Books to Love: Very Good Lives


"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." - Very Good Lives, J.K. Rowling

It's authors and women like J.K Rowling that make me feel proud of being a part of this generation. She's intelligent, she's down-to-earth, she stands up for what she believes in and she cares so deeply about the influence Harry Potter has had on people. She understands what position she's in, the platform she's on and how she can use it for good.

I've kept up-to-date with her writing because I enjoy it. I read The Casual Vacancy and bought The Cuckoo's Calling the Christmas that it was released (even though I haven't got around to reading that one yet.) Then I stumbled across this post from Sian Louise who recommended Very Good Lives, something I'd never heard of before.

Very Good Lives is the 2008 commencement speech Rowling delivered to the Harvard University graduates. True to Rowling's style, it's witty and powerful and has something that everyone can take away from it. In it she talks about failure and how it isn't always a bad thing. She talks a bit about her journey, the problems she faced and why she made the decisions she did. She encourages those who can to use their positions to do good, much like she has. 

My favourite aspect of it was when she touched on imagination. When I first read the cover I wondered how she was going to talk to hundreds of 21 year old graduates about imagination without sounding like she was delivering a Year Two literacy lesson. But she talks about how you can use your imagination to empathise with other people, to imagine yourself in their position, which is so important in building an understanding and tolerant society. 

There's something about people and society that she just gets and if she'd have delivered that address at my graduation then maybe I'd have left knowing there's so much more to offer the world other than a degree. 

Very Good Lives is a book I imagine I'll be returning to often and I hope it's one that you'll decide to try. It's beautifully written and illustrated too so what's not to love?