Psych Central Reviews

Reviews Home » Book Review: The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive

Book Review: The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive

The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive Personality by Ryan Niemiec and Robert McGrath is a powerhouse game changer in the field of positive psychology.

The book is the most profoundly comprehensive and evidence-based approach to character strengths yet published. It takes the lead as one of the most user-friendly tools in applied positive psychology.

But more than being grounded in theory and research it brings understanding and practical application of character development to the forefront of practice. This is a book you can use immediately for yourself or those you work with. It is organized into three parts.

During the first part of the book, groundwork is well established for the readers to explore the 24 character strengths and how they relate to each of the six virtues: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

With this strong foundation, the book helps the reader understand the principles behind character strengths and virtues, and then tailoring understanding of these strengths to recognize one’s uniqueness. If you are new to the use of character strength assessment and facilitation, the authors do an exceptional job to explain the research and rationale for the exercises and application of the interventions. If you are familiar with character strengths, you will find the explanations easy to absorb and can move directly to the productive applications. Essential to this foundation is the idea that character strengths can be developed and nurtured in ourselves and others.

In part 2, they take a deep dive into each of the 24 strengths as clustered by the virtues. After the foundational work in strengths the authors then move to “strengths spotting” where practitioners, parents, coaches, managers, and supervisors can learn how to label the character strength in themselves and others. Particularly useful are examples of how character strengths are expressed and then identified.

Throughout this second part, the outline of the chapters gives a clear explanation and understanding of what the strength is, why it is valuable, and how to ignite it. There are examples of spotting the strength, taking action, and particularly important (in light of the new research on positive psychopathology) finding balance in regulating over and underuse of a strength.

The authors are perhaps the most qualified people to have produced such high-caliber work. Ryan Niemiec is the Education Director at the VA Institute on character annual instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, adjunct professor at Xavier University, and the author of several books and high-volume /high-quality presenter on the topic of strength’s application. He’s also an award-winning psychologist and Fellow of the International Positive Psychology Association.

Bob McGrath is a Professor and Director of The School of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Senior Scientist at the VA Institute on Character and also Director of Integrated Care for the Underserved of North Eastern New Jersey, a federally funded program providing behavioral health services to low-income individuals in primary care.

Part 3 is known as strength builder and in a four week—four-step process introduces the reader to recognizing, exploring, applying, and making strength to have it. By the time you are done, you’ve gotten deeply in touch with the powerful potential character strength development has. The book not only delivers what it promises, but it also empowers you. The book closes with excellent reference recommendations about books and resources and character strengths.

You’ll want to read this book and use all of the exercises in it, but you’ll also want to keep it for reference as you’ll find yourself consulting it over and over again for yourself- and those you work with. This book is highly recommended and well worth your time.

For an in-depth interview with Drs. Niemiec and McGrath you can listen to Scott Barry Kaufman psychology podcast with them here.

The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive

Ryan Niemiec and Robert McGrath

Paperback: 322 pages

Publisher: VIA Institute on Character (February 27, 2019)

Language: English ISBN-10: 0578434296 ISBN-13: 978-0578434292

Book Review: The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

Your Recommendation: (if you've read this book)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Want to buy the book or learn more?
Check out the book on!
(All links to provide a small affiliate fee to us if you decide to purchase the book.)

Dan Tomasulo, PhD, MFA, MAPP

Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP is a member of the Core Faculty, Spirituality Mind Body Institute, at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also anAssistant Instructor—Master of Applied Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of the New York Certificate of Applied Positive Psychology, at the Open Center in New York City. Dan is also one of Psych Central's "Ask the Therapist" therapists.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Book Review: The Power Of Character Strengths: Appreciate And Ignite Your Positive. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 12 Sep 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.