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Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness

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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,689 ratings  ·  293 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Three months after George Saunders gave a graduation address at Syracuse University, a transcript of that speech was posted on the website of The New York Times, where its simple, uplifting message struck a deep chord. Within days, it had been shared more than one million times. Why? Because Saunders’s words tap into a desire in all of us to lead k
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Hardcover, 64 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Random House (first published January 1st 2014)
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Community Reviews

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Jason
"As you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE."

This was the perfect book to read on January 1st.

This commencement speech by George Saunders is about the importance of being kind, which is something I am aware of, I know other people do it, but it's not something I exercise often in my life. Yes, I am kind to my loved ones and my dear friends, and I am polite and courteous to people I encounter, but I don't feel like I am kind. Instea
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Cathy DuPont
Stopped by the library to take something back, and always, always leave with something. For shame. If I read one book a day, I have enough books to read for a year but here I am taking books home to read.

Anyway, this is a feel good book and in movie form, "Pay it Forward."

Recently I read something about Saunders giving this address on kindness to a graduating college class. I did not go looking for the book but when I read the cover and back, I knew it was that book.

Thanks to my mother, I'm a
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Tara
Glad I got out of the library. It's a pretty little book, but $14? I think of all the wonderful literature out there one can buy for the same price. Look this up on the internet and read in ten minutes. A nice sentiment to preach to graduates to be kind, but nothing remarkable in the language or insights or advice.
John
Be kind now. Repeat as required.
I just gave away the entire book ... my first act of kindness.

Sean
I bought this on a whim after I had been drinking. I had already read the speech online, which I liked, and thought that this was the extended or complete transcript, since the details online said that it was 64 pages. I didn't know that half of the pages were flip-book imagery, and most of the pages were unfilled with text. It is also a very small book, so yeah, it easily contains the whole commencement speech that you can find for free. In that sense I was disappointed, but if I had not been t ...more
Dianne
Very slender volume - I read it in 10 minutes - that packs a whole lot of punch. This is the convocation address George Saunders delivered at Syracuse University in May 2013. You can watch it on YouTube (12 minutes), but I think it is much better quietly read and pondered than said.

The central message is very simple - try to be kinder - but the sentiment is delivered so eloquently and memorably that it is something I will carry with me and mull over from time to time. An instant classic, much li
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Donna
Two words: Simple Eloquence

This was actually a graduation speech that ended up getting published.

The message here is simple -- Be Kind. It is about not only being kind, but how important it is to not miss opportunities to show kindness and it doesn't have to be a huge display. Sometimes the timing isn't always perfect to show kindness and can even be uncomfortable at times especially when going against the main stream. This was a good reminder and inspiring because through small acts, big things
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Jim
"George," his publisher asked, "We need something for the pipeline. Got anything?" Came the reply, "Well, I did a little convocation speech that has been getting attention online, what about that?" "Hmmmm, I bet we could produce it cheaply and sell it for fourteen dollars, and your name alone would compel people to buy it. At least the libraries." And so, there you are. . . a new book. Does it really contribute anything groundbreaking, uniquely delivered, worthy of the expenditure? No. But it is ...more
Megan Treseder
Short but very, very sweet. When we're 80 and looking back at our life, we probably won't regret being kind to anyone. In fact, we'll regret not being kind enough. Excellent words to live by. My new motto is "Try to be kinder."

Favorite quotation: "That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul, if you will - is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret, luminous place. Believe that it exists, come to know
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Jenny
I could have looked this speech up easily on the internet, but I waited for it. I knew it would be great. I heard it was great. I purposely waited with anticipation for the official book publication.
I'm happy to say there was no disapointment here.
In the same vein as David Foster Walace's "This is Water" George Saunders asks us to consider kindness. The illustrations of light bursting, and expanding as if in a heavenly constellation, add warmth and imagination to the idea that kindness grows in
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Allie
This is a lovely little book that I read on the bus to work. It reminds me (for obvious reasons) of Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art, and I think I prefer reading commencement addresses instead of watching/listening to them. The book features some really lovely illustrations by Chelsea Cardinal, a graphic designer and art director at GQ, that grow through the book as the speech progresses. While this isn't anything mind-blowing or ground-breaking, it is a poignant reminder of the importance of kindne ...more
Judith
It's not really a book, rather it's a commencement address, and therefore would be considered an essay, but it was put into book form and I don't have a problem with that. It was on my book list to read and I happened into an Urban Outfitters store one day, spotted the book, and read the whole thing while I was standing there.
It was very moving and funny so I enjoyed it. And I do believe the world could use more kindness. For me personally though the message didn't feel applicable. Of all the th
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Cheryl
George Saunders is a bestselling author of several collections of short stories. He has also been the recipient of other very prestigious awards and recognitions. Mr. Saunders was asked to give a convocation address at Syracuse University. His address was posted on the website of the New York Times. Within a few days, it had been shared more than one million times!

This short book contains the text of that address. In it, Mr. Saunders conveys his thoughts on what graduates should keep in mind wh
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Marion
This is not a book worth $14. It is not brilliant writing. It contains no astounding insight. But it is good, solid advice that the world desperately needs. Spoiler alert! Be kind. That's pretty much it. After the last commencement speech I heard, which was so horribly depressing that several of the graduates probably wished they could kill themselves on the spot, Saunders' message is like a breath of good, fresh, country air.

I supposed the book might make a nice little gift for a graduate in y
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Janet
A 20-minute read that reopens your eyes to something you already know deep inside: above all else, it is of the utmost importance to err on the side of kindness. A lovely gift book for a graduate or someone who needs a little encouragement.
caroline
I had no idea what this book was when I placed a hold on it. I had just read Tenth of December, Saunders' short story collection, and wanted to read more of his work. I was surprised to know that it's a very short transcript of his commencement speech he gave in 2013 at Syracuse University about being kind. It's such an obvious advice, but until you read it, you realize how we are not actively kind. It's great reminder to be conscious in being kind.

And I'll say when you need a little push, I sa
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Stella
Bloody lovely - everyone should keep a copy of this short speech (also available online) close to their chests: Be kind, life is short.
Lindsey
My friend Robyn reviewed this and said it could be read in 15 minutes (I found the full text online); I can do 15 minutes, and I'm glad I did. It is an inspirational graduation speech about kindness and compassion. It reminded me of a general conference talk. I liked this quote from it:
"Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. " I've been realizing lately that there isn't enough time to do all the good things in l
...more
Ffiamma
"avendo riscontrato che la gentilezza è variabile, possiamo ragionevolmente concludere che sia migliorabile; e cioè che esisteranno approcci e pratiche che possono effettivamente accrescere il nostro tasso ambientale di gentilezza. studiare serve. immergersi in un'opera d'arte serve. pregare serve. fare meditazione serve. avere una spiegazione franca da un caro amico. inserirsi nel solco di una tradizione spirituale, riconoscere che prima di noi ci sono state schiere di persone in gamba che si s ...more
Huntleybrinkley
Bought this for the specific purpose of reading this to my 9 year old (with some substitutions by me for some of the more esoteric vocabulary)and asked my wife to sit in. My son said it was okay but he already tried to be kind (which is pretty much true except when it comes to his parents) and would have liked more about the monkey poop part. My wife on the other hand disagrees that you get kinder as you grow older, citing most of her relatives. I told her that my point as well as Saunders' is t ...more
Eleni (OverThePlace)
I'm really glad this was my first-read for the year of 2015. I think it voiced some of my philosophy of life. You can read it on-line here:
http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/201...
Kerfe
It's time to give these commencement speech books a rest. This seems like a decent speech with a nice message and the illustrations are not bad, if repetitive. But Why? is my question.

I know, some of the YouTube videos have gone viral. So watch them and listen to them. You'll get the full (and better) effect.
Becki Barker
I don't know that you could really call this a BOOK, but it's an excellent speech about being kind and doing it now. If we wait until all our life's goals are accomplished to start being kind, then we will never get there. An excellent reminder that we should BE KIND NOW.
Stephanie
Loved the message and the delivery!
Suzanne Dix
A much needed dose of kindness in my day...
Ryan Johnson
This is short. Listed at 64 pages on Amazon. I listened to the audio in less than 30 minutes. I had no idea it was this short when I checked it out, I was simply intrigued by the content. It's a commencement address to some recent graduates and it really drives home the point about success and value of being kind. My takeaway is that life is too short to be cruel (or even less than kind), so just be kind. Really, it's that simple. It's a great speech and well worth a short investment of your tim ...more
Katrina
I'm hesitating (yet again) over the rating, since this is probably a 3.5 for me that could potentially veer closer to a 4. I'm fond of it largely because of the attractive design: I have the signed special edition for California Bookstore Day 2014, with an expanding starburst illustration threading its way through the pages and a tomato-red ribbon to mark your place. It's the perfect gift for a graduate, or someone in your life who's facing a major life change or a significant milestone. It's a ...more
Maryan
This tiny jewel of a book can be read in a line up at the grocery store - or at the top of the stairs near the stacks of the library as I did. It is a transcript of a convocation address George Saunders gave at Syracuse University. It was posted on the website of the New York Times where it has been shared over one million times. He opens with a description of himself as an old "fart" who in the tradition of these speeches, has made "a series of dreadful mistakes" and was now ready to give "hear ...more
Jeff Arena
This is the text of what must have been a lovely and successful commencement address. It is heartfelt, personal, and inspiring. As a stand-alone book, it is slight, and as a design artifact, it is entirely Hallmark (presumably the publisher's strategy, rather than a shift in the author's demeanor).

While there is wisdom and hope in the advice Saunders shares, and I hope those ideas guide receptive young adults to satisfying lives, there's a more literary significance to this piece as well, one th
...more
Stephanie
Whether you're a recent graduate or a grown adult with years of experience under your belt, this little treasure is just that: a gift of beautiful, funny words to remind us what life is all about.

In his 2013 commencement speech at Syracuse University in New York, George Saunders spoke this hilarious and profound speech about living a life of kindness. While goals and experiences and connections are worthwhile, his whole point (with much more poetry and good humor) is that those things don't stic
...more
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George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysi ...more
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“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” 10 likes
“I can look back and see that I’ve spent much of my life in a cloud of things that have tended to push “being kind” to the periphery. Things like: Anxiety. Fear. Insecurity. Ambition. The mistaken belief that enough accomplishment will rid me of all that anxiety, fear, insecurity, and ambition. The belief that if I can only accrue enough—enough accomplishment, money, fame—my neuroses will disappear. I’ve been in this fog certainly since, at least, my own graduation day. Over the years I’ve felt: Kindness, sure—but first let me finish this semester, this degree, this book; let me succeed at this job, and afford this house, and raise these kids, and then, finally, when all is accomplished, I’ll get started on the kindness. Except it never all gets accomplished. It’s a cycle that can go on … well, forever.” 4 likes
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