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

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  361 ratings  ·  65 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 i
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 29th 2013 by TarcherPerigee
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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Jan 10, 2014 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 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, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had high expectations from this book. As a reader who is currently going through some difficult times in life, I was hoping to find some tips, some useful information that would help me deal with my situations better I sit. highly disappointed.

I honestly believe that this book should belong in the Biography section more than Self-Help. I respect and appreciate all the events the Author has experienced, and all the adversities that he has dealt with but with that said, it just seem
Sep 04, 2013 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. ...more
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, 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. ...more
Oct 02, 2013 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
Jun 05, 2013 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
Oct 18, 2013 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. ...more
Florence Millo
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
There are many truths in this book but they are rather superficial. OK, but nothing special.
Nathan Albright
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2019
If you are looking for how adversity can be a gift for yourself, dear reader, this book is likely to be of only limited interest, since the author is so resolutely focused on drawing insights from his own experience that he does not always do a good job of connecting his own experience to more general ways that adversity can be beneficial to the reader.  Obviously, this book will be of most interest to those whose Jewish experience and whose general political liberalism in repressive regimes and ...more
Courtney Ferriter
May 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-i-own
** 2.5 stars **

This book offers advice--typically in the form of stories from the author's life--on a variety of topics related to adversity. It follows almost the style of a memoir, with stories from the author's childhood appearing in the first part of the book, then adulthood, then some chapters on heroes and then death. The chapters tend to be short, with many being only 5-6 pages long. At the end of each chapter there is a takeaway offered, akin to the moral of the story from Aesop's fables
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
There were certain chapters that I gleaned a lot from. Most of it though read like an autobiography that was spelled out. You know how when you describe a character, you're not supposed to say how they are but show it? I feel like this book should have just been an autobiography. I skipped all the little lesson boxes at the end-- I felt they were unnecessary.

The title is misleading-- I picked it up thinking that it would be about scientific studies, psychology, etc., and while there was some of
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve read more in-depth, scientific evaluations of adversity from authors like Yunger (Tribe), Holiday (Obstacle is the Way) and Manson (Everything is Fucked)
The Gift of Adversity is more of a biographical novel that has a theme of adversity and also sells Rosenthal’s other works. It definitely contains some wonderful nuggets of advice for optimal living, but it’s just a bit superficial in it’s teachings. And Rosenthal has certainly lead a very interesting life, but almost too accessively so to
Joanne Mcleod
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
This memoir carries much wisdom about how adversity, loss, and grief have abundant lessons to impart to us about the preciousness of life and the people who are special to us.

Dr. Rosenthal’s final quote speaks with much volume:

“If we care about the future of our loved ones and of all humanity, it is important to consider life after death - their life and our death.”
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
NR was a genius, and this book was so insightful, refreshing, open, honest, and much needed for my life right now! Recommend this to anyone who is going through changes, adversity, or just needs direction...
Jonas Sales
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Repeating yourself and settling for a comfortable formula is the biggest recipe for failure”

“It’s never too late to say “I Love you””

Quite an insightful novel of a psychiatrist who writes about his adversity and what he learned from them.
Paul Iannizzotto
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I only read a few chapters just to get some advice on my own life but it was a good read. It seemed more like a memoir though but the things he overcame put a lot into perspective for me.
Nelly Bokam
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
It was a pleasant read. Some useful advice but nothing most of us haven’t heard before. I somehow expected more given the title. It wasn’t earth-shatteringly good or even excellent but still decent.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is very helpful, full of good stories and good advice. It's easy to read and well-structured. My one minor complaint is that the author likes to name-drop and plug his own work. ...more
Apr 26, 2014 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
Aug 29, 2013 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 Adver
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
[-"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
-“To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.”- Albert Einstein
-Transcendental meditation
-Viktor Frankl: No forgiveness, but reconciliation.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting stories of living in South Africa. Made me appreciate living in America. Also, I liked the short chapters.
Sep 11, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason Scott
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mind
Audiobook. Ok narration. I gave up on it early because it kind of feels like a vanity press book. The author is famous for discovering and treating Seasonal Affectedness Disorder, as well as becoming very into transcendental meditation.

I don't know what this book is. Maybe a memoir wrapped in the guise of self-help?

Great title, so-so the rest of it.
Paulette Gerkovich
Dec 15, 2013 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
Dec 29, 2013 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
Aug 31, 2015 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
Jul 10, 2013 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
Jan 15, 2014 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
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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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