Having had 3 children graduate high school and then college, I’ve read and gifted my share of “go out there and do great things” type of inspirational books. A few that have earned my readership and admiration are Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, followed by Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and Ann Patchett’s What Now?
But J. K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives may take this genre to a whole new level. This book is the graduation speech she gave at the commencement for the Harvard Class of 2008. She didn’t write the best selling series of all time and earn a bazillion dollars without being a great writer, and it’s evident in this short speech/book. Her speech revolves around two topics – the benefits of failure; “…some failure in life is inevitable. 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” and the importance of imagination; “ imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation; in its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enable us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” I highly recommend this book to any graduate and also to those of us long graduated who might just need a little bit of inspiration.