Paulo Coelho: Books, Quotes & Biography

Karen Savage, Summer Stewart
  • Author
    Karen Savage

    Karen has more than 15 years experience teaching middle school math. She has a bachelors in African American studies and masters in the art of education from Simmons College, as well as a masters in journalism from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

  • Instructor
    Summer Stewart

    Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Who is Paulo Coelho? Get to know more about the fascinating biography of Paulo Coelho. Acquaint oneself with Paulo Coelho's books, short stories, and quotes. Updated: 10/14/2021

Table of Contents


Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has written on spirituality, following dreams and self-actualization.

Paulo Coelho is a best-selling author and novelist.

Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian author who has written on spirituality, following one's dreams, and finding one's purpose in life. Although he dreamed of being a writer since childhood, Paulo Coelho did not begin writing until he was in his thirties. He is the author of dozens of novels and short stories. Since he began publishing in the mid-1980s, Coelho has sold more than 350 million books. His most well-known novel is The Alchemist, which was published in 1988. Although sales were initially slow, the book eventually became a New York Times bestseller. In addition, The Alchemist has been translated into at least 80 languages and has sold more than a million copies to date.

Biography of Paulo Coelho

Early Life and Career of Paulo Coelho

Born in 1947, Paulo Coelho was raised by strict Catholic parents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Coelho knew from childhood that he wanted to be a writer, but his parents wanted him to pursue a more traditional and stable career. When Coelho rebelled, his parents committed him to a mental institute three times. Coelho has said he does not blame his parents for what they did, acknowledging that they loved him and did what they thought was best for him. However, Coelho did not want to cast them in a bad light and did not speak or write directly about the experience until his mother passed and his father encouraged him to do so.

After his last release from the psychiatric hospital, Paulo Coelho enrolled in law school to appease his parents. He dropped out after only a year and lived a "hippie" lifestyle, traveling throughout North Africa, Europe, and South America.

When Paulo Coelho returned to Brazil, he worked as a lyricist and songwriter for Raul Seixas, who is often referred to as the "Father of Brazilian Rock." It was around that time that Coelho became involved in witchcraft and the occult. Coelho also worked for a short time as a journalist and was involved in political activism. He was kidnapped and tortured by a paramilitary group in Brazil in the late 1970s.

Paul Coelho moved to Europe in 1980 with Cristina Oiticica, a Brazilian artist who he met the year before and later married. Coelho's career as a novelist launched in 1987, with the publication of The Pilgrimage, an autobiographical story of his travels and self-discovery on the roughly 500-mile Road to Santiago, which leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. His next novel, The Alchemist, was published the following year.

Coelho's institutionalized experiences, his subsequent work as a journalist, political activist, and prisoner have shaped his writing, which is autobiographical and storytelling.

Paulo Coelho's Books

Books and novels by Paulo Coelho include:

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist, his second book, in only two weeks. The novel follows Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who follows a recurring dream and his flock to seek his treasure in Egypt. Along the way, Santiago is robbed, forced to work for a crystal merchant, joins a caravan crossing the Sahara Desert, falls in love, and meets an alchemist. Consistent themes in the book are following one's Personal Legend or calling, never giving up, and overcoming one's own self-doubt and fear. The main message is that when seeking treasure, it is important to re-examine what one already possesses because as self-awareness increases, one may discover they have had that treasure all along.

The Pilgrimage

In the novel that launched his career, Paulo Coelho tells the story of his travel and self-discovery while seeking his sword on the roughly 500-mile Road to Santiago. The sword is said to represent ancient wisdom. Along the journey, Petrus, his guide, teaches him self-awareness exercises to help Coelho overcome his fear, increase his patience and live in the moment. One of the novel's messages is to "fight the good fight," or overcome one's fears to attain one's purpose in life.


In Brida, Paulo Coelho follows a young Irish woman in her quest to become a master of magic and the spiritual world. The novel contains Coelho's common theme of self-discovery and delves into the search for love, past lives, and finding one's spiritual soulmate.

Veronika Decides to Die

In this novel, Coelho tells the story of a young woman in Slovenia who tries to kill herself with sleeping pills. Unsuccessful, she wakes in a mental hospital. Her psychiatrist tries a bizarre approach to cure her. He tells her the sleeping pills have damaged her heart and she will soon die. No longer worried about what others think of her and feeling that she has nothing to lose, Veronika falls in love and soon realizes that she wants to live more than anything. In the book, Coelho relies on his experiences in the mental institution to examine the meaning of madness, sanity, and whether the insane are those who refuse to follow society's rules or those who make them.

The Zahir

In The Zahir, Paulo Coelho tells the story of an author whose wife, a war correspondent, has disappeared. Unsure whether she was kidnapped or left on her own accord, the author searches for her from Paris to Kazakhstan, meeting one of his wife's friends, who insists she was not abducted. In the novel, Coelho explores what it means for two souls to truly love one another.


Paulo Coelho tells the autobiographical story of his trip through Asia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Along the way, he meets Hilal, a young violinist who Coelho believes he has loved for 500 years. Believing he betrayed her in a past life, Coelho seeks forgiveness from Hilal while at the same time maintaining his faithfulness to his current wife.

The Valkyries

In one of the only books featuring his wife, Coelho describes the couple's 40-day trip through the Mojave Desert and their quest to explore the past to make possible the future they desire. Along the way, they meet the Valkyries, a group of fierce warrior women who travel the desert by motorcycle.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main message of The Alchemist?

The main message of the Alchemist is that each individual should follow their path in order to find their "personal legend," or meaning and purpose of their own life.

Why Paulo Coelho is famous?

Paul Coelho is a Brazilian author who has written at least 17 books and dozens of short stories and blog posts. Coelho is most well-known for The Alchemist, which was published in 1988 and has been translated into more than 80 languages. The Alchemist spent more than 400 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold more than 100 million copies.

What are Paulo Coelho books about?

Paul Coelho's books focus on spiritual awakening, discovering one's purpose in life, and learning to move beyond one's fears in order to pursue that purpose.

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