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The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

In a nutshell: We too easily give up on our dreams, yet the universe is always ready to help us fulfill them.

Santiago is a shepherd. He loves his flock, though he can’t help but notice the limited nature of the sheep’s existence. Seeking only food and water, they never lift their heads to admire the green hills or the sunsets.

Santiago’s parents have continually struggled for the basics of life and have smothered their own ambitions accordingly. They live in beautiful Andalucía, which attracts tourists to its quaint villages and rolling hills, but for them it is not a place of dreams.

Santiago, on the other hand, can read and wants to travel. He goes into town one day to sell some of his flock and encounters a tramp-king and a gypsy woman. They urge him to ‘follow his omens’ and leave the world he knows. The gypsy points him toward the pyramids of Egypt, where she says he will find treasure.

Crazily, he believes her, sells his flock and sets sail. A thief in Tangier robs him of his savings. So much hard work and discipline for a little adventure! But, strangely, Santiago is not devastated, apprehending a greater feeling: the security of knowing he is on the right path. He is now living a different life, in which every day is new and satisfying.

He keeps reminding himself of what he was told in the market before he left: ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’