J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination is a transcript of a graduation speech she gave at Harvard in 2008 in a charmingly illustrated, tiny book form. I picked it up mostly because of the tagline. Why of course I could use some advice about failure and imagination! Thanks, J.K.
And I actually found it to be better than expected! There are moments in life when it is really, really helpful to have the upsides of failure pointed out to you. It is comforting to be reminded that other people have been in similarly lowly situations, and to see how they have, as Rowling puts it, used rock bottom as the solid foundation on which they’ve rebuilt their lives. Cute imagery there.
But what I was surprised to find out is that sales from the book have benefited Lumos, an organization Rowling founded to end childhood institutionalization. I am not totally versed in what this organization does, and honestly, I didn’t buy the book and don’t have a whole lot of desire to know more about J.K. Rowling’s activism. But, as imperfect as I’m sure this organization’s work is, I was happy to find out that her intent with the book was greater than just cashing in on some individualistic tale of overcoming adversity. I am OK with that.