I came across The Alchemist a few months ago. Somebody gifted the book to my elder brother and I got a chance to skim through it. Once I started reading, I put down the book only after finishing it. And since then I have recommended it to many friends.
The book, written by Paulo Coelho is actually fable of one Santiago - a shepherd who has a dream as well as the courage to follow it. The story of Santiago has important lessons that might go a long way with your life. It's about taking risks, the net result of every effort, the relationship between occurrence of events and improvement in characters as well as lessons on merging with the flow of nature. Don't underestimate the story by my description, it is very captivating. Everything is metaphorical and there are no direct lessons in philosophy. Though some of you might find some marketing elements of story writing in it, it's still a good read.
If you ask me to recommend a single book written by people from our era, based on my limited knowledge of literature, I would recommend "The Alchemist." You can get the book in paperback from Liberty Books for Rs. 250/-.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."