Very Good Lives by J. K. Rowling

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination

by J. K. Rowling

Illustrated by Joel Holland

Published worldwide in the English language on 14th April 2015 in aid of international children’s charity Lumos


About the book:

In 2008, J.K. Rowling delivered a deeply affecting commencement speech at Harvard University. Now, due to popular demand, the most-viewed commencement speech on Harvard’s website is published for the first time in book form. In Very Good Lives, J.K. Rowling asks 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 postgraduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force.

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said, “I have heard and read many commencement speeches, none more moving and memorable than J.K. Rowling’s. Years after her visit to Harvard, people still talk about it—and still find inspiration in her singular evocation of the idea that living a meaningful life so often means daring to risk failure. What a powerful example she embodies, and what a remarkable gift her speech was, and is, for all of us privileged to hear it then—and to read it now.”

As well as contributing toward university-wide financial aid at Harvard University, sales of Very Good Lives will benefit Lumos, a non-profit international children’s organization founded by J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalization of children around the world.

J.K. Rowling said about the charity:

“Lumos is a spell I created in Harry Potter that brings light to a desperately dark and frightening place. At Lumos this is just what we do: we reveal the hidden children locked away behind closed doors in institutions and forgotten by the world, so that everyone first of all understands the problem and then works together to fix it. It is my dream that within our lifetime, the very idea of institutionalising children will seem to belong to a cruel fictional world.”


Order the Hardback

Amazon | Waterstones


About Lumos:

Lumos is an international non-profit organization, founded by the author J.K. Rowling, which works to end the institutionalisation of children around the world and helps to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide regain their right to a family life.  Despite living in so-called ‘orphanages’ the majority of children who live there are not orphans but placed there as a result of grinding poverty, disability and discrimination.  Lumos works with countries to transform education, health and social care systems so children can be moved from institutions and supported in the families and the community.

In four years, Lumos has

  • Supported more than 12,000 children to move from harmful institutions to families or supported independent living;
  • Saved the lives of 644 children suffering from malnutrition, severe neglect or a lack of access to medical treatment;
  • Trained more than 17,000 social workers, medical professionals, teachers, carers, civil servants and policy makers;
  • Helped redirect €367 million that was planned to be spent on institutions and ensured that it was spent on community based services instead.


About the author:

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, are translated into 78 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. In 2012, J.K. Rowling’s digital company Pottermore was launched, where fans can enjoy her new writing and immerse themselves deeper in the wizarding world.

Her first novel for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy, was published in September 2012 and her first two crime novels, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, were published in 2013 and 2014 respectively. In 2015 her 2008 Harvard commencement speech was published in aid of Lumos, as well as university aid at Harvard.
As well as receiving an OBE for services to children's literature, J.K. Rowling supports a number of causes through her charitable trust, Volant. She is also the founder and president of the children's charity Lumos, which works to end the institutionalisation of children globally and ensure all children grow up in a safe and caring environment.


Notes to editors

- J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech can be viewed online:

- 10% of J.K. Rowling’s proceeds from the sales of the book will be donated to university-wide financial aid at Harvard University and 90% of J.K. Rowling’s proceeds from the sales will be donated to Lumos. Little, Brown Book Group (UK) and Little, Brown & Company (US) are also making a donation to Lumos.

- Click here for more information about Lumos.

- J.K. Rowling is not available for interview.

- For a review copy of Very Good Lives, please contact Tamsin Kitson