I first read this book when I was 12 years old or so. Like many of my books, I was given this one by my father–in fact, it was his own dog-eared and battered copy that I was given. Although I don’t remember the reason why I was given this book, I do have a distinct memory of taking it to my grandmother’s house and getting so enthralled with the story that I sat on the floor reading until I was done. Since that first time it has become my tradition to always read Jonathan Livingston Seagull in one frantic go, ignoring the rest of the world until I know everything turns out ok.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

This book is exactly what the cover and title imply: a story about a seagull. A feathered, flying, fish-eating bird. Yet Jonathan is one of the most lovable characters I’ve ever encountered. Instead of being content with the normal seagull life of eating, flying and living as they always have, Jonathan wants to really fly–faster, higher and with more dangerous tricks than any other seagull would even think of attempting. The descriptions of flying in this book, along with the pictures, makes me incredibly jealous of the skills birds possess. There is a reason, however, this book falls into the “metaphysical” genre; questions of life, death, and every stage between the two is explored through the eyes of a lonely little bird.

Like any outcast weird kid will tell you (yup, I was the quiet girl in the corner reading instead of playing at recess), being different sets you up for teasing and being ostracized. Poor Jonathan faced the same fate as us introverted book reading types, which is what makes him easy to relate to and so realistic as a person. And like all of us imagined (and hopefully achieved!) doing, Jonathan proves his original flock wrong.

But more than a story of one poor kid being bullied, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story about the amazing ability of the human spirit to persevere in the face of great odds. This book is a must read for…basically everyone.  I honestly believe it’s that great.