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Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination
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Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  21,376 ratings  ·  2,773 reviews
J.K. Rowling, one of the world's most inspiring writers, shares her wisdom and advice.

In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, VERY GOOD LIVES presents J.K. Rowling's words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life. How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our
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Kindle Edition, 81 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
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Chelsea Bee It's just the speech, with illustrations. There is no real content besides the speech, unfortunately.…moreIt's just the speech, with illustrations. There is no real content besides the speech, unfortunately. (less)
Rohini Murugan No. Its not related to Harry Potter in anyway except the fact that this book covers the words spoken by its author, J.K.Rowling which she gave back in…moreNo. Its not related to Harry Potter in anyway except the fact that this book covers the words spoken by its author, J.K.Rowling which she gave back in 2009 as a commencement speech in Harvard University.(less)

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Average rating 4.23  · 
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Jayson
(B+) 78% | Good
Notes: Her advice isn't especially deep or revelatory or new, but it's presented well and reading it just makes you feel better.
Bill Kerwin
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I enjoyed and admire Rowling’s speech to Harvard graduates (class of 2008). If it is not quite the equal of the greatest commencement addresses of this century—David Foster Wallace at Kenyon (2005), George Saunders at Syracuse (2013)—it is still memorable. It speaks to the nature of its audience, gives good advice both on how to profit from adversity and also how to discern what is valuable, and—as a bonus—it illustrates its points with revealing glimpses into the heart of one of the most
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Raeleen Lemay
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nonfiction
Beautiful. This is going right next to Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art on my bookshelf.
Kai
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

This genius woman. J. K. Rowling you're my favourite author. You forever will be.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Lala BooksandLala
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all- in which case, you fail by default."
Brina
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-k-rowling
The reason I gave this book 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because it was so short. This is the published form of J K Rowling's commencement address to Harvard graduates in 2008. Her words of wisdom ring true to all, and she even managed to sneak in a few Potter references. I finished in about 15 minutes, and am wishful to think that J K can publish a longer book of essays, which I am sure many of us would be happy to read.
Archit Ojha
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Archit by: Pooja
Shelves: ebooks
Life's good.

You know, that life is 90 percent what happens to you and 10 percent how you react to it.

Rightly so, we are all defined by the choices that we make. JKR amalgamates humor with emotions exhibiting the knowledge that accrues with time.

There's a quote from this book that found its place onto my bedroom wall.

Poverty is romanticized only by the fools.

Richness comes in various currencies. Friends, money, career, society.

Make sure you are #1 in each and every one of them.
LT
“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”


Very inspiring! JK Rowling has a magical way with words. Love it!
Clumsy Storyteller
“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and ...more
Jeff
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never was a more true word spoken. A gifted speech from a gifted author. Definitely worth then 20 minutes to finish it!
Rose
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-favorites
"And rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

All the people in J.K Rowling's life must feel so incredibly blessed.
I would.

As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I have read a lot about J.K and her fascinating life before all the Harry Potter craziness. Very Good Lives does a great job of showing some of the wisdom she gained from this time.

This 'book' is actually just a commencement speech she made at Harvard, years ago, and published so that the funds would go to her
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Jamie-leigh Haughn
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Amazing. Inspirational. Wonderful. Read it!
Heidi The Reader
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

J.K. Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard in 2008 and the result was a mini-masterpiece about life, the power of imagination, and failure.

Though we all know now what a mammoth success she would go on to be, at one time, she was experiencing failure and poverty.

"Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that
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Ziba
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a commencement speech at Harvard University. Years after her visit to Harvard, people still talk about it and because of the impact it has made the speech was published today, April 14th, in book form. The sales of Very Good Lives will benefit Lumos, a non-profit international children’s organization founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world.

J.K. Rowling said about the charity:

“Lumos is a spell I created in
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Tehanu
While we wait, it's worth checking out this other adaptation of her speech by ZEN PENCILS:


(The rest is linked in the image)

Oh, and here, have a link to the video of the full speech.
MischaS_
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
“And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.”


I can tell you right now that this is the only graduation speech I will ever read. Unless J.K.Rowling
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Carol
Well worth the fifteen (okay, ten) minutes it takes to read.

In addition, if you want a starting point to have a conversation with your middle or high school age kid, read this together. Listen to what your kid says. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Just an idea.
Imane
“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.”
― J.K. Rowling, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination


Well written, as anything by this author would be, I found the ideas presented very valuable and well put, but her speech wasn't that inspirational to me.
Calista
This was so touching and powerful that now I have to own this little nugget. I do believe in the power of imagination and the importance of stories. That is part of the reason I spend so much time reading to my niece and nephew. Imagination gives us the power to change our view of the world and what is more important than that power.

She also speaks to failure. Who hasn’t failed at something in this world. It has the power to be a great teacher. I love the story of Thomas Edison and his
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Pooja
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-novels
In Very Good Lives, J.K. Rowling shares the benefits of failure in one's life and why it is a necessity to overcome fears.

I was browsing JKR's interview videos and stumbled upon this.

That moment, something changed inside me.

It's like you read a book and you know it has altered you in a good way, but you can't put it in words until you go back retrospecting.

When I happened to know it was a commencement speech, I didn't know what does that word even mean!

Commencement: a new start, beginning.

So
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Shannon (leaninglights)
I may be in the minority here, but I had never heard or read Very Good Lived before now. It is JK Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard in 2008. I picked up the book because the proceeds of its sales go to JK's Lumos charity and also because it's JK Freaking Rowling. The book is small, as it is a speech, but it is beautifully written and put together. Alongside JK's inspiring and thought-provoking words there are illustrations and doodles that add so much to the reading experience. I ...more
Taylor Knight
Everything about this book is beautiful. Jo has a such a way with words.
Not only is this book inspirational but it's also really funny.
I loved the way the book was put together. The little doodles and art was really cool.
And even though this book is short (80 pages but it's a speech) and maybe a little expensive for only 80 pages, it's totally worth it. Plus, the proceeds of its sales go to Jo's Lumos charity.
Sushi
Jun 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
"We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

This woman never ceases to blow my mind into smithereens with her words, and this expressively, yet eloquently put novella with less than a hundred pages is no exception. Rowling talks us through her life experiences and the best way to move forward with baggage that every one of us has to some extent.

"It is impossible to live without failing at
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Denisse
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Graduated people
Read for the 2015 Reading Challenge #14 A non-fiction book

J. K. Rowling is my Writer-Queen not because she made magic wands look cool, or because she wrote a great and incomparable fantasy saga. She is my and many others Writer-Queen because of things like this:


"...but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools. What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure."

"I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter
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Warda
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of, course it's a 5 star rating. Short, sweet and impactful. This was just beautiful. One that I'll probably be rereading every so often.
Gergana
Super short, but truly inspirational. It's amazing that the only reason we have the Harry Potter books today was because J.K.Rowling failed in everything else :) I don't mean it in a bad way. On the contrary, failure sometimes can free us and allow us to focus on the things we wouldn't even notice otherwise.
Duane
“I cannot criticize my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts—that is something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticized only by fools”.

J.K. Rowling
Commencement address
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Sam Quixote
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very Good Lives is the commencement address JK Rowling gave at Harvard University in 2008 which discusses the concepts of failure and imagination.

Rowling talks about the merits of failure in that (if they recover) it makes a person stronger and wiser, and how it set her free and on the path of a successful novelist:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only
...more
Jason
Tiny little review for a tiny little book.

(Side note, the actually speech is all over YouTube, check it out!)

Once in a while I sit and read this through. You can get through it in the period it takes to drink one cup of coffee. Rowling's words are a powerful reminder to all of us that it is okay and it is important to dream up a good life. But it's equally important to march ahead and work hard.

Rowling is my hero, and she has proven that literacy is a great magic because it brings people from
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Daniel Clausen
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2018
More like a 3.6 or so.

I've certainly heard better speeches, more uplifting speeches. This one wasn't bad and had some inspiring aspects to it. I love the tones of modesty that come from it. I love the messages about the power of creativity and the benefits of failure...we all failure...we all suffer...those are important life lessons, though I'm not sure what the whole speech adds up to.

Poverty is only romanticized by fools, Rowling says...so true!

There are lots of gems here...I'm not sure they
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204,317 followers
See also: Robert Galbraith
Although she writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling, pronounced like rolling, her name when her first Harry Potter book was published was simply Joanne Rowling. Anticipating that the target audience of young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman, her publishers demanded that she use two initials, rather than her full name. As she had no middle name, she
...more
“I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.” 974 likes
“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.”
765 likes
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