There are some books that you read once and forget. There are others that you feel compelled to revisit on a regular basis given the power and the value of the content within. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, is definitely in the second category and should be recommended reading for anyone who seeks to lead a more meaningful life. I would go so far as to say, it’s worthwhile reading for people from all walks of life as a means to look beyond our superficial differences and to remind ourselves what it means to be human.
Originally, published in 1946, Man’s Search for Meaning tells Frankl’s story as an inmate in the Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz and Dachau between 1942 and 1945. The book chronicles Frankl’s own search for meaning from the seemingly hopelessness of his situation. Ultimately, he comes to realize that you can endure any How as long as you have a strong enough Why. Essentially, you cannot always control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it. This notion forms the central theme of the book and serves as homage to the power of the human spirit.
What really floors you about this book is how much life or death was a game of chance. Early on in his incarceration, Frankl and fellow prisoners are lined up in front of a SS officer who leisurely points to the left and right. As he awaits his turn, Frankl hears that the line to the right means work while to the left is for those who are sick or incapable of doing so. Despite his tiredness from standing hours on end and aching bones and muscles, Frankl puffs his out chest and does his best to impersonate a healthy individual. Consequently, he is steered to the right while around 90% of the group is directed to the left. Some hours later, Frankl asks another prisoner as to where his friend who was sent to the left may have ended up. The other prisoner points to a chimney a few hundred yards away and replies, “that’s where you friend is, floating up to Heaven.”1.
A Tale of Two Parts
What I didn’t realize about the book until I picked it is that it’s separated into two parts. Part 1 focuses on Frankl’s experiences in the concentration camps as a prisoner. Part 2 provides an overview of the theory that arose from these experiences, known as logotherapy. I found Part 1 to be enthralling and harrowing at the same time but Part 2 is quite challenging as Frankl gets into the minutiae of logotherapy. Moving forward, Part 1 is something that I suspect I will re-read on a regular while Part 2, less so….
I feel really fortunate to have discovered this book. It is a gripping and humbling read and which I plan to revisit often. I would be interested to know if you felt the same way after and whether it’s a work you plan to re-read down the track.
Man’s Search for Meaning is perfect for:
- Finding inspiration
- Providing perspective
- Savoring and being grateful for what you have
- Maintaining motivation
- Celebrating the human spirit.
You should be able to pick up a copy of Man’s Search for Meaning from second-hand bookstores for $10 and below or from online retailers including:
Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you have any feedback on how reading Man’s Search for Meaning has impacted you, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Rating: 4 out 5 stars.
1 Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust (London: Ebury Publishing, 2008). 26.