Jonathan Livingston Seagull

#1 Bestseller Book in 1970

The year was 1970 and across the United States book stores were busy selling a small book with a picture of a white seagull on the front jacket. For the next 38 weeks this book about a seagull named Jonathan was #1 on the New York Times bestseller’s list. Now after 35 years most senior citizen, like myself, recall with affection this seagull that loved to fly and refused to conform to the dull routine of the sea-gull clan. Jonathan would rather experiment with new and more daring flying techniques. He soon discovers that he can only be truly happy by being true to himself and his dreams, and spreading his passion to others. Amen!

The story about this free-wheeling seagull was written by Richard Bach, a former Iowa Air Guard fighter pilot. It is said that the author was inspired by a barnstorming pilot named Johnny Livingston. From 1928 to 1933 Mr. Livingston won 79 first places, 43 seconds and 15 thirds in 139 races. Many of these races were in Cleveland, Ohio.

Several commentators see the Jonathan story as part of the American positive thinking culture, epitomized by Norman Vincent Peale. This story has also been compared to the children’s tale The Little Engine That Could.

In 1973 Hollywood capitalized on the popularity of Jonathan Livingston Seagull by making a movie of the same name with music and songs by Neil Diamond. The movie was nominated for two Oscars. Composer Diamond provided the soundtrack and much of the filming of flying seagulls was made at the Monterey Peninsula Marina in California. I confess that I have not seen this movie but may look for it at the video store after watching and enjoying the recent movie The March of the Penguins.

The Alchemist

Another novel that urges it readers to follow their dreams is The Alchemist. This book was first published in Spanish in 1988 and is the most famous work of Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. In the past 17 years it has sold more than 52 million copies in 117 countries. However, it wasn’t until 1993 that the publishers first translated the story into English. Their 10th anniversary issue in English has recently regained a spot on the New York Times bestseller’s list.
This is a tale of Santiago, a young shepherd living in Andalusian (a region of Spain), who has a repeating dream that leads him to Northern Africa on a quest of discovery. This story speaks of the "Soul of the World" and that the Earth itself wants us to be happy. This story tells how each of us have a single mission or goal in life, a Personal Legend, though most of us don't realize it. But most importantly it speaks of how doing good deeds for others is eventually rewarded and though we don't know what our treasure will be, or where and how we will receive it, if we follow our heart, we will find it.
I found the book boring to read, although I must confess that I stayed with it until the very end just to see if the shepherd boy meets the Alchemist and finds his treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. If you haven’t read this book, don’t bother. I have told you all you need to know in the second paragraph above.