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Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness Hardcover – April 22, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“As slender as a psalm, and as heavy.”The New York Times
 
“The graduating college senior in your life probably just wants money. But if you want to impart some heartfelt, plainspoken wisdom in addition to a check, you can't do much better than [Congratulations, by the way].”Entertainment Weekly

“The loving selflessness that [George Saunders] advises and the interconnectedness that he recognizes couldn’t be purer or simpler—or more challenging.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Warm and tender.”Publishers Weekly

About the Author

George Saunders is the author of eight books, including the story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (April 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812996275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812996272
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Disclaimer - this is just a published version of a commencement speech given by Saunders in 2013, and is still widely available on the web for free.

The speech is fantastic though, and this is a great "gift" book.
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Format: Hardcover
As graduates begin their careers, what should be at the top of their list? Saunders says it's to never let a chance to be kind go by unfulfilled. And he says it beautifully.

Saunders is right. If I had to name the happiest people I've met in my life and that I remember with the most fondness, it would be those who were consistently kind to me and to others.

If I could choose the legacy to leave when I depart this world - the way I'd like to be remembered, it might be "He was always kind" (I'm sure it won't be).

Saunders gives us the inspiration to be kind and a few suggestions as to how. Not bad for only a few words.
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Format: Hardcover
‘Congratulations, by the way’ is a book that brought on its pages a commencement speech given by George Saunders - the work not too long in its duration, but great due to its importance.

On May 11 2013 at the Carrier Dome, writer and Professor George Saunders delivered the convocation speech for the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Its transcript became highly successful when it was posted on the ‘The New York Times’ web page, where Saunders simple, but motivating words about kindness managed to arouse the wealth of positive energy in those people who listened to him are later read its speech.

“…So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything…”

Although it comes on only sixty pages, of which half are the pictures, the author manages to say so much wonderful about the importance of kindness in his work that it can certainly be recommended not only to those who will read for themselves, but also as a wonderful gift for future graduates as a guiding principle for life and a career which lie in front of them.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a little book I read in one brief sitting while sipping a Starbuck's grande low fat iced latte. It struck a powerful chord in me, echoing my own experience having arrived at the age of 75.
I then got in my car, surfed satellite radio for music, medical advice, whatever, and chanced upon someone being interviewed on NPR. As I listened, I was amazed to figure out that the person being interviewed was George Saunders talking about this very speech!!! Powerful positive reinforcement! I'm going to give this book to my daughters, grandchildren and close friends . . . and read it again . . . and again . . . myself!
Patricia Ross
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is yet another piece from Saunders that has an incredible voice and the whole time you, the reader, knows he means every word of it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a bound and published edition of Saunders' commencement speech at Syracuse University in 2013. You could certainly complain that it's not really a "book", that it was originally published in the New York Times, and that it is very brief.

But it's worth reading.

What advice do you give to graduating students? Often it's about how to succeed in the world -- e.g., find something you love to do and do it. And there have been memorable commencement speeches of that type. Some go beyond that, e.g., the speech that Steve Jobs gave to graduating Stanford students in 2005.

Saunders gives a very simple message -- be kind.

He asks himself what he regrets in his own life, from the vantage point of decades that the students he is talking to haven't experienced yet. And the thing that he identifies is his indifference toward a girl in his school when he was young. He wasn't mean to her, but he ignored her when she needed kindness.

I can certainly think of the missed opportunities in my life when I wasn't kind to someone -- it would have taken so little. My life won't be any the less for having missed that last jump shot in the final seconds of a basketball game. It will be less for having turned away from someone who I could have helped have a better life. Few of us can say that we've kept the right balance of self-interest and kindness.

I've read criticisms of Saunders' speech, that he ignores the material difficulties facing students who graduate from college today, with poor employment opportunities and often carrying heavy college loan debts on into their distant futures. I would imagine those things weigh more heavily on their minds than whether or not they are kind persons.
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