphemy by Aziz Zahara. The novel is about Shams and his lessons on love and unity of people. As Ella reads, she begins to feel as if the novel is reaching out to her in her own unhappy life.

The book is a story about friendships and how to accept hardship rather than letting hardship devour you. It is about love and forgiveness, for ourselves and others. A poetic yet straightforward read.

6. Shantaram

Shantaram: A Novel

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  • Author: Gregory David Roberts
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Travel
  • Awards:
  • Published: 2003

Gregory David Roberts has an unusual past. He was once known as the “Gentleman Bandit” after turning to crime to fund his heroin habit. He eventually went to prison, which he proceeded to escape and then fled to India. It wasn’t until 1990 that he returned to prison, where he began writing Shantaram. The manuscript was destroyed twice before completion.

Shantaram was inspired by Roberts’ travels in India, where he hid for a decade between prison stints. As much as the physical journey is full of adventure and travel in the vast country, it is most importantly a tale about learning about love, fate, the impact of our choices, and the human experience. It is a novel that has touched an extraordinary number of lives.  

7. Fair Play

Fair Play (New York Review Books Classics)

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  • Author: Tove Jansson
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Awards: She’s won many, but not found any for this title
  • Published: 1989

Mari (writer) and Jonna (artist) live in the same building, their studios joined by an attic passageway. For decades the pair support each other, argue, laugh, and watch films. It is a story about companionship, balancing the needs of togetherness with solitude. How both are necessary for a healthy relationship and creativity.

Fair Play is autobiographical fiction. It is a short tale that celebrates women’s lives, love, and art, in all its variety. The story enriches and lifts the spirit of its fans. A book that is difficult to read only once.

8. Into the Wild

Into the Wild

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  • Author: Jon Krakauer
  • Genre: Biography, Adventure
  • Awards: ALA Best Books for Young Adults (1997)
  • Published: 1996

Krakauer follows the trail of Christopher Johnson McCandless, who gave away his money and possessions, renamed himself Alexander Supertramp, and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he dies. The tale explores the yearning to be free of possessions, expectations, and other obligations of life and live a raw freedom.

McCandless’ heroes were people such as Jack London and John Muir, and the young man wanted to embrace this type of wild freedom. Unfortunately, such a life comes with great risk. There are plenty who have called McCandless’ actions selfish. But for others, the story inspires them to think deeply about their own lives and choices.

9. Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

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  • Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Genre: Memoir, Travel
  • Awards: None found for this title
  • Published: 2006

After Gilbert left her marriage, she went through a personal crisis. Needing a change, she proposed an idea to her agent where she would travel for a year to Italy, India, and Indonesia. During her travels, she learned to enjoy the pleasure of eating again, practiced the art of devotion, and fell in love.

The memoir has touched many who have felt stuck in their lives. It is a story of healing that begins with food. This is a sensitive topic for many women, as food often loses its role as nourishment in Western culture and becomes a source of guilt. A thoughtful read for those looking to get out of a rut, try new things, let go of old habits, and reexamine the self.

10. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny

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  • Author: Robin Sharma
  • Genre: Non-fiction, Personal-Development, Self-Help
  • Awards: None found for this title
  • Published: 1996

This is a fable about an attorney forced to examine his work-life balance as it was unbalanced. The tale brings readers a step-by-step guide on “living with greater courage, balance, abundance, and joy.”

Fans warn that this tale is not read for its prose. But they find the content inspiring and motivating. People felt encouraged to seek purpose in their lives and live it with an appreciation of all the beauty surrounding them.

11. Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life

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  • Author: Ali Wong
  • Genre: Memoir, Humor
  • Awards: Goodreads (2019)
  • Published: 2019

Wong’s memoir is a series of letters addressed to her daughters. A comedian by trade, her memoir is hilarious as she discusses living single in New York, dealing with erectile dysfunction, drinking snake blood in Vietnam, what it was like to grow up in San Francisco, and parenting tales.

Slipped between the antics and jokes are words of wisdom on laughing at your mistakes, that sometimes it is okay to fail and screw up, and how to move on from poor choices. A refreshingly open, blunt, and supportive read.

12. The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library: A Novel

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  • Author: Matt Haig
  • Genre: Magical Realism, Mental Health
  • Awards: Goodreads (2020)
  • Published: 2020

Nora Seed’s lost her job, her cat died, and her brother isn’t speaking to her. She wonders if her life would be better if she’d followed her dream and became a glaciologist? Would she be happier if she’d married her ex-fiancé? Nora finds herself in The Midnight Library and is presented with the opportunity to try out her alternative paths. Was there a better way to live?

Haig creates a place in between life and death where a soul can examine their regrets and answer the question, “What if I had only…?” There’s a bit of a Sliding Doors and It’s a Wonderful Life vibe, but Nora is a cracking original. Her humor and wry observations prevent this book from being syrupy. Instead, it acknowledges life’s woe while still encouraging another step forward.

13. Year of Yes

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

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  • Author: Shonda Rhimes
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Awards: She’s won awards, but none found for this title
  • Published: 2015

Shonda Rhimes had a lot of good reasons for saying “no:” creator of numerous TV hits and mother to three, she was and is busy. Also, she’s an introvert, describing her party style as “hugging the walls.” But in 2013, Shonda had a revelation at a family Thanksgiving. Thus, she started changing her “no” to “yes.”

One of the best things about this memoir is Shonda Rhimes doesn’t pretend to do it all. One of her big “yes” is putting people in place to do things, so she has time to do other things. But the bulk of the story is about her working out her own issues, anxieties, and fears. She might be Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood, but in this memoir, she is relatable as well as inspiring.

14. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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  • Author: Robert M. Pirsig
  • Genre: Fiction, Philosophy
  • Awards: National Book Award (1975)
  • First Book Published: 1974
  • Books: First of Phaedrus Duology

This is a fictionalized account of a father and son riding by motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California. During the trip, there are philosophical discussions that are inspired by the father’s past.

This tale is about relationships, delusions, mental illness, and the concept of truth. It is quiet and methodical, using the motorcycle as a vehicle of his system of thinking. Thus, the tale about a motorcycle trip isn’t really about motorcycles.

15. Wild

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

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  • Author: Cheryl Strayed
  • Genre: Memoir, Travel
  • Awards: Goodreads (2012), Oregon Book Award (2013)
  • Published: 2012

Twenty-two Cheryl Strayed’s life was a mess. After her mother’s death, the family scattered, her marriage fell apparent, and she became too big of a fan of certain substances. Faced with hitting rock bottom, she decided she would hike the 1000 mile plus Pacific Crest Trail alone. She had no experience.

Wild is a powerful story of healing and regaining self-confidence. The story has suspense, heartache, and moments of joy and laughs. No, it isn’t wise to go on a backpacking adventure unprepared. But Cheryl is brutally honest about her mistakes and shortcomings, which in itself is ab act of bravery.

16. The Book of Mirdad

The Book of Mirdad: The Strange Story of a Monastery Which Was Once Called the Ark

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  • Author: Mikhail Naimy
  • Genre: Philosophy, Spirituality
  • Awards: Not found for this title
  • Published: 1946

This allegorical tale is a series of dialogues between Mirdad, the abbot of a monastery, and his disciples. The teachings are on subjects such as love, obedience, and the cycle of life. Mirdad uses legends, mysticism, philosophy, and poetry in his dialogues to illustrate his themes.

Fans adore the lyrical writing of this intricate text. The emotions the stories evoke touched many, with some calling this book on the human condition “soul-filling.” 

17. The Secret

The Secret

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  • Author: Rhonda Byrne
  • Genre: Self Help
  • Awards: 2007 Time Magazine’s Time 100: The Most Influential People
  • First Book Published: 2006
  • Books: First of five.

The Secret combines wisdom from various sources on achieving wealth and happiness along with how to have good health and relationships. These stories motivate people to overcome obstacles and achieving goals and dreams.

This book is written in a simple and accessible style. In every subject, the idea is to change the reader’s mindset to a positive one, to tap into the force of positivity to make your goals happen. Fans enjoy the practical, easy-to-follow formulas in helping them approach a variety of aspects of their lives.

18. Siddhartha

Siddhartha (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

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  • Author: Hermann Hesse
  • Genre: Fiction, Philosophy
  • Awards: Not specifically for this title, but he was awarded the Novel Prize in Literature and the Goethe Prize.
  • Published: 1922

Siddhartha = achieved (siddha) + what was searched for (artha). Thus, Hesse’s work is about “he who has found meaning.” The story follows a man named Siddhartha who left his home after giving up all his possessions. He traveled, hoping to gain illumination. Eventually, he meets Gautam Buddha. But his journey to enlightenment is far from over.

This is a very human story where Siddhartha makes a number of mistakes. Told in three parts, the character’s path is far from a straight line to enlightenment. Fans feel inspired, calling it a “powerful” read, and find wisdom in the tale.

19. The Moth Presents All These Wonders

[Catherine Burns] The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing The Unknown

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  • Author: Catherine Burns
  • Genre: Creative non-fiction, essays
  • Awards: None found
  • Published: 2017

This is a collection of essays from writers such as Tig Notaro, John Turturro, Meg Wolitzer, Tomi Reichental, and Dori Samadzai Bonner. The tales are vast, from a refugee trying to stay in the country they call home, to a story from the Holocaust, to how someone discovered their neighbor was the FBI’s most wanted man.

This collection presents a wide range of life stories. Some are profound and leave readers in tears; others are lighter, such as a tale of an extra in Silence of the Lambs, repeatedly blowing their scene. Readers loved the variety of life experiences and the lessons found from the writers’ stories.

20. The Art of Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel

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  • Author: Garth Stein
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Awards: Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award (2009)
  • Published: 2008

Enzo is a dog. He knows this. But he also has a human soul, an obsession with opposable thumbs, educates himself by watching television, and listens to his person, Denny Swift, who races cars. All in all, Enzo has become quite the philosopher. Thus, Enzo tells his story and Denny’s while giving a dog’s-point-of-view on the human condition.

You don’t have to love dogs to enjoy this book, although it probably helps. This tale (or tail, if you like puns) has a cornucopia of emotions, from tears to laugher to a lot in between. “Your car goes where your eyes go,” Denny tells Enzo. The dog thinks that’s how life works, too. Many readers agree.

21. Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival

Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis (2003-06-03)

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  • Author: Velma Wallis
  • Genre: Historical fiction, Folklore, Survival
  • Awards: Not for this title
  • Published: 1993

Wallis retells the version of the Athabascan Indian Legend that was passed down her matriarchal line. The story is about two elderly women who have done little for themselves in the past few years. As a horrific winter famine hits the tribe, the chief is forced to make tough decisions about whom can continue to be fed. Thus, the two elderly women are left and must now work together to survive.

This story is told in the simple language of many myths and fables. However, Wallis manages to pack incredible detail, vivid descriptions, and paint intriguing characters with few words. The women’s tenacity is a boon to all who have bodies that face challenges, for whatever reason. As the one woman says to the other, “…I say that if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.”

22. Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson, 20th Anniversary Edition

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  • Author: Mitch Albom
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Awards: ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners (2009)
  • Published: 1997

Growing up, Mitch Albom had a college professor who always gave him advice and encouragement. Years later, Mitch spots his college professor and is moved to reconnect. What he finds is a man in his final months of life. Thus, they meet up every Tuesday, as they did back in Mitch’s college days. The relationship turns into a final “class” for Mitch on living.

This book is divided up into tight, easy to read, chapters. But while the simplicity is deceiving, the messages contained within Mitch’s interactions with Morrie hit the feels. Many who are grieving the “Morrie” of their lives felt comfort in these pages.

23. Unlearning to Fly

Unlearning to Fly

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  • Author: Jennifer Brice
  • Genre: Memoirs, Essays
  • Awards: None found
  • Published: 2007

Jennifer Brice, an avid bookworm, grew up in Alaska surrounded by people full of resilience and energy. Brice, however, does not feel so bold. Yet, she pushes herself outside of her comfort zone, from learning to drive heavy machinery to how to fly.

Brice’s memoir is a swirl of individual tales not told in chronological order. But together, they move a narrative forward, showing Brice’s growth. Her first job as a writer was to pen obituaries. Her thoughts on both death and living give much to ponder, as the tenacity of the Alaskan spirit is presented as both a blessing and caution.

24. Sophie’s World

Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Fsg Classics)

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  • Author: Jostein Gaarder
  • Genre: Fiction, Philosophy
  • Awards: Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (1994)
  • Published: 1991

Fourteen-year-old Sophie Amundsen arrives home to find two notes in her mailbox. They are short, “Who are you?” and the second, “Where does the world come from?” Thus, Sophie embarks on a special education through letters, which covers Socrates to Sartre. But who is sending these notes?

Fans love Gaarder’s work as an entry port to great thinkers. This is especially recommended for teenagers, young adults grappling with great questions and ideas. But it is good for anyone wanting an overview of the (primarily Western) history of philosophy. Sophie’s “education” provides one for the reader.

25. Letter to My Daughter

Letter to My Daughter

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  • Author: Maya Angelou
  • Genre: Memoir, Essay
  • Awards: Angelou won awards but not found any for this title
  • Published: 1987

Maya Angelou wrote, “I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters.” Thus begins a series of essays on what she learned through women she has known and her own experiences. Her wealth of stories, adventures, and friendships provides a comforting and inspiring voice.

A book to lift your spirit.

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