Cover: In Praise of Failure: Four Lessons in Humility, from Harvard University PressCover: In Praise of Failure in HARDCOVER

In Praise of Failure

Four Lessons in Humility

Product Details


$29.95 • £26.95 • €27.95

ISBN 9780674970472

Publication Date: 01/03/2023


288 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


Add to Cart

Educators: Request an Exam Copy (Learn more)

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Bradatan, a philosopher, writes with elegance and wit, his every thought and sentence slipping smoothly into the next… I was absorbed by Bradatan’s book even—or especially—when I felt uncomfortable with its implications.—Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Bradatan wears his erudition lightly. He is a pleasure to read, and his prose conveys a happy resilience in the face of life’s inevitable contradictions. His lessons in humility remind us that the pursuit of success is often motivated by the dread of failure—and that our attempts to create things are often driven by an avoidance of our mortality.—Michael S. Roth, Washington Post

Gleefully breaching the boundaries between argument and storytelling, scholarship and spiritual quest, Bradatan concludes that while success can make us shallow, our failures can lead us to humbler, more attentive, and better lived lives.Englewood Review of Books

Bradatan argues that we should not run from failure, but face it, clear eyed, because facing our failures makes us humble, and, by becoming humble, we can live better lives… This book is about the art of living a good life, and Bradatan’s voice is like a steady and charming guide through a moonless night.—Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, Hedgehog Review

What [Bradatan] offers is a normative argument for why we should be humbled by failure rather than, like Hitler and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, see failure as a mere ‘stepping-stone to success’… Humans in Bradatan’s eyes are not featherless bipeds or rational animals but the only creatures who can recognize failure. It is this failure-detecting faculty, rather than, say, Aristotle’s nous, that makes us fully human… Thought-provoking.—Alexander Raubo, Literary Review

The ideas are boldly counterintuitive, and the illuminating historical examples complicate what it means to succeed. This is, ironically enough, a triumph.Publishers Weekly

Provocative, stimulating, wise—the book that our success-obsessed age needs to read.—Tom Holland, author of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World

In this deeply inspiring book, Costica Bradatan invites us to humble up and embrace the fact that we are all prone to failure. But the real lesson is that this embrace is a first step on a long journey toward self-transformation and growth. We all fail, but only the wise understand that their imperfections are what make them whole.—Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

I have nothing but praise for this revealing and riveting, probing and provocative book. Bradatan has succeeded in reminding us why failure is not only inevitable, but, if viewed properly, so very vital. A brilliant tour de force.—Robert Zaretsky, author of The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas

In Praise of Failure takes a set of corrosively prophetic lives and makes them new again through a compelling, cross-cutting, swift, and entirely original mode of narration. Costica Bradatan writes with the same daring, the same interpretive anger that made his subjects notorious in their own day for choosing failure over what their respective worlds counted as success. A gripping read, start to finish.—Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography

A belletrist following in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin and Susan Sontag, Costica Bradatan exhibits, yet again, that he is an original thinker of real merit.—James Miller, author of Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche

With eloquent passion—and compassion—Costica Bradatan puts fear of failure at the heart of human existence, yesterday, now, and forever, from the failures that frustrate our daily existence to the ultimate failure that is death. Weaving together the life and work of such disparate souls as Simone Weil, Seneca, Gandhi, E. M. Cioran, and Yukio Mishima, he reminds us why our fellow humans have always ascribed to the mad, the misfits, and those on the verge of death an uncanny capacity for second sight. A unique, insightful meditation on the essential questions of human existence that aims to heal as well as to provoke.—Ingrid Rowland, coauthor of The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Photograph of the book Fearless Women against red/white striped background

A Conversation with Elizabeth Cobbs about Fearless Women

For Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the work of Elizabeth Cobbs, whose new book Fearless Women shows how the movement for women’s rights has been deeply entwined with the history of the United States since its founding. Cobbs traces the lives of pathbreaking women who, inspired by American ideals, fought for the cause in their own ways