Are you looking for a list of the best Paulo Coelho books to add to your reading list? In this post, we’ve collated 12 of his best books and summarized them.
Paulo Coelho is widely regarded as one of the best Brazilian writers. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, and his books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. The Brazilian author has been an inspirational figure to aspiring writers in Brazil and all over the globe.
His stories drag the reader into the depths of spiritual experiences by following narrators on journeys that bring about a profound change in the character and the reader’s perception of the world. The mysterious characters in almost every book Paulo always push readers to discover something new about themselves.
If you are in the mood to read some brilliant prose while reflecting on your own feelings and thoughts about yourself and the world, we’ve ranked Paulo Coelho’s best books below.
- Paulo Coelho Books Ranked
- 1. The Alchemist
- 2. The Devil and Miss Prym
- 3. Manuscript Found in Accra
- 4. The Witch of Portobello
- 5. The Pilgrimage
- 6. Veronika Decides to Die
- 7. Like the Flowing River
- 8. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
- 9. Brida
- 10. The Fifth Mountain
- 11. The Spy: A Novel of Mata Hari
- 12. Eleven Minutes
- The Final Word On The Best Paulo Coelho Books
Paulo Coelho Books Ranked
1. The Alchemist
Published in 1988, The Alchemist is regarded as Coelho’s best book, and it’s the title that elevated him to stardom in the literary world. The story follows a young shepherd from Spain named Santiago, who travels through the arid Andalusian region. Along the journey, Santiago is forced to take refuge with his herd in an abandoned old church, and one of his dreams tells the young boy that he is destined to discover the pyramids of Egypt and all the treasures they hide.
The dream haunts Santiago, and after meeting a wise alchemist, he finally accepts his fate and leaves behind the Andalusian farmland to fulfill his destiny in Africa. Santiago and the alchemist meet several bizarre characters along the way, and in the process, the young shepherd uncovers a deeper understanding of himself.
The book was a huge success and catapulted Paulo onto the global literature stage as it was translated into 35 languages and sold millions of copies. The Alchemist is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand Paulo’s work.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it searches for its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
2. The Devil and Miss Prym
Published in 2000, The Devil and Miss Prym is a story that encourages the reader to explore concepts of greed, cowardice, and fear. The story unravels around in the remote French village of Viscos, where a strange traveler arrives with a bag stuffed with 11 gold bars, and one fundamental question ‘Are humans good or evil?’.
A local bartender, Chantal Prym, becomes central to the story when she seduces the stranger hoping he will be able to give her a more exciting life than the mundane one she had grown so tired of in the village.
The stranger offers Chantal and the villagers a choice; they can share his riches only if they agree to kill someone. Through the prism of this sinister offer, Coelho explored the fundamental nature of humanity and our willingness to commit terrible acts in the name of greed.
“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate, and make sure you know exactly what you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”Paulo Coelho, The Devil, and Miss Prym
3. Manuscript Found in Accra
Published in 2013, Manuscript Found in Accra is set in 11th-century Jerusalem. It tells the story of the people living behind the ancient city’s walls as the crusaders draw increasingly close to entering, bringing with them the local population’s inevitable death.
Just like with the previous two Paulo Coelho stories, he draws directly on the fears and concerns felt by the people of the city, and in the process, the reader can reflect on their own emotions. A mysterious character known as ‘Copt’ plays a central role in the story, addressing the terrified locals with speeches that force them to explore their emotions.
Even though the crusader army is almost in earshot, Copt directs the terrified masses to consider all aspects of their lives instead of letting fear drown out everything else that is important.
“And if I’m alone in bed, I will go to the window, look up at the sky, and feel certain that loneliness is a lie because the Universe is there to keep me company.”Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra
4. The Witch of Portobello
Published in 2006, The Witch of Portobello once again tells the story of a mysterious character, this time in the form of a young Transylvanian woman named Athena. Many other characters, some who barely knew Athena, tell the young woman’s story and, in the process, encourage the reader to reflect on fundamental values such as love, passion, and sacrifice.
The book actually starts with Athena’s death and then works backward toward her birth. Told from various perspectives, it becomes clear that Athena’s life story is one of turbulence and tragedy.
Her mother abandoned her at a young age as her father was a foreigner. A rich Lebanese couple later adopt the orphaned girl, and she ends up studying in London, where she tries to make up for the shortfalls of her childhood, only for it all to end in tragedy.
“The day is made up of 24 hours and an infinite number of moments. We need to be aware of those moments and make the most of them regardless of whether we’re busy doing something or contemplating life.”Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello
5. The Pilgrimage
Published in 1987, The Pilgrimage is one of the first books Coelho wrote. The story is based on Paulo’s own experience of walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain during the hippie phase of his life. The pilgrimage took Paulo all the way across Spain, ending in the northern city of Santiago de Compostela.
The story is one of self-discovery. Like many people who set out on a massive walk with nothing more than a map and a rucksack, Paulo spent a lot of time reflecting on himself and the world as he trekked alone and interacted with other pilgrims from all walks of life.
As ever, the book includes a mysterious character. This time, a man called Petrus pushes Paulo to think for himself and question societal norms that so often drive people away from pursuing what they truly want in life.
If you’re looking for personal growth inspiration, this is one of the top book recommendations from Paulo’s extensive library.
“When you are moving toward an objective,” said Petrus, “it is very important to pay attention to the road. The road teaches us the best way to get there, and the road enriches us as we walk its length.”Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage
6. Veronika Decides to Die
Published in 1998, Veronika Decides to Die is one of Paulo Coelho’s darkest stories. Veronika, a 24-year-old from Ljubljana, Slovenia, appears to live the perfect life, but in a dark twist, she decided to take her own life by swallowing a bunch of sleeping pills.
As the young woman is dying, she begins to pen a letter to her parents only to be distracted by a discarded magazine with the title ‘Where is Slovenia?’. Veronika tosses the tragic note she’d scribbled to her parents and instead writes to the press, explaining she wanted to die because no one even knew where Slovenia was.
The attempt to take her own life fails. Veronika wakes up in a hospital only to be told that the permanent damage done by the pills will result in her imminent death. Veronika is sent to a psychiatric clinic where she waits for her pre-scripted death.
With death just around the corner, Coelho uses Veronika’s character to explore how we often take the world for granted and struggle to live with the impact of our own choices.
“You are someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness. God chose you to be different. Why are you disappointing God with this kind of attitude?”Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die
7. Like the Flowing River
Published in 2006, Like the Flowing River is a little different from the mysterious narrator-led stories we’ve seen so far. The book contains a collection of short stories, notes, poems, and anecdotes. Looking for more fiction novels to read? Check out our round-up of the best John Updike books!
The collection touches on profound questions such as: what does death mean? What are the origins of life? Why are we here?
Like with many of Pauolo’s books, he isn’t going to give you easy answers to profound questions. Instead, he gives you a nudge in the right direction to get you thinking about them.
“It is part of the human nature always to judge others very severely and, when the wind turns against us, always to find an excuse for our misdeeds, or to blame someone else for our mistakes.”Paulo Coelho, Like the Flowing River
8. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
Published in 2021, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept tells the story of an adolescent love that is rekindled 11 years after the childhood sweetheart went their separate ways. Set in the French Pyrenees, Pilar, and her childhood-turned-handsome spiritual leader open themselves up to a whole host of buried feelings that they thought were lost to history.
The newly re-ignited love between the pair sees them explore painful realities from the past and again draws the reader towards questioning their past relationships and their perception of what love means.
“If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, I need to live it in the best way possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now? Then I will either wait for him or forget him.”Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
Published in 1990, Brida is a fantasy novel with a magical realism twist that follows a young Irish woman who dabbles in magic and sorcery. The Irish woman’s fantasy world touches on many themes, such as religion and love taking the reader on a surreal journey of self-discovery.
Paulo told the New York Times, “In Brida, my third novel, which I wrote just after The Alchemist, I tell the story of a young woman who dives into sorcery and her experiences with different magical traditions. I explore many themes that are dear to me, such as the Great Mother, pagan religions, and the perceptions of love.”
When Paulo says Brida explores the idea of the ‘Great Mother, ’ he is referring to our natural environment and the impact that industrial society has had on the health of our planet. If you’re looking to reflect on global topics such as religion and climate change, this is one of the best books by Paulo. You might be interested in exploring fantasy books, such as best authors like Sarah J Mass.
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. It would help if you had sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are God’s tools to show us how.”Paulo Coelho, Brida
10. The Fifth Mountain
Published in 1996, The Fifth Mountain is set during the ninth century B.C. in the middle east and follows the story of the prophet Elijah from the Hebrew Bible. The young prophet’s world is constantly in upheaval, and his challenges often propel him to question his religion.
He is forced to flee Israel and eventually finds himself in Zarephath. Throughout the story, Elijah’s willingness to blindly follow God’s orders is eroded, and he starts to take destiny into his own hands.
The prophet’s growing tendency to question the word of God explores the concepts of free will, determinism, and the fundamental building blocks of religious scripture. Similarly to Brida, The Fifth Mountain is an excellent read for anyone looking to explore philosophy and religion through the prism of a classic character-driven Paulo story.
“Everything that could have happened but did not is carried away with the wind and leaves no trace.”Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain
11. The Spy: A Novel of Mata Hari
Published in 2016, The Spy: A Novel of Mata Hari is based on real-life events that took place in Paris in 1917. The story follows Mata Hari, a poor immigrant who arrives in Paris with nothing to her name, only to become one of the city’s most well-known women within a couple of months.
It turns out that Mata Hari is far more than just a poor immigrant looking for a better life in Paris. She’s a highly talented dancer who is eventually convicted of being a spy and executed.
Mata Hari successfully manipulates her way to the highest echelons of Parisian society, often bending the rules to get her way and embarrassing some of the most respected men in the city. The story is told based on her final letter, where she explained to the world who she was and how she managed to infiltrate the most elite circles in the French capital.
This is a great read for anyone looking to learn about the story of a highly-intelligent woman who was not prepared to accept her place in a society that was often fundamentally sexist.
“I am a woman who was born at the wrong time and nothing can be dont to fix this.”Paulo Coelho, The Spy: A Novel of Mata Hari
12. Eleven Minutes
Published in 2003, Eleven Minutes follows the heartbreaking story of Maria, a Brazilian woman who decides to seek a better life in Switzerland. The young woman lurches from disaster to disaster as her new life in Switzerland becomes increasingly complicated.
After quitting her job, she becomes desperate for money and sleeps with an Arab man in exchange for 1,000 Swiss Francs. She quickly becomes the most popular prostitute in Geneva and later meets Ralf, a Swiss painter, at which point everything changes as she falls deeply in love.
Through Maria and her complex relationship with Ralf, Paulo explores the complex world of love and sexuality.
“Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say “yes” to life?”Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes
The Final Word On The Best Paulo Coelho Books
Paulo Coelho is a unique writer. He possesses a brilliant ability to explore more profound questions about religion, love, and philosophy through the prism of complex characters.
The Alchemist is a globally respected book that anyone looking to immerse themselves in Paulo’s world should read. If you’re someone that likes to participate as an active thinker when reading as opposed to just following a story, then books like Veronika Decides to Die, Brida and The Devil, and Miss Prym deserve a spot on your reading list.
Join over 15,000 writers today
Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.