Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

by Richard Bach


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People who make their own rules when they know they're right...people who get a special pleasure out of doing something well (even if only for themselves)...people who know there's more to this whole living thing than meets the eye: they'll be with Jonathan Seagull all the way. Others may simply escape into a delightful adventure about freedom and flight. Either way it's an uncommon treat.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684846842
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/28/1970
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 33,104
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 10 - 17 Years

About the Author

Richard Bach, a former USAF pilot, gypsy barnstormer, and airplane mechanic, is the author of fifteen books. This, his fourth book, spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and has continued to inspire millions for decades. His website is

Read an Excerpt

It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea.

A mile from shore a fishing boat chummed the water, and the word for Breakfast Flock flashed through the air, till a crowd of a thousand seagulls came to dodge and fight for bits of food. it was another busy day beginning.

But way off alone, out by himself beyond boat and shore, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was practicing. A hundred feet in the sky he lowered his webbed feet, lifted his beak, and strained to hold a painful hard twisting curve through his wings. The curve meant that he would fly slowly, and now he slowed until the wind was a whisper in his face, until the ocean stood still beneath him. He narrowed his eyes in fierce concentration, held his breath, forced one . . . single . . . more . . . inch . . . of . . . curve. . . . Then his feathers ruffled, he stalled and fell.

Seagulls, as you know, never falter never stall. To stall in the air is for them disgrace and it is dishonor.

But Jonathan Livingston Seagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that trembling hard curve—slowing, slowing, and stalling once more—was no ordinary bird.

Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight—how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.

This kind of thinking, he found, is not the way to make one's self popular with other birds. Even his parents were dismayed as Jonathan spent whole days alone, making hundreds of low-level glides,experimenting.

He didn't know why, for instance, but when he flew at altitudes less than half his wingspan above the water, he could stay in the air longer, with less effort. His glides ended not with the usual feet-down splash into the sea, but with a long flat wake as he touched the surface with his feet tightly streamlined against his body. When he began sliding in to feet-up landings on the beach, then pacing the length of his slide in the sand, his parents were very much dismayed indeed.

"Why, Jon, why?" his mother asked. "Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can't you leave low flying to the pelicans, the albatross? Why don't you eat? Son, you're bone and feathers!"

I don't mind being bone and feathers, mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can't, that's all. I just want to know."

"See here, Jonathan," said his father, not unkindly. "Winter isn't far away. Boats will be few, and the surface fish will be swimming deep. If you must study, then study food, and how to get it. This flying business is all very well, but you can't eat a glide, you know. Don't you forget that the reason you fly is to eat."

Jonathan nodded obediently. For the next few days he tried to behave like the other gulls; he really tried, screeching and fighting with the flock around the piers and fishing boats, diving on scraps of fish and bread. But he couldn't make it work.

It's all so pointless, he thought, deliberately dropping a hard-won anchovy to a hungry old gull chasing him. I could be spending all this time learning to fly. There's so much to learn!

It wasn't long before Jonathan Gull was off by himself again, far out at sea, hungry, happy, learning.

The subject was speed, and in a week's practice he learned more about speed than the fastest gull alive.

From a thousand feet, flapping his wings as hard as he could, he pushed over into a blazing steep dive toward the waves, and learned why seagulls don't make blazing steep powerdives. In just six seconds he was moving seventy miles per hour, the speed at which one's wing goes unstable on the upstroke.

Time after time it happened. Careful as he was, working at the very peak of his ability, he lost control at high speed.

Climb to a thousand feet. Full power straight ahead first, then push over, flapping, to a vertical dive. Then, every time, his left wing stalled on an upstroke, he'd roll violently left, stall his right wing recovering, and flick like fire into a wild tumbling spin to the right.

He couldn't be careful enough on that upstroke. Ten times he tried, and all ten times, as he passed through seventy miles per hour, he burst into a churning mass of feathers, out of control, crashing down into the water.

The key, he thought at last, dripping wet, must be to hold the wings still at high speedsto flap up to fifty and then hold the wings still.

From two thousand feet he tried again, rolling into his dive, beak straight down, wings full out and stable from the moment he passed fifty miles per hour. It took tremendous strength, but it worked. in ten seconds he had blurred through ninety miles per hour. Jonathan had set a world speed record for seagulls!

But victory was short-lived. The instant he began his pullout, the instant he changed the angle of his wings, he snapped into that same terrible uncontrolled disaster, and at ninety miles per hour it hit him like dynamite. Jonathan Seagull exploded in midair and smashed down into a brick-hard sea.

When he came to, it was well after dark, and he floated in moonlight on the surface of the ocean. His wings were ragged bars of lead, but the weight of failure was even heavier on his back. He wished, feebly, that the weight could be just enough to drag him gently down to the bottom, and end it all.

As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow voice sounded within him. There's no way around it. I am a seagull. I am limited by my nature. If I were meant to learn so much about flying, I'd have charts for brains. I I were mean to fly at speed, I'd have a falcon's short wings, and live on mice instead of fish.

What People are Saying About This

Ray Bradbury

Richard Bach with this book does two things. He gives me flight. He makes me young.

From the Publisher

Ernest K. Gann This book is a new and valuable citizen in that very wondrous world ruled by St.-Exupéry's Little Prince. I suspect all of us who visit the worlds of Jonathan Seagull will never want to return.

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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Jonathan Livingston Seagull 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I was a child, young and disenchanted with the world, my father told me to read this book. Since then, I have been on an everlasting journey, discovering more everyday. Each day brings me to a new plateau of understanding. After my father died, I grieved and continue to this day. But, I remember this book, and I know that my father is simply soaring to greater heights.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book as a young girl and when my son was in 3rd grade I read it to him. He loved the book. Now he is 12 and he picked this book to buy for the Chritmas Tree gift to give to a 12 year old boy. It is a book enjoyed by all ages even adults. You don't find many books like this. Highly recommended for everyone!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an inspirational story about a seagull that has a passion to learn to fly. Jonathan never worried about what the others thought of him. He became an outcast and was banned from the flock, but he still didn¿t stop believing. He never pushed through all limits. He made the impossible possible. He was determined to reach every goal, and succeeded. Jonathan was hungry for perfection. Perfection isn¿t impossible if you put your mind to it. This simple creature became perfect. He learned to take control of his own mind instead of letting his mind control him, instead of letting the others tell him that the average speed of a seagull is whatever, he refused to believe he could be like the rest. He had to be better than the rest. He had to be the best, fastest, highest flying seagull God had ever created. There are many themes that the book has. One theme is to not let others worry about you. Another theme is if you could put your mind to it, you could achieve anything. If you don¿t stop believing, anything is possible. Don¿t be limited by anything. If there is a plateau blocking your path, push through it. If you read this book more than once, you will find a different theme each time. This book can especially inspire you if you are in sports, or if you are just trying to reach a personal goal. This book also shows the outlook on life in the 1960¿s and 1970¿s. It contains references to life, religion, and freedom. Jonathan believed every bird should be free and have a right to life and freedom. This book was great. I would recommend this book to all ages, but it could be understood easier by teenagers and young adults.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bach in this novel creates an easily indentifiable protagonist which is what makes the story the huge success that it is. The parallels between self expression and learning to fly are found throughout the piece and are what makes the book so intriguing. The religious undertones are vague enough to be interpreted in all religious sects and denominations. I would encourage any and everyone to delve into the spirits of flying and become young again with 'Johnny my homeboy'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many years ago, on the outskirts of New Delhi, in a samll village lived a little girl. The social world around her was ignorant, rigid and unkind with no room to grow. When she was six, two American Photojournalists came to her village to write a book about children. It was titled 'Bala Child of India.' In the book the heroine's little sister was too small to go with her to see the Republic Day parade where she could see the President of India, the decorated horses, the camels and the boys walking on the stilts. She was left behind crying. She loved the airplanes go by because they were her only connection to the outside world. She would look at them until they disapeared in to thin air, hoping that some day one of them will take her out of her village to a far away land. Now in her adolescent years, she was at another cross-road. Without the community's blessing she could not choose her profession, or her life mate. Just then someone had asked her to read 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull.' And fly she did one day! With the help of her parents, she gathered enough courage to fly away from the flock and seek excellence. She traveled the greatest distance -- from a tiny village in India, to New Haven, Connecticut where she was able to pursue her dreams. She had known all along that she was different from the flock... but Richard Bach gave her the wings! **I am mother of two now, and both of my kids have read, Jonathan Livingston Seagull!'
The_Beastlord_Slavedragon More than 1 year ago
This is the second book I remember from my days as an eggling. Yes Kukla it is I the Beastdragon come home to roost at the precipe of mortality. In any event, this book can be read and then re-read again with one's own children. The lesson is such that it calls for it. Like 'Old man and the Sea' Hemmingway, it is agless and can be undrestood lightly or on many levels right up to the urn and coffin. Ye shalt seek to find another fossilized molt of the Beastlord in the pages of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book. It is one of my favorites of all time. It is something you can read in an hour but can leave you thinking about it for years to come. Perfect book to bring to the beach!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bach's parable is an interesting read. It is very representative of the outer body mentality of the 1960s and 70s. I found it to be inspirational and insightful. It was a very quick read yet it was packed full of deep thoughts and questions that are relevant to all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I can say about this book is what it has done for me. I read this book when I was 11 years old (I am now 32) and it definitely changed my way of viewing the world, the afterlife, and why we are here and born to this earth. Jonathon Livingston Seagull is a philosophy, and, as simple as it is, it is very profound. To this day and as long as I live, I am still learning, I am still reading spiritual books, I can still read Jonathon and get something out of it and I still recommend it to people. That, I think says a lot for this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up Jonathan Livingston Seagull on a whim, because it had something to do with a school project and because my sister suggested it. Little did I know the powerful book I held in my hands. I read this story in only thirty minutes, but it was enough time to change my life. The amazing imagery and allegories, depicted in such simple prose, create a book of beauty and inspiration. It resounds with clear, meaningful messages, about ignorance and heaven and freedom, and no doubt any reader can find a few messages of their own. I can hardly wait to read this book again and again and again. Jonathon Livingston Seagull shall remain a part of my spirit in the many days to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My mother claims I was 6! Not sure about that, but I distinctly recall the wonderment I felt, it was the first time ever that I'd been given a view of spirituality that was different than the ingrained fable of heaven and hell that I'd taken for granted in my young life. This book inspired me to keep searching for the meanings behind the words, to look for the POINT embedded in an old lesson. I read it many times up until my teen years, when the book was lost. I've recently gotten online, and one of the first things I did was to order 5 copies, a hardcover for me, and 4 paperbacks for others, one of whom is my 11 yr-old nephew. He gave it rave reviews, his eyes were bright, he said it was 'awesome!' I asked, 'Awesome in what way?' With his usual reserve, he said, 'All ways!'
Peleiades44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is a quick read, but a sweet little story nonetheless. I've come across the ideas in this book before, so I didn't find them to be particularly earth shattering, but they are the sort of ideas that need to be said and said again: the need for self-confidence, hope, compassion, love. I think for someone who hasn't read a lot of books about spirituality or self-actualization, "JLS" would be a great primer, because the message in it is very accessible. It doesn't matter what your religion is, or if you even have one, this book speaks to its reader on a human level. It sort of feels like "The Secret" (though "JLS" was written decades earlier) -- full of a message of hope and purpose. Ultimately, on one level, this is a very simple book: a story about a seagull who struggles with self-awareness and acceptance, but on another level, this book is quite complex, containing within it a message that one could easily brood over for years, the sort of message that has the potential to totally reshape a person's life if they're open to it.
brakketh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book, enjoyed the pictures throughout and the story of striving for perfection. I read this one sitting on a 70's armchair in the sun and I would strongly recommend the experience. I think depending on the mood you are in you could find this cheesy or too happy go lucky but if you are feeling a little illuminated at the time I think this is a great one to maintain your mood.
yogipoet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loved this when i was about twelve i guess,maybe younger. may have changed my life, probably did.
justmeRosalie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I read this book, I feel like I can do anything. And the soundtrack by Neil Diamond is awesome. The movie was released by the way. I heard someone say, it was about a seagull. Too bad some people just never learn to fly.
berbels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why this book isn't considered fantasy like Watership Down is a matter of splitting hairs. Read during a person's angst period, it's about a bird who struggles to find the meaning of life.
zasmine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What all the deal is about,I don't understand...
rboyechko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this quite a while ago, when I was a teenager, and liked it quite a bit. I now read all these negative reviews about the book. I simply don't know why people are so hateful toward it. No, I don't think it's supposed to be this amazing life-changing book that will open your eyes in a way no other book can. Instead, it's an inspirational fable that is enjoyable to read and depending on where you are in your life, could definitely provide some support.
babyfacetiger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
all about following your own path;bucking the system, different is good.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Livingston is a seagull unlike the others. Not content with just following the flock in search of food for sustenance, he spends his days perfecting his flying technique and cares little about the fact that others disapprove of him. When he dies, he meets an ancient seagull 'spirit' who takes him under his wing(!) and teaches him to fly in ways Jonathan could never have imagined himself doing in his lifetime. When he is given the choice of evolving to yet another dimension of 'higher' being, Jonathan chooses to go back to his flock to teach others the lessons he has learned. This is a classic spiritual parable which reminds us that in order to reach our full potential, we have to keep striving towards our goal and we musn't be afraid to be different. An good life lesson for people of all ages and a very quick read, but the book itself would greatly benefit from a thorough redesign. With a change from the unappealing black and white photos and cheap printing to good photography and a nice layout, this story would remain just as fresh and inspiring as it was 40 years ago.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book didn't change my life. (SPOILERS?) So there's a seagull, and he likes racing. He finds ways to go as fast as possible. He dies. Or maybe not. Am I right so far?I'm not the quickest at spotting allegory, but I'm sure there's a life affirming message somewhere in this story. I just can't figure out what it is.
Terpsichoreus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a response to the flawed and disappointing underbelly of humanity, revealed for Bach in Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, the battles for Civil Rights and Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution. Unfortunately, it is not a work which embraces or explores those changes, but seeks to escape the conflicts surrounding them.Perhaps it should be unsurprising that the author would want to escape the everyday anxieties which marked the changing world. Certainly, there is a sort of optimism in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, though it is merely the sort you get when you take ancient and complex philosophy and distill it down into meaningless fluff. It is from this feel-good denial that the whole New Age movement springs, giving hope without guidance, and offering self-help for our self loathing.The surface of the pond seems calm and tamed from afar. The ripples almost insensible. It is tempting to hope that the whirling eddies of hate, the tumult of inequality, and the maelstroms of fear do not persist beneath it. We shall someday find, when we must navigate Scylla and Charybdis, whether we have melted down our statues and our cannons both to build a monument to those who will be lost.
RPerritt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was quite interesting. It would definitely fall into the category of allegory. It reminds me of The Legend of Bagger Vance. This was a book club selection and I cannot wait for this discussion.
joririchardson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I approached this book expecting to be astounded and moved by its aforementioned lyrical beauty.Perhaps my expectations had been built up too high, but I was very disappointed.The first half of this book, which was about Jonathan Seagull learning to fly, and then being banished from his flock, was very good. I loved the picture that Bach put in your mind, his descriptions, and the factual yet simplistically graceful way that he wrote.However, I was incredulous at the complete turn-around this book makes in the second half of the story.Abruptly, this book turns from poetic to sci-fi. An old seagull, who is apparently 1,000 years old, begins training Jonathan Seagull how to disappear and re-appear anywhere on earth, or even on other earths. Jonathan stands on the beach for days, trying to train his mind to be able to do it.The scene reminded me of Yoda training Luke to do magical/science fiction stuff with his mind in the swamp.And of course, eventually Jonathan (or, might I say, his Jedi mind tricks) succeed. He opens his eyes and is suddenly on another planet with three green moons!I laughed a loud here, thinking "What?!"The rest of the book tries to combine the earlier beautiful writing style with this new plot.Jonathan Seagull becomes a teacher himself, teaching other young birds that flying involves love, and a certain mindset. This part reminded me of yoga classes.I was even further amused when the author began introducing a Christian allegory into the story. Jonathan gathers followers (he is their teacher), including one in particular that is close to him (representing Peter). He goes back to his old flock to teach the birds how to fly. Some join him, but most criticize him. Rumors begin that he is the Son of the Great God. Eventually, the flock tries to kill him. Afterward, he preaches to his followers that they must go on, and continue loving the flock, even if they did just turn murderous. And he disappears - just like Jesus.I feel as if the author had three completely different book ideas here. A poetic, simplistic inspiring book about seagulls, the wind, and the ocean. A very nice idea!Or, a science fiction book?Or how about, a book about Jesus - except he is a seagull?How about all three?!As you can probably assume, I did not like this book. Even the photographs disappointed me. Many of them seemed to be the exact same as previous ones, or even the exact same as on the page before.I did not enjoy this scattered, preachy, and bizarre little book.
jmattas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It starts out very promising, with a thinking individual cast out from a narrow-minded group. The rest is too biblical for me, with its "afterlives", each one more "perfect" than the preceding one (much like the final Narnia book), the comparison of flight with "salvation", and the teachers spreading the word of "faith" among their "disciples". Perhaps it could be viewed just as belief in one self, but to me it was in-your-face religious.Didn't like it, mostly just got annoyed by it. Also, the Finnish translation had poor language.