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The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  219 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
The noted research psychiatrist explores how life's disappointments and difficulties provide us with the lessons we need to become better, bigger, and more resilient human beings.

Adversity is an irreducible fact of life. Although we can and should learn from all experiences, both positive and negative, bestselling author Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, believes that adversity is
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 29th 2013 by TarcherPerigee
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Jan 10, 2014 Lillian rated it did not like it
Written by a psychiatrist who is responsible for putting S.A.D. in our vocabularies ( Seasonal Affective Disorder)one would expect some insights and uplifting words.. Ahh but he is very smug and self satisfied given to silly aphorisms at the end of each chapter like,"Fortune is fickle.Be generous in victory and dignified in defeat." Though he is Jewish and grew up in South Africa his memories reflect little pain or perception and no literary insight into his life there.He is not someone I would ...more
May 01, 2013 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
The Gift of Adversity by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. is a joy to read. It's like sitting down in conversation with a wise and compassionate new friend, and discovering new ways to look at life's challenges. Adversity will invariably appear, and how you handle it can make all the difference to the outcome.

The book is a collection of true stories that the author has collected throughout his lifetime. There are 52 short chapters divided into four sections: Youth, Adulthood, Heroes, and Farewells. At
Jan 17, 2014 Celeste rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
I really wanted to like this book. The title alone was enough to propel me through the first quarter of it. But the truth is that the narrator--despite his renown in the world of psychiatry for his work with seasonal affective disorder--comes off as a curmudgeon of a man. It's clear the observations he makes about his life are novel to him. This I took as a clear sign of his social ineptitude. The snapshots at the end of each chapter are condescending and weird--as if to school a 3rd grader.
Oct 18, 2013 Dragana rated it it was ok
Didn't quite get the rave reviews, nor the intention. Author surely writes fluidly, but title promise didn't amount to more than personal anecdotes, grampa-style. With all respect to his family's hardships, due to background and geography: Evoking modern day German train conductors and passengers as Nazis because they--wouldn't speak English?!? Sorry.
Brian Walker
Nov 25, 2013 Brian Walker rated it it was ok
Shelves: a-life, psychology
The book did not fulfill what I expected when I picked up the title. The book was filled with interesting stories and nice reminders, mostly from the author's life, but nothing "unexpected" occurred.
Katrina Sark
Jan 28, 2015 Katrina Sark rated it did not like it
"You cannot become a master sailor on calm seas. So too you cannot navigate life successfully without learning how to handle adversity. To be sure, adversity is by its very nature painful and unwelcome. The trick then is how to move beyond these initial feelings and find something of value in the experience."

Crises are learning opportunities. If can begin to draw connections from what we have learned from crises, we can work out a systematic way of dealing with them.

“If you want to go fast, go
Apr 26, 2014 Deb rated it it was amazing
** The sweet uses of adversity **

Certain things in life seem to be inevitable. Adversity—whether the result of bad luck encountered, a mistake made, or a risk taken—is one of them. Fortunately, adversity need not be unfortunate.

Reframing adversity as stepping stones for finding meaning and value in life (vs. stumbling blocks leading to suffering and despair), psychiatrist Dr. Rosenthal demonstrates the “sweet uses of adversity.” (p. xii) Using his own experiences as well as those of others he h
Sep 17, 2014 Candy rated it liked it
This noted psychiatrist's anecdotes are well-written and insightful; however, the title reference to adversity rings hollow, as many anecdotes are from the perspective of the author as a happy child living in wealth during South Africa's apartheid regime. While reflecting objectively on that period, the individuals whose pain he dwells deeply are not the Africans who lived in shanty towns, but he and his friends. Entire chapters cover a teacher's misspellings, a fly hitting a window, and other " ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Stefanie rated it liked it
I'm not even sure how this book ended up in my to-read list: I think it popped up as a recommendation after I read The Unthinkable. I was expected something different than what it was, which was a memoir with encapsulated life lessons. Certainly the author has faced adversity, in many forms (more than the average person, I would wager, although everyone has their struggles or knows well someone who has met with trouble). If I had to put a word to it, this book was quieter than what I was expecti ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Ellen rated it really liked it
I happened upon this book at the library. I swear I was meant to read this book. One would think a book written by a psychiatrist would be dry and very science based. He went to grad school at Columbia and NIMH. It did a great deal of work on SAD, which I didn't know picking up the book. The book is part biography as well as him sharing his thoughts, along with the writings of others mostly on the idea of being resilient. He also shares the story of when he met Viktor Frankl. WOW! Who knew Sigmu ...more
Florence Millo
Oct 06, 2013 Florence Millo rated it really liked it
There are many truths in this book but they are rather superficial. OK, but nothing special.
Dec 03, 2015 Onionboy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If this book would have been titled "The Life of Dr. Norman Rosenthal", it would be a pretty decent book. But billing it as a guide to drawing benefit from life's adversity, difficulties and setbacks goes too far. I guess the author's intent was to show the difficult things he experienced, and leave you to conclude that if he made it through them, you can make it through your difficulties. There were no guidelines in drawing benefits from adversity, just stories of the author's life.

I rate it po
May 10, 2015 Elise rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paulette R
Mar 13, 2014 Paulette R rated it it was ok
I *really* wanted to like this book - it's incredibly well-written, and the topic is a favorite of mine. But I stopped reading about halfway through; I would have stopped sooner, but thought something more would surely unfold. It didn't. Each chapter follows the same formula. Author relates an anecdote from his own life, e.g., his childhood in South Africa, medical residency, etc., along with a difficult experience that occurred along the way. (If it sounds as if I'm trivializing this man's rema ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Shira rated it it was amazing
Book Review: The Gift of Adversity Written by New York Times Best Selling Author Dr. Norman Rosenthal

by Shira Goldberg, BSc., Sober Coach, & Host of The Addiction Show
We have all experienced life’s triumphs and tribulations to some extent and Dr. Norman Rosenthal, New York Times Best Selling author of the book, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation and Winter Blues imparts once again the value of lessons learned in his most recent offering, The Gift of A
Jan 02, 2016 Caitlin rated it liked it
This book wasn't quite what I expected. I thought it would include more psychological/sociological/neuroscience studies rather than being a memoir of personal and familial adversity. That being said, the stories were still interesting enough to keep me reading. If you find memoirs interesting, you may very well like this book. If you prefer social science books like those by Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Pinker, or David Brooks, this may not satisfy your interests quite as well.
Sep 05, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
For me, "The Gift of Adversity" was a real page turner. It contains universal truths and pearls of wisdom that are told through interesting and often hilarious stories that occurred throughout Dr. Rosenthal's rather eventful life. This makes the book somewhat of an autobiography which is awesome.

Some of the chapters resonated with me so strongly that tears of joy streamed down my face (I don't normally cry for anything)... For example the chapter about "Holding on to Dreams" and the one on "Reci
Dec 10, 2014 Rosemary rated it really liked it
Because the author is a well-known psychiatrist one could have expected this book to be technical and dull. In fact, it's easy to read, tells about life's lessons worth hearing about again and gives an interesting personal glimpse into South Africa and Apartheid. His words of wisdom are comforting. It's reassuring his book cover photo shows a happy guy.
Marta Borowska
Aug 05, 2015 Marta Borowska rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a compilation of short stories/proverbs/lessons with an introductory quote and summarizing line at the end regarding life's adversities and the lessons to take from them.

It seems to serve as a good reminder to turn every difficulty into a learning challenge rather than dwelling on the difficulties and the negative consequences and playing the role of the victim. It really shows you how to protagonize your life basically (I don't think that is a word but hey).

Some lessons include tea
Jul 08, 2014 Stephanie rated it liked it
Not what I expected, which was an exploration of the psychological benefits of experiencing hardships and overcoming obstacles. Instead, it was more like "When one door closes, another one opens," illustrated by little autobiographical stories from the author's (interesting) life.
Dec 12, 2013 Radhika rated it liked it
Actually the author basically has said which we never realise happens in the normal flow of life. A person who has lost everything or has nothing much to lose ( that is what we call adversity ) will usually take risks and do everything and fight to get a grip on life. Again not everyone is able to do this and some give in to helplessness. But adversity does make you look at life differently and makes you take risks which you would not otherwise take and sometimes it makes you wildly successful. ...more
Blimi Marcus
Feb 26, 2014 Blimi Marcus rated it liked it
I was hoping for more out of this book, by a psychiatrist such as himself. Instead, this read like a Chicken Soup for the Soul series. I enjoyed the history of South Africa but his insights barely touched the surface.
Oct 03, 2013 wade rated it it was amazing
This is a very helpful book that casts a positive spin on how the gain from all the negative things that happen in our lives. The author is a long time psychologist that uses examples from his life, the lives of his patients and people that he has read about to illustrate his points. Dr. Rosenthal is the man who discovered that some people become depressed in the Winter months and has had much success treating them with light therapy. He also lauds the benefits of meditation and St. John's Wort ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Elissa rated it liked it
The title is a little misleading. IT should be called the the Gift of Adversity: A Memoir because it's more interesting stories from his life than it is anything particularly revelatory about adversity.
Feb 09, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found much to help me with my "gifts of adversity". While some may find the one-liners at the end of each chapter annoying, I found them to be extremely helpful. Reading Dr. Rosenthal is akin to listening to a wise old friend.
Apr 14, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This was more memoir-ish than I was expecting but it was really interesting. The author is the psychiatrist who "discovered" Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Feb 20, 2016 Rin rated it it was amazing
This book is amazingly written and was so uplifting, enlightening and soothing to read. I definitely recommend it to anybody interested in autobiographies and positive reads.
Apr 09, 2016 Sara rated it it was ok
This wasn't quite what I thought it would be. The stories, although interesting, were a bit all jumbled in.
Jan 02, 2014 Jean rated it liked it
I found this to be interesting, no wisdom I have not found elsewhere, however due to the different experiences this author had growing up in South Africa and places he lived, I enjoyed it. Yes there are messages designed to help lift you up when you are going through some difficult and challenging times. Always good to know that others have lived through something difficult or experienced challenging things and to see what message he has pulled from his experiences. It is the sort of book you ca ...more
Jan 30, 2014 John rated it really liked it
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel) showed that the likelihood of a prisoner receiving parole was directly related to whether the judge had just eaten and how many cases he or she had already seen that session. The better fed and rested the judge, the more likely the prisoner was to be paroled.

I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. I am not sure that you are of the same mind. But the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of ligh
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Norman E. Rosenthal is a psychiatrist and scientist who in the 1980s first described seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression, and pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment. He was a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studying the disorders of mood, sleep and biological rhythms. He has published 200 scholarly publications and five books.
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