I’ve adopted the moniker PineTreePoet because adventure and poetry bring me much joy. But before I wrote poetry, I wrote books (and I still do). Writing fantastical, adventurous novels set the stage for my poetry writing, and you could even say my first book, Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet, is a long poem.
There’s vanity in titling an article “2 Books Like the Alchemist (and why I wrote them)” because such a widely loved novel, an exploration of such profound structures of human nature, is not something easily replicated. It’s like looking for a series like Harry Potter, or a movie like Pan’s Labyrinth.
I’m not sure those exist.
And I was never totally sure books like The Alchemist existed (though I’ve certainly looked, and I’ll list a few at the bottom of this post).
But The Alchemist was one of my first favorite books (since replaced by a couple classic adventure novels), and it impacted my writing. I think it’s obvious in reading Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet and Tallulah and the Big Clock that I value coming-of-age, mystical journeys. I like adventure, wonder, and a little bit of magic in the books I read. The Alchemist gave me these, and I hope to give them to another reader.
What about The Alchemist was so meaningful to you? Do you just appreciate a good fable, one that implies some moral? Or was it the timeless adventure that captivated you? Perhaps the culture of strange lands intrigued you?
Here are 5 books like The Alchemist. I wrote the first two.
1. Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet
When I started writing Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet, I wasn’t looking to write a story about a boy who leaves home and learns something profound, but that’s what it turned into. I wrote that book without any planning or structure, I sat down each day and closed my eyes, watching the scenes play out and writing down what I saw.
But I don’t think books can be written without the deep influence of every other book, movie, and song (and every experience) the author has read, watched, and heard.
And so Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet turned into a deep, poetic exploration of something we all contend with, and I think Paulo Coelho’s book does the same (though what those things are are quite different). Both books are filled with childlike wonder and love, and both stories are propelled by humanity and natural sensation.
My book is a bit more lyrical and dreamlike, but the adventure and innocence of youth stand sturdy on the shoulders of a magical, mysterious plot.
The magical plot of The Alchemist contributed to Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet, and that book in turn blossomed the fantasy adventure that is Tallulah and the Big Clock.
2. Tallulah and the Big Clock
My second book, Tallulah and the Big Clock (tap here to read it), took a small step away from the lyrical and dreamlike, and took on the challenges of malevolence and ethics in a fictional place, through the experiences of a young girl, Tallulah.
Childlike wonder is the driver of adventure. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it showed it 9 places it hadn’t seen before. Perhaps it was The Alchemist that first taught me to stay curious, embrace wonder, and chase adventures. Tallulah certainly finds herself a grand adventure (secret maps, old books, close escapes, and a city captivated by wickedness). Without wonder & curiosity–interest in something other than herself–she’d have never taken the first step.
I think Tallulah and the Big Clock is perhaps a better story than Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet, and though they both give the reader something deep to think about (if the reader so chooses…), Tallulah’s story is grounded with clear good and evil. In Green and Purple Birds with Bright Orange Feet, the lines of good and evil are shadowy, secretive, and unknown even to me, the author.
The books are quite different, but I think they both appeal to readers looking for books like The Alchemist.
Anyone seeking stories about the subtle magic that holds the world together–told through the eyes of innocence and curiosity–will enjoy Tallulah and the Big Clock.
I think The Alchemist has made many happy readers consider their purposes in life. I hope Tallulah makes them look inward to figure out how to unwrap that purpose.
While I didn’t plan out my first two books, the quiet moments I spent imagining the characters and their worlds were inspired by every great book I’ve read, including The Alchemist.
Perhaps my next book (or series) will continue to hold dearly the principles of childlike wonder and grand adventure The Alchemist so expertly upheld, and I hope my books will sit happily and securely on any bookshelf of magical, meaningful stories.
If you do read either of my books, make sure to let me know your thoughts.
3. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Set in British-ruled India during the late 19th century, Kim follows the story of an orphan boy named Kimball O’Hara, who grows up on the streets of Lahore and becomes involved in espionage and adventure.
Kim is a coming-of-age story–like The Alchemist. The boy is half-Indian, half-British, and struggles to reconcile these two parts of himself as he navigates different social and cultural identities. He is also a street-wise urchin, but he is taken under the wing of a Buddhist monk and learns the ways of the lama’s religion. This piece of the story reminded of Santiago falling under multiple mentorships during his adventure in The Alchemist.
As the story progresses, Kim becomes involved with British intelligence, carrying out secret missions in the Great Game, a political conflict between the British and Russian empires in Central Asia. He travels across India and meets a variety of colorful characters along the way: other spies, soldiers, and merchants.
Kipling’s novel explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the clash of cultures. It also provides a glimpse into the complexities of British colonialism in India. Through Kim’s adventures and interactions with different characters, the novel offers a nuanced portrayal of life in India during this time in history.
Tap here to check out Kim at Barnes and Noble (and check out their beautiful ‘classics edition’ cover).
A story that will intrigue and inspire you–and make you laugh and cringe–Kim is an excellent book for anyone who enjoyed The Alchemist.
4. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha is set in ancient India and tells the story of a young man named Siddhartha who embarks on a spiritual journey in search of enlightenment & meaning in his life.
He leaves behind his privileged life to explore different paths toward enlightenment, including Hinduism and Buddhism. He meets various teachers and struggles to reconcile his worldly desires with his quest for inner peace.
Siddhartha explores themes like self-discovery, existence, and the search for meaning & purpose in one’s life. It’s a timeless and universal story–like The Alchemist–that resonates with me today, just as I’m sure it resonated with readers when it was published in 1922. Commentary on inner transformation and personal growth make this novel a cornerstone of spiritual fiction.
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, is a book that many of us read in high school. If you haven’t read it, you should. The story is all about loyalty, betrayal, redemption, and the human cost of war. Set in Afghanistan, the story follows the life of a boy named Amir, who experiences a tumultuous journey towards self-discovery. Notice a theme? Most of these books–like The Alchemist–are about journeys toward some genre of enlightenment.
The novel is a vivid depiction of Afghan culture. Through Amir’s experiences we see the complexities of human relationships, the power dynamics of class and ethnicity, and the emotional toll of guilt and regret. And it all takes place in a land quite unfamiliar to most of us.
Just like The Alchemist, The Kite Runner is a timeless story that challenges us make choices that align with our values and principles.
What genre of books is The Alchemist?
The Alchemist is a philosophical fiction novel that blends elements of adventure and magical realism. My favorite kind of story!
What age group is The Alchemist book?
The Alchemist deals with complex themes that may resonate more deeply with older readers. Therefore, it is often recommended for readers 16 and up. Younger readers, however, who are interested in philosophical and spiritual themes will appreciate the book.
What religion is The Alchemist based on?
The Alchemist explores spiritual themes, but it doesn’t adhere to any specific religion. Rather, the adventure draws on various philosophical and spiritual values to deliver a universal message about the human experience. It’s a book for readers from different backgrounds and belief systems!
What is The Alchemist message?
The Alchemist is all about the pursuit of one’s dreams, or what the author refers to as a Personal Legend. The book’s central message is that everyone has a unique destiny, and that it is up to each individual to pursue and fulfill it. Reminds me a bit of my own novel, Tallulah and the Big Clock.
What is the most important quote in The Alchemist?
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”