The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsPaulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

Feelings: I read this book for the first time during my sophomore year of high school. It was one of our assigned readings in my English II class and I remember really loving it. I couldn’t remember WHY I loved it, though, so I decided to give it a second read.

It’s a good book. It’s definitely a more philosophical story, rather than a traditional structured plot. Santiago speaks to the wind, to his heart, and to the desert, digging deep into metaphors and symbolism. It’s not exactly an easy read until the end. As everything gets more interesting and the plot picks up, I felt the need to continue reading. Before then, though, I was easily able to put it down and not return to it for a while.

Issues: The book is certainly slow at times and a bit repetitive. Santiago comes back to various quotes that the old king said to him, but he says them word for word over and over again. At some points, it makes you want to say, “Yes, yes, we know.” They’re insightful thoughts that are repeated, but they just get a little old.

By the end, it still doesn’t necessarily feel like anything happened. Sure, he travels a far distance, meeting interesting people along the way and getting himself into tricky situations, but it still feels stagnant.

Characters: Santiago is an innocent boy and it is a sweet journey that we take with him. He just wants to find purpose and love as he travels for his Personal Legend. He makes simple decisions and thinks things through. He’s a very easy character to follow. I enjoyed seeing him discover ancient truths and get more in touch with himself.

Final thoughts: This book has a good audiobook version, as well, narrated by Jeremy Irons. His voice adds a lot of depth to the words and helps ground the storyline. Overall, I like this book. It’s one that I’ll probably come back to a few times over the course of my life.

Goodreads rating: 3.81/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs

“The road to courage is lit by God’s wisdom…His word is a lamp for your feet (Psalm 119:105). Your feet. Right under you. Look down. Take that step. It’s right in front of you. And when it comes to holding on or letting go, I think you look down and see where the light leads you.”

let's be brave

Synopsis from Goodreads: As a single young woman, writer, speaker, and blogger, Annie Downs shares her journey toward bravery with honesty and humor. Using wonderful stories from her own life, contemporary real-life examples, and fascinating historical and biblical references, Annie encourages readers to grab hold of the brave life that they desperately desire. The call to be brave isn’t just for one person—it’s for everyone. Let’s All Be Brave is more than a book, it’s a battle cry. Annie challenges us to live boldly, she calls us to step into those places that require courage, and she gives us the help to take the next step forward—even when it’s scary.

Feelings: This is the second of Annie’s books that I’ve read and just like Looking for Lovely, I really enjoyed it. I find myself working backwards in her books, starting with her most recently release and moving towards her first. Like Lovely, this book was full of Annie’s hilarious life commentary and stories, her wit and wisdom filling every page, and her comforting tone that made me smile. Once again, I felt like I was having a long conversation with a dear friend and that’s what I need to keep with a non-fiction book!

One thing I particularly enjoyed in this book was the use of scripture and storytelling. Sometimes in Christian non-fiction, I feel like it’s just a list of scriptures that should guide me through every hardship and season of life, but the commentary is what is missing. I need commentary to make connections and to understand the context, both of which Annie does really well. She pulls in passages and stories that I’ve heard my whole life and somehow manages to teach them to me in a different way, under a different light.

This book, even more than Looking for Lovely, made me laugh out loud. Y’all, when she started talking about “running” a 5K, I couldn’t stop giggling. Also, I think I need to move to Scotland. That’s an expensive takeaway from a book…

Issues: This book is written like a series of essays, but sometimes the way the short passages flowed together felt disjointed and it took me a minute to adjust. That’s a small-ish issue I had.

Also, I was the tiniest bit disappointed with her chapter on singleness. She spent the bulk of that chapter building up to some insightful moment that fell flat. I’m not saying that a discussion on God’s love being enough is falling flat…I just expected a longer and more punchy call to find the enjoyment in that stage of life and how to use it for His glory. She had just started really speaking to me on the subject when suddenly the chapter was over. I wanted more!

Final thoughts: This is the kind of wisdom that we can all benefit from. You don’t have to be like me or Annie to find something to cling to in these pages. I have so many things in common with Annie that make her words more powerful and meaningful to me, particularly, but I really believe anyone could enjoy and learn from this book.

Pick this up if you liked:

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs

Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me by Alexandra Kuykendall

Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength by Christa Black Gifford

Goodreads rating: 4.08/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter by Annie F. Downs

“When you find Jesus, you have found lovely. He is everything we need.”

lovely

Synopsis from Goodreads In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror. Intensely personal, yet incredibly powerful, Looking for Lovely will spark transformative conversations and life changing patterns. No matter who we are and what path God has us on, we all need to look for lovely, fight to finish, and find beautiful in our every day!

Feelings: I really struggle with non-fiction as a whole. I love a good storyline, so non-fiction is never my “go to” genre. I feel like I’m reading essays and I get enough of that in my day job, so I don’t want it in my fun-time reading. This book wasn’t like that. After the first chapter, I really felt like Annie was my friend. She writes with so much personality and authenticity that I never got bored. I couldn’t wait to pick the book back up and see what else my friend had to say.

This book was exactly what I needed. In fact, Annie and I may be the same person. She taught for 5 years, she can’t have dairy and chooses not to eat gluten, she loves musical theatre and watching TV (including Hallmark), she types really important things in ALL CAPS, and finds that it’s not a workout if there isn’t dancing involved. You guys…SHE IS ME.

Beyond feeling like I was reading my own work, Annie really tackles some serious issues that I think a lot of us are facing. She writes about pain and suffering, seeing ourselves as ugly and worthless, and being a quitter. She strips these issues down to their weakest and then shovels in the joy of Christ all over it. She reminds us that “Darkness makes us appreciate the beauty of the light”, that God made us on purpose, and that He made us to be brave.

Issues: I had none. Honestly, I really loved this book. I marked it up and after I finished it, I ordered her book Let’s All Be Brave so that I could read some more of Annie’s heart.

Final thoughts: Friend, if you feel like you need a book that really speaks to God’s heart, whether you know God personally or not, then you need this book. If you just want a book that makes you laugh and tells you the names of some places you should visit in and around Nashville, then you need this book. If you’re just feeling lonely and you want to be with a friend, then you need this book. Or maybe you just need to be reminded of all the good there is to see, then you need this book.

Pick this up if you liked:

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moments Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs

Goodreads rating: 4.3/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn