Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Book Title: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Author: Richard Bach
Illustrated By: Russel Munson
Genre: Self-Help; Novel; Spiritual
Date Published: 1970
Number of Pages: 144
First published in 1970, Richard Bach’s landmark book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, follows the life of seagull and his attempt to learn more about life through both exploration and experimentation. Divided into four parts, the story was originally conceived by Bach as a series of short-stories that he published in Flying magazine, enjoying limited success. After compiling the stories into a multi-part book, Bach’s work skyrocketed in sales, reaching the top of the New York Times “Best Seller List” for thirty-eight straight weeks. The book is named after a Waco Aircraft Company test pilot by the name of John H. Livingston, who died of a heart attack after testing a homemade Pitts Special aircraft.
Commentators, such as Tom Butler-Bowdon, have listed the book as one of fifty “timeless spiritual classics” (Wikipedia.org). Others have emphasized its “self-help” tendencies, as well as its connections with the “positive thinking” culture of the early 1970s that was first epitomized by individuals such as Norman Vincent Peale (Wikipedia.org).
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
In “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” the reader is introduced to the idea of having “purpose” in ones’ life, and the practicality of pursuing ones’ dreams. One particular quote that seems to epitomize this concept exceptionally well can be seen with the following: “How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!” (Bach, 17).
This quote is interesting in that it is both encouraging and inspirational for Bach’s readers. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is tired of living a life of routine and nothingness that is espoused by the flock of seagulls that surround him daily. He desires to rise above this type of lifestyle with the pursuit of knowledge, and experimentation through flying.
By acting like all of the other seagulls, Jonathan was incapable of having a purpose within his life. By going against the traditional norms upheld by his flock, however, Jonathan is capable of pursuing his dream and discovers a newfound purpose in life. His constant pursuit of knowledge leads him to become a creature of “excellence and intelligence and skill” (Bach, 17). By following his dream of flying, Jonathan is able to achieve true happiness. This happiness, which is hinted at by Bach on numerous occasions, is the equivalent to being in a heavenly state. Remaining in an unfulfilling life like the rest of Jonathan’s flock, however, hinders one from ever achieving this divine state of mind and is portrayed by Bach in a negative light.
In closing, Jonathan Livingston Seagull demonstrates the importance of pursuing a meaningful life. In order to lead fulfilling lives, however, we must always go beyond what is expected of us. In a sense, Jonathan seems a lot like the modern day college student. Rather than simply accepting a high school education as a basis for the rest of their lives, college students instead pursue degrees that further their understanding of the world around them, and develop skills that will benefit them in the long term. As the story suggests, we should always establish goals for ourselves and pursue things that make us better human beings. Once an individual accomplishes a set of goals they should, in turn, set additional expectations for their future just like Jonathan, who never stopped learning to fly. By pursuing ones’ dream, you can achieve happiness and purpose within your life that would otherwise not exist.
All in all, I give Bach’s work 5/5 Stars, and highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking to find purpose or meaning in their life. This book, while short, offers a unique perspective of life that should not be ignored. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity, as you will not be disappointed with the contents of this book.
“How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”— Jonathan Livingston Seagull
About Richard Bach
Richard David Bach is an American writer who was well-known throughout the 1970s for his bestsellers, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (1977). Bach’s books are primarily fiction, but dabble with non-fiction themes that are described by many as “semi-autobiographical,” as the author uses fictionalized events to illustrate his personal philosophies as well as personal events from his daily life. Major themes in Bach’s work include philosophy, mortality, physical limits, as well as aviation (one of Bach’s personal favorites).
Bach was born in Oak Park, Illinois on 23 June 1936. He is currently eighty-two years old, and resides at home with his wife Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulous.
Before reading this review, were you familiar with the book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull?"
Bach, Richard, and Russell Munson. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. New York, NY: Scribner, 1998. Print.
Wikipedia contributors, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jonathan_Livingston_Seagull&oldid=895300069(accessed May 13, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, "Richard Bach," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Richard_Bach&oldid=893462714 (accessed May 13, 2019).
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© 2019 Larry Slawson