How can the nonfiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America be related to Paulo Coelho’s worldwide best-selling allegorical fiction The Alchemist? Certainly not in book sales, and it’s not a direct relationship; it’s in what Coelho calls a “personal calling.” I don’t want to give away an important surprise for those who have not yet read The Alchemist, but it’s in how something in a shepherd boy’s quest resembles something in the history of living-pterosaur investigations since the late twentieth century (traveling back and forth, literally).
The Alchemist (a different kind of relationship between the two books)
Before Januaruy 17, 2012, the Wikipedia page on The Alchemist said, “It has sold more than 65 million copies in more than 150 countries.” On that day, Jonathan Whitcomb, a volunteer Wikipedia editor and author of the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in America, noticed that figure on book sales of The Alchemist. He had just finished reading the book, delighting in its message and delivery, but the “65 million” reminded him of two things.
The back cover of the English paperback that Whitcomb had just read referred to the number of copies sold of all the books by Paulo Coelho, not just The Alchemist. It was “more than 65 million copies in 150 countries.” It looked like too much for a coincidence . . .
Coelho’s own web page reveals that twenty-one million copies had been sold worldwide. I believe that the back cover of the paperback I had read was correct, that the “sixty-five million” was the total number of sales of all Coelho’s novels (not just this one short novel) up until that paperback printing of the English version of The Alchemist (a few years ago). . . .
On rare occasions I edit Wikipedia pages, and on January 17, 2012, I edited The Alchemist page, to correct that mistake. So why think of it? To most ordinary persons, who will never sell any millions of anything or be famous for anything, twenty-one million seems practically the same as sixty-five million. The problem lies in casual thinking: Too many of us rely on others to think for us, and we do so too often, too much, and in matters too important.
Jonathan Whitcomb is a pterosaur expert in the sense that he compiles data from eyewitness reports of apparent pterosaurs that are observed in many countries of the world.