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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

About the book:

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 offers J.K. Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imagination to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force. 
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company

My Review:

Rowling proves it: words can carry a unique magic and save you, in ways you'll never know. When the words are coming directly from her, rest assured!

Of course I finished the book in one sitting, but I cannot put into words how much longer the words have been lingering with me.
The book is actually the commencement speech that Rowling gave and it has set some serious benchmark for a speech.
It speaks to me on so many levels, and fills me with so much hope for everything.
While she retains the humor in her speech, reading the words on paper has a different impact. She touched upon the beautiful, and as she calls it "quixotic" twin themes of failure and imagination.
If you're someone who wants to achieve something, be someone remarkable, you will have a lot of takeaways from her speech.
I will quote some of her points, to make my own point clearer:

1. "Poverty... is not an ennobling experience"
As someone whose story quite literally represents the 'rags to riches' tale, she has described not what it seems or looks like, but actually what it feels like: in poverty, you are a lone ranger, the lack of resources make your life less charming for the world, and it is only in the journey of stepping out of poverty like a diamond from a coal mine that one can find some relief, not before, not after. Certainly not before, when poverty gnaws at your very existence. We romanticize the wrong things.

2. "Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates"
It is rare to find people who have such an acute understanding and deep awareness of the fact that not everyone is born with a silver spoon. And I guess it only happens when one has been on both the ends herself. Her acute sense of understanding is largely due to the fact that she can say for herself too, that her standing in front of Harvard University's graduating class in no way means she has had it easy. Such a brilliant thing to say to put everyone's fears at peace and hopes ignited.

3. "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."
This is one life lesson at least the millennial generation wouldn't forget.

She also expounds on her experiences at Amnesty International and how they played a part in her future actions.

4. " I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid."
I am personally a strong advocate of the importance of keeping possibilities alive, always knowing that there are teeming opportunities and that there are pursuits galore if you never stop learning and exploring. And so the complacent people, the ones who see only the reality and nothing else, live lives not worth remembering. Leaving legacies is indeed a noble pursuit.

Wise, witty, wonderful, moving, inspirational, sincere: I cannot find the right adjective for the text, and I know I will keep coming back to it, on the rainiest and sunniest of days!

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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
The Story of My Life
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

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