J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives

As graduation quickly approaches, students eagerly await the commencement ceremony with both nervousness and excitement. From Pomp and Circumstance during the long march in…to the diplomas and never-ending list of names, to the commencement speech…it’s a day of both celebration and reflection. Though they may not admit it, most students secretly hope that they’ll be the lucky class with a celebrity giving the address. Maybe they’ll be the ones with the Nobel Prize winner, the President, or that famous filmmaker standing up in front of them, giving them the last advice they will ‘ever’ receive as an undergrad.


In 2008, the graduating class of Harvard WAS that lucky class. Their speaker? J.K. Rowling, the beloved British author of Harry Potter. While that graduating class may be able to brag about their commencement address for years to come, we all can now share in the wisdom that Rowling imparted back in 2008 with the release of Very Good Lives, The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. Her speech, now bound up and beautifully illustrated, was recently published just in time for all those graduates looking for a little extra wisdom during this time.



Peppered with subtle Harry Potter references, Rowling focuses on two themes: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. No, it’s not a lesson on how to write the next Harry Potter series; instead Rowling shares what she gained from her failures and how she learned about empathy and life simply by using her imagination. It’s OKAY to fail she tells the graduates. In fact, she says that it was by failing and hitting her own personal rock bottom, that she was forced to find what she loved and what she was meant to do.

Our recommendation? Check this book out. Whether you’re graduating this term or just looking for a little inspiration, Very Good Lives is filled with motivational lessons, moving anecdotes, and J.K. Rowling’s cheeky sense of humor. Overall, it will make you think – and you’ll be better for it.

Furthermore, sales will benefit both Lumos, an organization founded by Rowling to better the lives of disadvantaged children, and financial aid at Harvard University.


Pick up a copy of the book and let us know your thoughts on Rowling’s advice! Check it out for yourself at your Barnes & Noble College campus bookstore. Tweet us what you think – @BNcollege! We’d love to hear the best life or graduation advice you ever received.


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