Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I chose to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach for the Birth Year Reading Challenge because it was listed on the top books of 1972. Unfortunately, I realized after reading it that it was actually originally written in 1970, two years before I was born. But I'm sticking with it anyway! I figure it's close enough ~ at least it was really popular the year I was born!

This is the story of a seagull named Jonathan who is born into a typical flock where every seagull follows the same rules. They stay on the beach at night, and during the day, they fly to fishing boats and other places to find food. They often fight with each other over the food. This is the life of a seagull.

But Jonathan longs for something more. He knows in his heart that he can be more than that. He loves to fly and is determined to learn all there is to know about the art of flying. He doesn't want to fly merely to get food. He wants to soar above the clouds and feel the exhilaration of flight. He wants to push himself to his limits...and beyond. This is unacceptable to the rest of the flock, so Jonathan is banished as an outcast.

His banishment turns out to be a blessing as he is now able to explore flying freely. And when Jonathan crosses over to the next life, he discovers even more about himself and his abilities to fly. He makes the decision to take this new knowledge and bring it back to the flock to help them learn as well, even though they had banished him not long ago.

This was an interesting story that only took a short time to read. It can be read as a simple story about a bird who transcends the typical life of a seagull and becomes more. Or it can be read as a philosophical or even political statement if you want to get deeper ~ and if you check out the Internet, plenty of people have gone that way. There are many themes running through this book: individuality vs. society, perseverance, practice makes perfect, the importance of learning and imparting your wisdom on others, and many more.

Despite all of that, I didn't find it an incredibly deep book. And it's certainly not a difficult read. But I enjoyed it. I think there are some interesting lessons in this story. So if you're looking for something that's somewhat meaningful, but you only have an hour to spare, check it out!

2014 NOTE: There's a new edition of this book, which includes the never-before-published Part Four and Last Words by Richard Bach. Check out Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Complete Edition!

My Rating: 3.5/5

This review was written based on a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull that I borrowed from the library. This is #7 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, #2 for the Birth Year Challenge and #5 for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.


  1. Goodness, I think every 70's housewife or working girl had a copy of this. My Mom did, it was all the rage.

    ...and I've never read it. Much like, "Who Moved My Cheese?", prolly stuff I already know.

  2. My mom had a copy of this book but then she told me not to read it because I just wouldn't get what is like to have read it at the right time. So I never picked it up! That is a great challenge though I need to go look up books of 1971

  3. I read this one and liked it, and yes it is more brief--almost like it's written for children. I'm a big fan of Bach's book One, which I thought was a bit more mature in thought process. But I like those books that make you go...hmm? Like Paulo Coehlo and Richard Bach.

  4. I read this back in the day. I totally missed at the time that it seems to be the seagull version of the classic "hero's journey story." Maybe I should give it a reread.

  5. I was suddenly reminded of this book. When I was eight and in grade three in 1983, our teacher read this to us. I had no idea what it was about and found it very boring compared to books we were reading at the time, like Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary! Now that I read the synopsis, I can see it obviously wasn't something that most children would enjoy. Our teacher was quite the hippy though, so I suppose he was really into it and wanted to share.

  6. I'm stopping in from the hop to say hi and have a look around. Have a great weekend!

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  8. This is one of my favorite book! Nice review :)


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