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The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections Hardcover – August 29, 2013

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The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections + Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation + Transcendental Meditation: The Essential Teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The classic text revised and updated
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (August 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399163719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399163715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Best-selling author and psychiatrist Rosenthal begins this inspirational book with a quotation from Shakespeare’s As You Like It: Sweet are the uses of adversity. It is his belief, expressed over and over again here, that one cannot navigate life successfully without experiencing and overcoming adversity. The trick, he insists, is to find something of value in the experience. In this way, he maintains, we can become stronger people if we learn from our mistakes and misfortunes. He divides adversity into three broad categories: the adversity that comes from bad luck; the adversity we bring about ourselves; and the adversity that we seek out, whether taking a calculated risk on something or setting off on an adventure. Rosenthal also offers methods and techniques to overcome adversity, including practicing meditation, developing healthy habits, and talking and writing about traumatic experiences, from the Holocaust to lesser evils (scams, grudges, the loss of dreams). Each chapter concludes with a reflection: Life is precious but precarious: treat it with the care and respect it deserves. Plenty of food for thought. --June Sawyers


Winner of the 2014 Nautilus Award represents “Better Books for a Better World”—the Silver Award in the category of Heroic Journeys.

"Dr. Rosenthal catalyzes conversations around adversity with tales of wisdom and survival that we can all treasure.”
–Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

 “Insightful . . . could help many of us cope with life’s inevitable obstacles . . . The book’s titular message—that adversity can be a gift—is especially relevant now.”
Jane Brody, The New York Times

"Will help you see the value in your struggles...Arguing that personal growth can’t happen without setbacks, Norman Rosenthal challenges readers to re-interpret adversity as a key element of empathy, maturity, and success."
New York Daily News

“Rosenthal captures both the complexity of our emotions and the pragmatics needed to harness them.”
—Andrew Solomon

“I really loved Dr Rosenthal’s book… adversity can be a great teacher”
—David Lynch

“Norman Rosenthal is a psychiatrist with a special talent for turning research evidence into practical advice.”
—Peter D. Kramer, M.D, Bestselling author of Listening to Prozac

“Dr. Norm is cosmonaut of consciousness, launching into the the murky abyss and returning with meteoric treasures for us all. His writing on the value of adversity may come to be regarded by Alien archeologists as a Rosetta Stone in understanding how we advance as individuals and as a culture.”
—Russell Brand

“In addition to being one of our nation’s more respected psychiatrists, Dr. Norman Rosenthal has a wonderful ability to translate complex scientific information into language that is clear, concise, and practical.”
—Jerilyn Ross, Founder of  the Anxiety Disorders Association of America and author of Triumph Over Fear

“In this timely and beautifully written work, renowned psychiatrist and best-selling author, Norman Rosenthal, tells intriguing stories that converge on an important theme -- that many of life's greatest lessons and joys are not the products of perfection, but the gifts of adversity.”
—Marci Shimoff, New York Times bestselling author of Happy for No Reason
“If you've ever wondered what a world-class psychiatrist really thinks when pondering his life journey, then read The Gift of Adversity.”
—Pam Peeke M.D., WebMD Chief Lifestyle Expert

"Rosenthal's story is an interesting one: from growing up Jewish in apartheid-era Johannesburg to struggling through med school, surviving a brutal stabbing, serving as a medical officer in the South African Army, getting caught up in a Ponzi scheme, and navigating the politics of Columbia University and the National Institute of Mental Health, his exploits are consistently engaging."
—Publishers Weekly

"Rosenthal is best known for having defined “the syndrome of seasonal affective disorder,” a winter depression caused by diminished daylight, and pioneering the use of artificial bright light to ameliorate its effect. Rosenthal makes a convincing connection between lessons learned from his personal experiences and contemplation of the lives of heroic figures."
—Kirkus Reviews

Customer Reviews

Very disapointing, no depth, rather ordinary writing.
The Gift of Adversity is truly a gift, filled with 52 short stories which will inspire, enlighten and enrich the reader.
M. Vricella
I generally read non-ficton, and like a good, useful "self-help" book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Norman E. Rosenthal, in "The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections," tells us what it was like to grow up in South Africa in the 1950s. Dr. Rosenthal is a writer, researcher, and psychiatrist who shares what he has learned over the years from personal experience as well as from relatives, friends, patients, and colleagues. In fifty-two brief chapters, Dr. Rosenthal discusses ways in which we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and live more fulfilled lives. The author's words of wisdom are far from original, but they are worth taking to heart: For example: Learn from your mistakes; remain true to yourself and your ideals; forgive your own and others' missteps; think "out of the box"; do exciting and involving work; cultivate good habits; and whenever possible, collaborate rather than compete.

What distinguishes this book are Rosenthal's entertaining and enlightening stories, particularly those that "speak to the heart and the mind." In a particularly strong section, "The Weight of History," Dr. Rosenthal eloquently describes the forces that helped shape his personality. He and his family lived in a "one-party police state that maintained strict control of its citizens by means of fear." The Afrikaner-dominated Nationalist regime violated Black people's human rights and punished them for minor transgressions. Thanks to Nelson Mandela and his followers, who "embraced reconciliation rather than revenge," the transition from Apartheid to majority rule was less traumatic than it might have been. The rest of the world would do well to embrace Mandela's beautiful message of tolerance, peace, and understanding.

Dr. Rosenthal emphasizes the importance of trying to make the best of challenging situations.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. Süttmann on August 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
When receiving the book, I was prepared to read a book, written by a renowned and experienced psychiatrist who has seen lots of patients over decades of his professional career, who was already known to me from previous publications as a man with a deep sense of empathy and humanity and a broad background in not only neuroscience and psychology but also philosophy and general education. What I wasn't prepared to hit upon was the literary gem the book really presents - with each chapter a very colorful "short story" in its own right, rich with evocative, sensual autobiographical reminiscences of past events and sceneries long gone bye and distant places and locations, like e.g. South Africa when apartheid was still "on us", always with an astonishing amount of details and a profound sense of humor, revealing the author as an acute observer with a very vivid and awesome visual memory, or with stories from his patients and contemporaries, related with such depth of understanding and tenderness and profound theoretical knowledge of the best of the psychological schools and new neuroscience facts that the book at every point discharges a healing power which makes you make peace with whatever adversity you, the reader, might have encountered. Every chapter reveals a lesson well worth to take notice of, but not in a proselytizing way. The situations related are all too human and thus the reader discovers himself and his own past experiences in those stories. I hope the book will be published as an audiobook as well as it is delightful and calming to listen to. It represents good literature and though being non fiction will appeal to the fiction reader as well. I really recommend the book as an interesting book which has also a calming effect on the reader - looking into the river of time and events - and seeing experienced adversities from a broad-angle lens perspective and discovering (after due time), as the author did, that they all represented a gift.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Famous in Fairfield on September 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life's Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections As I continue to read this wonderful book I find myself quietly reflecting on my own life's experiences and lessons learned, triggered by reading Dr. Rosenthal's and those of the people he discusses. Each chapter has a takeaway point, something to reflect on and learn from the transforming alchemy of adversity.

I am reminded of two quotes that beautifully encapsulate the message of the book: One by Buddha: "Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it." And the other by Tom Bodett: In school, you're taught a lesson, then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." Dr. Rosenthal looks for and finds the blessings and lessons that adversity has brought him and the subjects in his book. It should be required reading for young adults to help them build empathy and understanding, preparing them for their journey through life.

Dr. Rosenthal also gives us hope when he says that the stressful experiences of adversity can also lead to growth. Quoting Friedrich Nietzsche's famous dictum: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," he tells us of the dividend of PTG from the payment of PTS, the post-traumatic growth that may come from the post-traumatic stress we've endured. And he also gives us the tools to deal with the stress, mentioned in his earlier books, like "Winter Blues", using light therapy to chase away the winter blues, and from "Transcendence", his most recent bestseller, extolling the healing and transformational virtues of Transcendental Meditation.

Discovering what Dr. Rosenthal says in his books is like finding a thoughtful friend who dispenses wise advice.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

More About the Author

Norman Rosenthal is a psychiatrist and scientist who in the 1980s first described winter depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and pioneered the use of light therapy for its treatment. Rosenthal was born and educated in South Africa and moved to the United States to complete his medical training. He established a private practice and spent 20 years as a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) where he studied the disorders of mood, sleep, and biological rhythms. Rosenthal's research with SAD led him to write "Winter Blues" and two other books on the topic. More recently Rosenthal has written a book on the Transcendental Meditation technique and conducted research on its potential influence on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In total, he has written seven books, including one on the topic of jet lag, and published 200 scholarly papers.