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The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

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Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving bu Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving but on the many diverse forms generosity can take, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson show the deep impact-usually good, sometimes destructive-that giving has on individuals. The Paradox of Generosity is the first study to make use of the cutting-edge empirical data collected in Smith's groundbreaking, multidisciplinary, five-year Science of Generosity Initiative. It draws on an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, more than sixty in-depth interviews with individuals across twelve states, and analysis of over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough. Offering a wide range of vividly illustrative case studies, this volume will be a crucial resource for anyone seeking to understand the true impact and meaning of generosity.


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Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving bu Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving but on the many diverse forms generosity can take, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson show the deep impact-usually good, sometimes destructive-that giving has on individuals. The Paradox of Generosity is the first study to make use of the cutting-edge empirical data collected in Smith's groundbreaking, multidisciplinary, five-year Science of Generosity Initiative. It draws on an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, more than sixty in-depth interviews with individuals across twelve states, and analysis of over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough. Offering a wide range of vividly illustrative case studies, this volume will be a crucial resource for anyone seeking to understand the true impact and meaning of generosity.

30 review for The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sigrid Fry-Revere

    I found the premise of this book interesting and true, but the book was way too long and repetitive. The material was probably better suited for an academic article. You might want to read the book if you think generous people are not happier, healthier, or have a greater sense of purpose than their ungenerous counterparts. But I found this conclusion to be all all but self-evident, and the number of times the same point was made in different contexts became tediious. It was shocking to find out I found the premise of this book interesting and true, but the book was way too long and repetitive. The material was probably better suited for an academic article. You might want to read the book if you think generous people are not happier, healthier, or have a greater sense of purpose than their ungenerous counterparts. But I found this conclusion to be all all but self-evident, and the number of times the same point was made in different contexts became tediious. It was shocking to find out that only about 3% of Americans tithe, that is give away 10% or more of their income. Also only 10% of Americans volunteer one to ten hours a month. If I wanted to I could challenge how the data was determined and analyzed to maybe show the problem isn't as bad as the book makes out to be -- For example, the authors say only 3% of Americans give away 10% or more of their income. Is income measured as gross income or net income? Disposable income or discretionary income? This could make a significant difference in just how stark a generosity deficit there is -- However, that being said, the general message is the same: If Americans could learn to be more generous as a society, we would all be happier, healthier people.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emerson

    This book is more oriented towards the american citizens, but provides a comprehensive study of the generosity mechanisms on the human behavior. Would recommend it to understand lots of our contemporary social issues.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tony Bradshaw

    When I started this book, I foresaw it being a 5 star book. The material is awesome, but the delivery is dry, repetitive and somehow losses my interest.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Triplett

    It's rare to find a book devoted to this topic and I'm glad the authors endeavored into this research territory. I really like the first few chapters, which have a lot of empirical data and references to bolster their arguments. But the last few chapters were a wash for me. I'm not convinced of a generalizable finding by qualitative data and I feel like they wasted way too much time on that data when they should have been providing more numbers and data analysis. And though they acknowledge that It's rare to find a book devoted to this topic and I'm glad the authors endeavored into this research territory. I really like the first few chapters, which have a lot of empirical data and references to bolster their arguments. But the last few chapters were a wash for me. I'm not convinced of a generalizable finding by qualitative data and I feel like they wasted way too much time on that data when they should have been providing more numbers and data analysis. And though they acknowledge that these are case studies and that they shouldn't be taken as representative, the authors do just that when discussing the case studies themselves and belittle the point. I still like it and I still may assign it, I just will give a lot of caveats before they read the last chapters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marius Ciuzelis

    It was very repetitive and would be more than enough to read an article on research findings rather than go for a book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter Migner

    good stories and lots of data. Probably a little over kill on stories and data. But the book made a great point and well lined out to read or jump around.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Warhammer Grantham

    This book cites a bunch of personal interviews, and tons of data gathered from a decently large sample size, to assert certain effects patterns of generous behaviors have on people. And using data gathered from the same interviews, they aggregate that data to suggest patterns of ungenerous behavior have these certain effects on the same people. The whole book basically uses the data gathered to point out common trends in people's lives, depending on if they practice generous or ungenerous behavi This book cites a bunch of personal interviews, and tons of data gathered from a decently large sample size, to assert certain effects patterns of generous behaviors have on people. And using data gathered from the same interviews, they aggregate that data to suggest patterns of ungenerous behavior have these certain effects on the same people. The whole book basically uses the data gathered to point out common trends in people's lives, depending on if they practice generous or ungenerous behavior. Regrettably, although the book does a decent job of including data to support author claims and then including a excerpt from a personal interview that supports this claim; the book was tedious to get through. TL;DR be generous because its good for you. There are hella health, social, and mental health benefits that people who regularly practice generous behaviors, reap. If you don't practice regular generosity, you will tend to worry more, have fewer strong social ties, and deal with more anxiety.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Chuburkova

    The book could be triple shorter, but keep the same amount of takeaway for readers. It's a good research based analysis how deliberate and not random acts of generosity affect our life. The evidence presented in the book is structured in a way that is compelling to remember it. The book is positive and uplifting. Personally it changed some of my beliefs toward selflessness. The book could be triple shorter, but keep the same amount of takeaway for readers. It's a good research based analysis how deliberate and not random acts of generosity affect our life. The evidence presented in the book is structured in a way that is compelling to remember it. The book is positive and uplifting. Personally it changed some of my beliefs toward selflessness.

  9. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Byers

    really clinical, then almost preachy - which was good - then the personal stories just made me wanna yell at those people; generous and stingy alike.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gessica

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Radak

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carol

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  14. 4 out of 5

    Phill

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne Coon

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Sasson

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kandice Johnston

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anita

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abe

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Freidel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Georgie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kellaaay

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Vander Lugt

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robert Driver Bishop

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ogg

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine Safranek

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brayden Howie

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