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Jonathan Livingston Seagull Hardcover – September 1, 1970
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Ray Bradbury Richard Bach with this book
does two things.
He gives me Flight.
He makes me Young.
For both I am deeply grateful.
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I read Jonathan to my 13-year-old boys and they absorbed it with serious attention. "Wow, that's deep" and lots of commentary along the way let me know it is just as powerful for my generation of kids as it was for me.
Reading as an older adult brought a whole new level of appreciation for Jonathan's struggles and achievements. It also led me to purchasing more stories by Richard Bach. An author of amazing talent with his own story of flight I will never tire of reading.
Once you read this book it stays with you for as long as you are alive,
The novella tells the story of Jonathan Livingston, a young, brash seagull who constantly defies his flock's traditions in a quest to become the fastest seagull who ever lived. He is expelled from the flock for his behavior, but this doesn't break his spirits. Jonathan ascends to a higher state of being to join the few other gulls who sought speed same as he did. From here Jonathan returns to the gulls yet to achieve this state of nirvana and helps guide them on the path to self-perfection. Keep in mind that all of this happens over the course of a mere 111 pages (a good portion of which happen to be pictures).
From the moment I opened the book I was in love. As a college student I can see why Bach's novel took the world by storm when it was first published. The story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull is contagiously inspirational, easily winning me over. It is a fable for the modern era that overwhelms the senses with its high-soaring optimism and the idea that any barrier --even death-- is only one imagined by the individual on the road to self-perfection. So profound was the impact of this short little novella that when I finished the text I set it down and thought. For almost an hour I just sat on my bed and thought over the ideas I'd just been presented to; how the tale of a seagull had touched something deep within me. It was pure magic the likes of which few books have kindled within me. Reading the book once turned out not to be enough, and I found myself downloading a copy to my Kindle so that I'd have continued access to it on-the-go.
I sincerely believe everyone could learn from this modern fable. Same as with most books that can be categorized as spiritual or inspirational not everyone will likely be impacted the same way. Some may write it off as childish, but If you strive for more, and constantly wish to break your limits than the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull will no doubt touch you.
If you allow yourself to be carried away by the high-flying optimism of Jonathan Livingston Seagull you're in for a magical journey of heart and mind.
Top international reviews
This small novella of hardly a hundred pages is of four parts today. Initially, it had just three parts. The first part tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull who wants to fly high. Instead of being busy in looking for food all the time he devotes his time to fly. Somehow, seagulls are not meant to fly, they don’t have the wingspan required for excellent flight. So Jonathan Livingston tries and fails every day. Finally, his flock banishes him. Still refusing to give up he learns a few tricks of flight when suddenly two more seagulls join him and start teaching him more about the flight.
In the second part, Jonathan Livingston learns to fly and gets acquainted with a new flock of seagulls. His new teachers teach him and he proves to be a gifted learner. In the third part finally, his teacher says this was all he can learn at this level and for further, he will have to move on. Jonathan Livingston is advised to keep working on love. Slowly he understands that forgiveness is the key to next level. Finally, he sheds all enmity towards his old flock which banished him. He takes up students from amongst them and starts grooming new fliers.
The book used to end here, but in 2012 Richarch Bach faced a near death experience and he felt the need to add a fourth concluding part to the continual story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. In the year 2014 his other book Illusions II also came and this book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull found an added chapter. Even after the addition of few new pages, it’s still about a hundred pages. It's motivational and at the same time philosophical.
For someone looking for a book which can be read and then re-read, I would suggest Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It’s a must read for everyone looking for meanings in life.
It’s like: completely ignore anyone else, even if they might actually be right, and just go and do anything you feel like, no matter how dangerous to yourself or to others around you. Remember, your ego is the most important thing in the universe so get out there and show off your ability to be better at something than everyone else.
What, you’re not better at something than everyone else? Well you best get out there and practice and work hard every single day from dawn till dusk until you are better than everyone else.
And then when you’re better than everyone else go and tell them you are. Make sure all that hard work and effort isn’t wasted by not having anyone be inspired by you, you super amazing thing you, oh, just look at the size of that amazing ego shining forth from your…
Do make sure to let all the dull and boring people know how utterly amazing you are as you ignore the 30 mph speed signs and drive your amazingly fast car over 150 mph down these busy, boring, urban streets; past schools and playgrounds where the children of dull and boring parents await eagerly to be inspired by your rebellion. Ignore what anyone else has to say, even if they may actually be right and have a very good reason to say it. Don’t worry if you kill or injure anyone while doing your stupid stunts, just make sure they all get to see how amazing you are.
Ho hum, call me curmudgeon, i’m off shopping on me moped.
"..Are we seagulls looking at the end of freedom in our world?
Part Four, printed at last where it belongs, says maybe not. It was written when nobody knew the future. Now we do. ..."
I'll not launch into a literary critique of the new version except to say that for me, it brought a book about freedom , inspiration, self-discovery and growth down to the level of something approaching the disappointingly mundane. Instead if being uplifting, I found parts of the added section to be significantly downbeat. It will also add fuel to the fires of those who have always claimed that the book is pretentiousness personified. For me it was a book of a time when so much seemed possible. The fourth part clips those wings of freedom and possibility.
Also - a relatively minor but noteworthy point - the physical book is the same small size as the original but the text size is smaller.
This version adds an extra chapter, that wasn't in the original, exploring the idea that such goals can be subverted and become a sort of religion, such that they end up being almost the opposite. It's clear from skimming a few other reviews that some people don't like this, but in my view it adds significantly to the book giving it a stronger resolution but without diluting the idea.
It is in interesting read and while one can draw comparisons to fables it doesn't really read like one as you seem to be in the role of a seagull rather than a human outsider.
It is a short book and I cannot work out if that is in its favour. As it is so quick to read you may miss out on some of the thoughts that the author intends you to ponder which include personal freedom, oppression of societal norms, organised religion, etc. However, if he had padded it out by dwelling on the points longer then the story would have become tiresome. I suppose the best way to read it would be in small chunks alongside another book but I just used my full reading session on the book and finished it too quickly.
More than the 1hr limit and to the swimming baths is his favourite and constant supermarket trips and he did not like the idea of reading a book, so I just said I will be Jonathan Livingston seagull and I'm not kidding he said Noooo at first until I started reading the book in a very funny voice...
Oh my goodness everyone was soon cracking up laughing at the way he said the seagulls name my goodness its so much cute family fun I soon taught him to say it correctly and he was jumping and flying everywhere and that was our lockdown thing I'd go 4 times a day to perform the book until it was finished
There was nothing really to dislike although it did drag on a little bit about the same kind of scenario but a different time but that's the point its a journey and I think its good for kids.
Its a patient book I find and feel.
If you've been having a bit of a rough time, a crisis of confidence, or just feeling a bit low - I urge you to give this book a try. In fact even if you've clicked on this book by accident - try it!
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no great philosophical or theological work, but once you have completed it, you may well think otherwise. It is truly inspirational, uplifting, almost life affirming! It is a short story - the edition I bought was 87 pages long, about 25 are pictures of seagulls - and won't take you long to read, an hour at most. You'll find yourself smiling without constraint. Embrace it. Revel in the inexplicable joy this tale will bring. Most of all, remember - anything is possible - even if it took a seagull to show me this.
I'd heard about the Jonathan Livingston Seagull story for a long time, and there have always been people that raved about it. So, I recently decided to buy it. I read it in one evening. I'm guessing that it took a couple of hours, but I really didn't time it. I thought that it was good, and the core message is excellent. I'm not sure that it 'resonated' quite as strongly with me as it did with some other readers, but I think that it'll depend on your state of mind at the time of reading. I think that some people will find this book inspirational - especially young people. People that aspire to achieve something will directly connect with the message, while those that have perhaps lost direction will also get some benefit.
Perfect for young teenagers.
The pictures of Guls in flight capture the metaphor perfectly.