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  • Published: 5 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241988114
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 176

If You Should Fail

A Book of Solace

To fail is human. Get used to it . . .

Failure is the small print in life's terms and conditions.

Covering everything from examination dreams to fourth-placed Olympians, If You Should Fail is about how modern life, in a world of self-advertised success, makes us feel like failures, frauds and imposters. Widely acclaimed observer of daily life Joe Moran is here not to tell you that everything will be all right in the end, but to reassure you that failure is an occupational hazard of being human.

As Moran shows, even the supremely gifted Leonardo da Vinci could be seen as a failure. Most artists, writers, sports stars and business people face failure. We all will, and can learn how to live with it. To echo Virginia Woolf, beauty "is only got by the failure to get it . . . by facing what must be humiliation - the things one can't do."

Combining philosophy, psychology, history and literature, Moran's ultimately upbeat reflections on being human, and his critique of how we live now, offers comfort, hope - and solace. For we need to see that not every failure can be made into a success - and that's OK.

  • Published: 5 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241988114
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 176

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Praise for If You Should Fail

Joe Moran is a wonderfully sharp writer, calm, precise and quietly comical

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Moran is a wonderful, witty writer

Marcus Berkmann, Daily Mail

Moran is a past master at producing fine, accessible non-fiction

Helen Davies, Sunday Times

This is a deeply tender book, and full of wise insight and honesty. Moran manages to be funny, erudite and kindly: a rare - and compelling - combination. This is the essential antidote to a culture obsessed with success. Read it

Madeleine Bunting

Joe Moran is a brilliant historian, and the most perceptive and original observer of British life that we have. He makes the humdrum riveting

Matthew Engel

A fascinating insight. Moran's honesty is brilliantly raw and uncomfortable at times, but under the apparently bleak message on the surface there is an uplifting truth to be found. For myself, the concept of failure has been redefined

Matthew Parris

I really love Joe Moran's work, he writes with such generosity and kindness

Tiffany Watt Smith

These stories are beautifully told, and they are comforting at first... Moran's compassion shines through this gift of a book

Kieran Setiya, Literary Review

A ­calming antidote to the world of ­professionally failing... What Moran has created is a slim, lyrical and blessedly cool-headed reflection on failure as a universally shared human trial... What he provides, instead of the mechanical business strategies laid out in some popular failure titles, is a selection of fascinating and often moving lives, characterised in some way by their failure

Megan Nolan, New Statesman

A beautifully written meditation on life's inevitable setbacks and what he sardonically terms "the failing well movement". Moran encourages us to accept our impostor syndromes, to avoid becoming a "sporting masochist" for whom winning is everything, and to admire the history of West End musicals that were instant, notorious flops

Steven Poole, Guardian Books of the Year

A classic anti (or counter-intuitive) self-help treatise -- robustly argued, intellectually sturdy, laced with self-deprecatory humour... it is deeply empathetic to the trials of the creative life


There is an honesty and a clarity in Joe Moran's book If You Should Fail that normalises and softens the usual blows of life that enables us to accept and live with them rather than be diminished/wounded by them

Julia Samuel, author of Grief Works and This Too Shall Pass