JKR to Publish “Very Good Lives”: Speech to Harvard Class of 2008

The date was May 3rd, 2008. My two closest friends and I were sitting on a hill on campus, brand-new tobacco pipes in hand, like regular Sherlocks. (Side note: this date is the one and only time I’ve used said pipe, though I do still have it.) Reminiscing. Contemplating. Wondering what the future might have in store for us. Knowing that our “futures” would begin the next day May the 4th (May the fourth be with you!), the day of our college graduations, our commencements. While I don’t have the foggiest recollection of who spoke at our commencement ceremony, or what he or she said to us, I will always remember the night before on that hill with my friends.

Now, had J.K. Rowling decided to speak at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN that year rather than, oh you know, Harvard, then that would have been a totally different story. Because I like watching commencement speeches on YouTube (John Green’s from 2013 is among my favorites) around the time that my students graduate from high school, I’ve actually seen J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Commencement Speech at Harvard before. Watch it below if you haven’t seen it already:

Earlier this week, Rowling surprised us with this announcement: the text from this commencement address would be published in a new book, out in April 2015. Little, Brown, the publisher for The Casual Vacancy, will be the publishers for this volume too, which will be titled Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination. Also returning from The Casual Vacancy is Joel Holland, who illustrated the cover. Remember the cover for The Casual Vacancy? How it was merely a handwritten title? Very Good Lives will be the same:


Little, Brown’s official website provides links to preorder this book (which makes a great gift idea for the graduate in your life). Please feel free to preorder right now, unless you live in the school district where I teach, in which case, I have this to say to you: “Back off! I’m ordering a whole bunch of these for the seniors I have this year for when they graduate in the spring.” What makes my planned mass-purchase even better? Proceeds go to Lumos, JKR’s charity, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

How has Jo Rowling inspired you? Share in the comments!