16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

In Reading Lists by Lanie Pemberton

16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

Calling The Alchemist a classic is an understatement. Today, after over 35 years in print (and after winning a Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author), the story of Santiago’s mystical quest continues to enlighten and inspire us. It’s no wonder that studios have been trying to get a film adaptation off the ground for years.

It’s true: Paulo Coelho’s novel is one of a kind. Still, if you’re wondering what to read after The Alchemist — far-flung journeys (literal and metaphorical), stories of spiritual and personal enlightenment, incredible realizations about finding one’s purpose — I’ve got the list for you.

These titles include fiction like Siddhartha (arguably the top choice among novels like The Alchemist) along with nonfiction memoirs like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (don’t let the title trip you up). As for me, my favorite is Life of Pi — it’s accessible yet still powerful.

16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Sources around the web agree: Siddhartha is the top contender for books to read if you like The Alchemist. 

Set in ancient India, Hesse’s story follows Siddhartha who, after feeling dissatisfied with the spiritual teachings of his youth, sets out on a journey to understand the nature of existence — and his own purpose.

Like Coelho’s novel, this fable packs much meaning into few words.

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2. The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

If you enjoy one of Coelho’s books, you’ll likely love them all, from The Pilgrimage to The Fifth Mountain to this tale of a woman’s search for a true sense of self — a desire most of us can connect with. 

The Witch of Portobello is spiritual, wise, and introspective. Though it’s told from multiple perspectives after the heroine's death, I found Coelho’s choice to center the story around a woman’s personal journey to be especially impactful, given that women are often heavily burdened by societal expectations. 

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16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Martel’s international blockbuster tells the story of Piscine (Pi) Patel, who’s set adrift with a tiger after the ship carrying his family’s zoo from India to Canada sinks. When Pi washes up in Mexico weeks later and gives his fantastical account, the reader must decide what’s true and what’s allegory.

Heavy use of symbolism and ruminations on life make this story a great readalike to The Alchemist.

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4. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

After over a decade in exile, Almustafa prepares to board a ship that will finally take him home. Before he goes, Almustafa imparts his wisdom on everything from marriage and family to religion, truth, and freedom. 

Gibran’s book plays out in 26 works of prose poetry rich in philosophy and insight. Like The Alchemist, it’s one of the most translated books of all time. 

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5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Saint-Exupéry gives us insight into the human condition through the innocent perspective of a child. 

After a pilot crash-lands in the Sahara, he encounters a young prince and learns of the mysterious boy’s adventures across the galaxy (and the powerful lessons learned along the way).

Everyone — and we mean quite literally every single human on Earth, and almost certainly all people from other planets, too — loves The Little Prince. It’s quirky and funny, relatable and imaginative, and all-around endearing in its depiction of youthful curiosity and creativity.

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6. Two Sherpas by Sebastián Martínez Daniell

While The Alchemist and many other titles on this list track a physical journey, the wandering in Daniell’s Two Sherpas is all internal — but no less expansive.

This pensive novel begins with a fallen climber and the abrupt end to a Mount Everest excursion. From there, the climber’s local guides, known only as Young Sherpa and Older Sherpa, reflect on their pasts and futures along with bigger themes affecting humankind, particularly colonialism and imperialism. 

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7. Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Dan, a college athlete, has everything going for him, yet he can’t escape the feeling that something is missing. One night, Dan meets an old man he first encountered in a dream — a man named Socrates who slowly teaches Dan how to live fully in the here and now.

A fantastical take on Millman’s real-life experiences, Way of the Peaceful Warrior (and its 2006 film adaptation, Peaceful Warrior) explores mindfulness and gratitude through Socrates’ philosophies and guidance.

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This postmodern classic contextualizes love, desire, and infidelity through Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return (or recurring existence). It follows four characters and their intertwining lives in 20th-century Prague.

Kundera, who we lost in 2023, simultaneously delivers an achingly beautiful portrait of relationships and an existential exploration. 

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9. A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

After self-aware robots separated from humankind centuries ago, a tea monk finds themself struggling with feelings of dissatisfaction and restlessness. They connect with a friendly robot and embark on a journey together, seeking to make sense of one another’s existence and pondering their purpose in life.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, the first in Chambers’ Monk & Robot series, won the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novella. 

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10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and transforms them into a magnificent modern classic. 

This novella was Hemingway’s first and only win of the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

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11. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Allende (The House of the Spirits), one of the most prominent and renowned women authors of Latin American descent, offers a novel about growth, longing, and immense discovery.

The story follows Eliza Sommers, an orphan raised in Chile, as she journeys north to Gold Rush-era California in search of her former lover. Like Santiago in The Alchemist, what she ultimately finds is far more significant than her original goal. 

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16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

12. The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

Caught up in the violent clash of cultures during the Spanish Inquisition, a concubine and a mapmaker accused of sorcery escape from a royal palace. Desperately fleeing for their lives, the pair encounter a kaleidoscope of fantastical creatures on their dangerous path to freedom.

Wilson (Alif the Unseen) delivers a gripping fantasy adventure that, like The Alchemist, follows a journey of self-discovery as the protagonist duo learns to reframe their identities through the lens of personal autonomy. 

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16 books like ‘The Alchemist’ to stir your soul

13. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Lyrical and allegorical, Bach’s novella unfolds from the perspective of a seagull (yes, really) who grows tired of his futile existence and yearns for a greater purpose. As he follows his passion for flight, Jonathan becomes an outcast among the flock.

This timeless tale encourages us to embrace individuality and pursue our dreams. If a seagull can do it, so can we. 

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Take a meandering cross-country ride across America — and through many philosophical topics. This story has been changing people’s lives for decades. 

In the spiritual journey that is this memoir, the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an absurdly beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism.

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15. The Camino by Shirley Maclaine

Actress Maclaine (Steel Magnolias) recounts her transformative pilgrimage along the ancient Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.

While some of The Camino touches on the physical trek, the heart of the story is Maclaine’s spiritual transformation. Filled with metaphysical reflections and insights into the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit, this memoir is a first-hand account of one woman’s search for enlightenment. 

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After spending much of her life as an Evangelical, Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) slowly began to recognize the toxic patriarchal systems interwoven through the church’s teachings. Dance of the Dissident Daughter chronicles her realizations and the ensuing journey to find a new type of spirituality — the divine feminine.

The result is a deeply personal reckoning with what it means to be a woman — and to be fully yourself. 

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About the Author: Lanie Pemberton

Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer who loves reading crime thrillers and nonfiction about animals and the natural world. When not writing and reading (or writing about what to read), Lanie spends as much time as possible at the beach with her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.