Paulo Coelho Author Review Penslips Magazine

9 Best Paulo Coelho Books That You Must Read and Why

With a dream to pursue a career in writing, Paulo Coelho, struggled to have a normal childhood. His parents opposed his dream of becoming a writer as it wasn’t a promising career choice especially in Brazilian society. 

But no one could have imagined a young child who spent years in a mental asylum would turn out to be the most popular, best-selling author of the 21st century. He holds the Guinness World Record for the most translated author ever born and Paulo Coelho books are cherished by reader all over the world.

Paulo Coelho’s journey to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, a site of Catholic pilgrimage, changed the course of his life. It enlightened him with a spiritual and mystical awakening which is visible in his simple and lucid writing style.

On an occasion, Paulo says,

What counts in a good story is the person inside. Keep it simple. I write the book that wants to be written. Behind every first sentence is a thread that takes you to the last.

He has authored many books including his masterpiece, the Alchemist and we have chosen top 9 Paulo Coelho books for our review.  

1. Alchemist

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

Alchemist

It’s the novel that made Paulo. It’s a powerfully emotional novel with optimistic undertones. The protagonist is a shepherd who is both a simple young boy and a yearning explorer who shows signs of wisdom beyond his year. He follows his heart and sets out on a journey to fulfill his higher purpose.

In a way he’s looking for alchemy, a treasure in Egypt that no one knows about. The book takes the protagonist through multiple adventures as he tries to decipher what’s real and what’s a mirage. As he continues his journey to seek the treasure, he travels within to find the buried treasures within his own self. 

Alchemist is a book that changes us as we try to decode its meaning. The power of our dreams, the importance of people around us and the choices we make in our lives, and the value of our desires.

Here’s a detailed book review of The Alchemist by Daniel Karim and an account of how it shaped Daniel’s life path. 

2. Eleven Minutes

When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being who I am, I found myself.

Eleven Minutes

Is it Maria or Sonia? What is about this young Brazilian girl that wants to take control of her destiny but meets one she never envisioned? All she wants is a glamorous life. But one thing leads to another, and before she knows it, the wannabe model becomes a guiltless well-paid prostitute in Geneva. 

The book makes you question the truth and the myth of love, sex, and raw desire. One may be tempted to think, it’s a cliched biography of a prostitute… but is it? Beyond the goals and basic desires, the main characters in this story implore deeper meanings to true desire beyond love, sex, and superficial intimacy.

I loved this detailed book review of Eleven Minutes by Aishwarya Shenolikar who was equally touched by this story, especially Maria’s diary.

3. The Pilgrimage

We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.

the Pilgrimage book cover

If you like to observe and dissect the philosophical side of life, you must read The Pilgrimage. The protagonist of the novel (or is it Paulo Coelho himself) is on a truthful journey to the “Road to Santiago” to discover the mental and spiritual aspects of human existence. 

Every next chapter opens up new mysteries and illusions. The contradiction between the good and evil in the novel represents the ups and downs in a man’s life. If you ever feel insecure, incomplete, and lost, the book is for you because so does the protagonist when the novel begins.

If i missed something, Read Matthew Sean’s detailed review. You will love how he sums up The Pilgrimage.

4. Veronika Decides To Die

The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.

Veronica Decides to Die Book Cover

Based on Paulo’s experience of mental asylums, the novel seems to question what’s madness and what’s normal, and rightly so!

Veronika, the protagonist of the novel, seems to have everything; youth and beauty, caring boyfriends, a decent job, and a loving family but still she tries to take her own life ‒ only to fail and face the ultimatum of death. 

Paulo, through Veronika, takes readers on a stupendous journey of existence. We celebrate the madness of life but forget to live the small moments of love, care, fear, and curiosity. 

Zee had described Veronika’s psychological transition in the book quite precisely in this book review of Veronika Decides to Die.

5. Aleph 

It takes a huge effort to free yourself from memory.

Aleph book cover

If you view life as a journey, Aleph will appeal to your sensibilities as Paulo embarks on a journey (physical and literal) through Russia to find the ‘spark’ that he seems to have lost. 

During the journey, he meets Hilal who tags along adamantly and as the journey progresses, the protagonist, a world famous writer of 59, realizes he has a deep spiritual connection with this young Russian girl. We’re talking about being soul mates for 500 years!

If you’re looking for answers to confusions in your life, this book might help you dive deep inside and find out some answers. The book addresses our emotions related to changes in life that are inevitable, love and forgiveness, and moving on.

I agree with Aleph book review by Namrita that the book may mean different things for different people and none of them may be wrong. 

6. Brida

When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.

Brida Book Cover

Everybody lives, how is your life different? Brida has many valuable insights into how to live life to its fullest. The novel is all about exploring the different aspects of life, learning from your mistakes to love and trust yourself, acquiring new things, meeting new people. In short, the novel is a modern pilgrim’s journey to self-discovery. 

It has many interesting and conflicting characters. Brida has her path set out for her to become a witch but her heart is not at ease. The novel jumps themes through magic and mysticism to soul mates and love.

I agree with Shreya Sharma’s book review of Brida that it’s a light read and an interesting way to think about body, nature, sex in a spiritual way instead of physical one. 

7. The Spy 

These seeds will always be tulips, even if at the moment you cannot tell them apart from other flowers.

the Spy book cover

The Spy revolves around the enigmatic character of Mata Hari, a daunting woman from history whose only crime was being an independent and selfless woman. History remembers her as a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was later convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I. 

But who was Mata Hari in reality? Was she a faminist, was she a free spirit, a low life, a spy? Was she the torchbearer of female freedom, the first faminist or a woman who collected the slivers of her existence and refused to show her scars to the world?

In my view, although Paulo has borrowed the facts from history, his version of Mata Hari is only a fictional regeneration. You can read my full review of The Spy here.

8. The Zahir

Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.

The Zahir Book Cover

This book has been translated into 44 languages. The most prominent themes of this novel are the obsession with love and the hollowness of the celebrity-lifestyle. The Zahir is a journey of a renowned novelist who also happens to be the narrator of the novel. One day his wife disappears without any clue.

The novel raises many questions throughout the narrative whose answers are unknown to the readers and the narrator himself. The narrator is looking for his wife but in his quest he finds the meanings of marriage, love, and trust. In the end, one realizes that the story was not as much about finding the wife but of self-discovery and the true face of relations in the narrator’s rick lifestyle.

In this book review of the Zahir, Fareda Kaca thinks that the novel urges us to become, and remember who we were meant to be, not who we settled into. 

9. Hippie

Those who wish to learn magic ought to begin by looking around them.

hippie book cover

If you want to know more about your favorite author Paulo, you should read the Hippie. It’s Paulo’s autobiographical novel written in third person and shares the theme common among most of his novels, i.e. the discovery of the inner self.

Paulo shares valuable lessons about travelling, love, life, happiness, music through the life of Hippies. Paulo and Karla the character in the novel both look for answers to their questions of life and the novel has answers for them and for us too at the end.

Ivana’s interesting book review of the Hippie reflects my viewpoint that there should have been more tales of their travels than their personal stories. 


We welcome you on a journey around the world as we explore works of 80 cherished authors around the world. We list their famous books, give you an overview, and connect you to the best book reviews by readers like you and me so that together we can learn stories from around the world.

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