Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

What the whatting what. This is like the tiniest of tiny books — 123 very small pages, wide margins, lots of pages dedicated to pictures of seagulls, read it in an hour — and yet I still wouldn’t have finished it were it not on my TBR Challenge list. I rue the day I decided against alternates!

I knew pretty much nothing about this book going in. It ended up on my challenge list because a few years ago my sister-in-law said something was “like Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and I was like, who? And she and some random other person were like, how have you not read this book? And then they probably explained it to me, though I don’t remember, and I was like, okay, fine, I’ll read it.

And what it is, is a tiny little book about a seagull (the eponymous JLS) who really likes flying. He’s all about flying to the detriment of everything else including learning how to find food, but apparently he still eats because he continues flying through the rest of the book. He learns how to fly real fast and real fancy, but then he irks the Head Seagull or whatever and gets shunned, and then he goes off to live a life of fast- and fancy-flying solitude. Until some other birds show up and are like, let’s go to the afterlife, where you can fly totally faster! And then they’re like, but it’s not really heaven, just a further world on your way to nirvana, and also you can learn to fly through space and time without flapping your wings! And then JLS goes back to his original flock and teaches some other birds to fly real cool-like, and he gets mistaken for Jesus or something, and then he brings a bird back from the dead, maybe, and then he’s like, I’m outta here you guys can take care of yourselves. The end.

Soooooooooo yeah! Obviously there are a lot of religious themes here, with the heaven/nirvana/Jesus business, and I noticed them and I think they could have been interesting but then they just got kind of thrown off to the side? And I really can’t figure out just what I’m meant to take away from this book — is it that having a very one-track mind is awesome and somehow leads you to a Higher Power and also keeps you fed? Is it that you should completely ignore your seagull heritage so that you can fly like a falcon and encourage others to do the same? I have no idea. None.

Also, seagulls. I don’t really like them. And there were lots of pictures of them. Yay.

Have any of you guys read this? What am I missing?

Recommendation: I have no idea why anyone would read this, but if you have a reason you might as well.

Rating: 3/10
(TBR Challenge)

7 thoughts on “Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

  1. dooliterature says:

    Wow, this sounds like a, er, interesting book? I've never heard of this before, but it definitely doesn't sound like something I'll be reading anytime soon, haha.
    Not to mention, I hate birds. Ick.

  2. Steph says:

    I read this a loooong time ago… like maybe when I was 11 or 12? Because my dad gave it to me, and I know I enjoyed it at the time, perhaps because I saw myself in Jonathan… a seagull. I really don't remember, though I do know that I have that same copy on my shelves to this very day, so maybe I should re-read it and see if I can still tap into my inner gull?

  3. Keith says:

    In my teens i found this book very spiritually inspiring and I wasn't alone since the sales of it made the author a millionaire back then when it meant something (although his so-called friends gambled it all away on the stockmarket for him lol). It is about daring to do your own thing and rise above the mundane daily drudge of life. Nowadays I can see how heavily it is influenced by neo-Hindu ideaology and is based on ideas of Cartesian dualism. i still think it was a good book in its time and probably still has fans in the new age movements etc. I must admit I was a bit taken aback to se it slagged off like this and particularly because none of the writers of comments appear to have made any intelligent statements about the book, treating it all as something of a joke. Maybe I'm just getting older quicker than I thought …

  4. Alison says:

    Steph — Please report back! My inner gull is clearly on holiday.

    Keith — I'm glad the book worked for you! I don't think it's a joke; I just don't get it, and that's on me.

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