Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Which Book Made You?

We are all made of books, writes Jon Woolcott from Waterstones' UK head office team. Our book collection, or at least the ones we are drawn to at bookshops are a reflection of our interests at various stages of our lives. Reading is the one addiction that's healthy for our wellbeing and soul.  
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Books tell us of stories--stories which have personally moved and inspired us, sometimes in ways we couldn't have imagined. At Waterstones' head office, the staff have been mulling about this recently and so they came up with a drive to ask readers about the books that have made a difference in their lives. You are welcome to tell your story via a special microsite called thebookthatmademe. The staff will feature their favourites in their bookshops nationwide over the summer. You'll also see which books other readers and well-known authors picked. Caitlin Moran, author of How To Be A Woman, and Kate Mosse (with an 'e' and not the other one whose coherence may not even be guaranteed when sober), best known for her novel Labyrinth, have written and spoken, respectively, of the books that inspired them to write, namely Louisa May Alcott's Little Women for Ms Moran, and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights for Ms Mosse.

So which book made me? 

I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach when I was 13. It was a requirement in my highschool freshman English Lit class. I guess the nuns approved of it as it's a fable and considered a spiritual book.
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 The original paperback first published in 1970.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a seagull not content with the daily bickering of the flock for food. Passionate about flying, he pushes himself to learn everything about it. His ambition and  unwillingness to conform resulted in him being banished by the elders. While an outcast, he met other non-conforming seagulls through whom he met others who also love to perfect flying. Jonathan befriends Chiang, the wisest gull who teaches him that "To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived." Chiang also encourages him to keep working on love. And love means spreading his love for flight to other seagulls. Upon his return to earth, he finds other seagulls similarly outlawed for desiring to learn about a higher plane of existence. Fletcher Lynd Seagull, one of his very first students, eventually becomes a teacher like Jonathan, and the latter moves on to teach other flocks.
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 The 2012 paperback version.

I was 13, just moved to the city from a small town and only faintly aware that I, as with everyone else I knew, was bound by tradition, convention and expectations.

I can still recall the line I wrote for my book report which we were required to submit: "The story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull shows us how traditions inhibit us from achieving our full potential." My English Lit teacher then encircled that sentence to emphasise the impact of what my 13-year old mind has gathered from the book. Looking back, I'd say it was my first attempt to write as an adult would.

More than two decades since I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, my life experiences and belief system have expanded, and so has my interpretation of Mr Seagull's (not Seagal) flight lesson. Like him, I "...discovered the loop, the slow roll, the point roll, the inverted spin, the gull bunt, the pinwheel." I adjust my 'flight technique' depending on how gentle or fierce the wind is.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull made me understand that to fly high means to achieve a depth of purpose and character. For the much wiser and braver, the depth of character takes them to transcendence.

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 And as for love, which Chiang the Elder advised Jonathan to keep working on, it's sharing the stage with others and letting them take the credit just because they deserve it as much or sometimes even more than you do.  

Now, tell me, which book made you? 


  1. Great post.

    When I was twelve I stole a copy of The Valley of the Dolls, (yup, that one) from my grandma's bookshelf and read it in about 3 days. Boy, did that open my mind pretty rapidly, lol! I'd led an incredibly sheltered life living on a farm in the middle of Africa and I was reading about drug taking and wife swapping in the Hollywood Hills. It made me realise that the world was a LOT bigger and more complex than I'd ever dreamt of! x

    1. Thank you :)

      Wow I haven't even read The Valley of the Dolls! The plot though seems to still resonate to these days. I think it's that age when we're at the cusp of abandoning our girlish books and expanding our reading 'materials'. You reading it was perhaps similar to me watching porn for the first time! Hahaha. That moment when we realise there's more to what we comfortably (and innocently) know is precious. Got to read it.


  2. There were 3 books which "made me" back in high school days Marj. They were: 1. If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon - courage, wit, humor & fast phase flow of narration. 2. Look, Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe (I admired how he fictionalized his memoir/biography) 3. Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (my term paper for English literature) - more on full of reflections of purgatory, hell and heaven. While living in Europe now, I feel blessed to have reached those places mentioned in If Tomorrow Comes felt like a girlish dream come true for me because once I read only such places/locations in novels & I had visited Thomas Wolfe's residence (now a museum) and got an unabridged hard bound copy of O Lost (Look Homeward, Angel) & all of his books :-) And later too reaching Dante Alighieri's Casa di Dante in Florence and reading La Divina Comedia in Italian - was another fulfilling high school dream- from past 3 remarkable books that left imprint in my heart :-) In the past mama used to scold me because I lack sleep because I read 2 or 3 novels a day apart from loads of home work :-) Then my grandmother would say, "magtagaluwas ka ning harong ta kung dai baka maggurang kang daraga." (go out also of the house if not you'll be a spinster) best regards, Angelica

    1. Hi Angelica, many thanks again for dropping by here and on my fb page. As we talked about earlier, it must've been challenging to read The Divine Comedy in its original language. You did say it was more lyrical in Italian. I would love to be able a book as it was originally written. Perhaps one from Paolo Coelho or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Thank you for sharing the books that made you.

      Have a lovely weekend! xxx

  3. I love the book "Jonathan Livingston"..... I have read it more than once and every time it thrills me!
    Kisses and have a fab Weekend my beautiful friend!!!!

    1. That's great to know Paola, that we love the same book, and yes some bags and shoes :D

      Thanks for sharing and have a lovely weekend!

      MsMadge xxx

  4. I must sincerely admit, this book didn't really touch me...
    My favorite one is a book on Time management <3

    1. No worries, Ira. Every person has a book of choice. That's the main reason why Waterstones had the idea to ask readers what that book is :)

      Whether it's self-help like yours, which is about time management, or fiction like mine and the others who shared here and on my fb page, our choice of book has made a relevance in our lives.

      Have a lovely week!

  5. Very interesting post Ms Madge. I remember reading this, although some of my favourites were Emma, Little Women, and that I read during school days. But, really anything of Anais Nin or C.S. Lewis is perfect for me.

    1. Thanks for sharing your book choices Madison. Always my pleasure to have you here.
      I love Little Women too, and in fact, Jo March inspired me to become a writer. Mr Seagull taught me about life in general.
      I better check out Anais Nin as I love the sound of her background. Believe it or not, I haven't read anything by C S Lewis. As he was friends with Tolkien, I can tell of some similarities (Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings).
      Lots of books to read!

      Have a lovely week x

  6. Just catching up after my holiday. What an interesting post and thank you for reminding me about this wonderful book. I remember reading it as a student and I shall definitely have to read it again. I need to think about your question but a book which certainly made an impact on me was Le Petit Prince - and that's another one I need to take off the shelf again!

    1. Welcome back from your holidays miss b, and thank you for dropping by :)
      It's great to hear from someone who has also read the same book!
      Le Petit Prince is one little book I always re-read also. I've got a copy of it on my bedside table next to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I wish I kept the originals though.
      Thank you for sharing your choice and would love to hear how it has made you :)
      Have a lovely weekend!

      MsMadge x

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  8. When I was your age two books influenced how I look at the world - How To Kill A Mockingbird and The Little Prince. My thoughts were probably not as constructed as they are now, being young and naive but I remember how I cried at the injustice of the world and how relationships can be painful but that life with love and kindness is still wonderful.

    I was a voracious reader and books were my first tickets to the rest of the world. This made me look back with a smile Marj.


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