Confession of a Book Snob

In early 2004, I was in a very emotionally disoriented place. I walked through my day feeling oppressed, remorseful, delirious, and bewildered in phases. The mixed emotions and excessive brooding was not helping me expedite the resolution of my conundrum and to reinforce this point, a friend suggested that I should take up my favorite hobby – reading fiction – actively again.

Taking his advice, I bought some, and borrowed some others to make a huge pile of “To Read” books and one of the borrowed book happened to be The Alchemist. A lot of people had told me how wonderful this book was, and the magazine vendors at the traffic signals made it a regular habit of shoving the book under my nose, maybe that was the reason that I picked it up.

Although, I had never been a fan of allegory, I pushed myself beyond the first few pages because of the faith the owner of this copy had shown in the book. Besides being well-thumbed, the book was vigorously underlined and had many “notes to self” scribbled on the edges. If it worked for her, it might work for me, I thought. I followed the mundane adventures of the Spanish shepherd, trying to find meaning of life in every second sentence. It was tedious and unentertaining, but I liked the idea of following ones dreams and believing that the universe will conspire to make those dreams come true. I absolutely believe that I stuck to this book only because of my state of mind at that time. The book is a fable that talks about faith. It reeks of the bestselling formula, as the author cleverly spins the web of words to touch the confused souls of the readers. The book is targeted at people in a relatable state of mind as mine; confused, lost, forlorn, and seeking for some catalyst.

It provides a sense of hope, and motivation to go out there and give things another shot. I can recall searching my bookshelf for an old Khalil Gibran book after finishing this one. That is the kind of mindset The Alchemist leaves you in.

Today, when people ask me if I liked that book, the answer eludes me. I cannot picture myself picking up the book ever again, and neither have I been able to enjoy any other book written by Paulo Coehlo. I am usually embarrassed to acknowledge the fact that I liked this book because it is considered highly overrated by many and a lot of people call it their favorite book, which clearly indicates that they either do not read much or only read self-help.

I do not fall in any of these two categories and The Alchemist is definitely not my favorite book. However, this book was a milestone in my life. The book did not change my life, I changed it myself. But along with other accelerators, the book played its part as well.

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8 Responses to “Confession of a Book Snob”

  1. Very nice blog! Keep up the good blogging!

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  2. The huge popularity of The Alchemist somewhat amazes me. Maybe, it’s the over-simplified, made-easy philosophy that connects to new and confused readers (I usually find young readers gushing about it). Or, maybe, it’s popular because, at the end, despite it’s philosophical-allegorical agenda, it’s an easy read.

    I liked it alright when I read it first (probably, the last as well), but I definitely thought it was not meaty enough. I have not felt the urge to pick up another Paulo Coelho again. But, I still think that books like The Alchemist have their own place in our reading life.

    By the way, I can see that you are going strong with your a-post-a-day plan for November. Keep it going. All the best!

  3. Ditto. It was a part of a phase of growing up for me as well. I can’t find myself joining those vocally dissing it.

  4. Somehow the first Paulo Coehlo book that I ended up reading was ‘By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept’ instead of ‘The Alchemist’.

    One of our friends who was an ‘The Alchemist’ fan – although she always said that she was an Paulo Coehlo fan – made me read ‘The Alchemist’. The only good thing about ‘The Alchemist’ was that it was better than ‘By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept’.

  5. sunshin3girl Says:

    Puneet, I read her copy only! She is the one who underlined the book to death. :p

  6. Can totally see her underlining the text and writing stuff in margins 🙂

  7. I read it – but didnt resonate actually. but that might be because I have a bias against overly hyped books. People also told me that fountainhead changed their lives etc. same reaction somehow.

    But having kept these prejudices aside, I have tried to read other stuff by him, and just doesnt strike a chord for some reason.

    • sunshin3girl Says:

      I totally get what you mean by not getting around reading overly hyped books. That is the reason I have not read Da Vinci Code yet.

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