Man’s Search for Meaning is a memoir by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
The book provides a vivid account of an individual’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp and describes Frankl’s psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positive about, and then immersively imagining that outcome.
The book focuses on love, hope, responsibility, inner freedom, and the beauty to be found in both nature and art as means that help one endure and overcome harrowing experiences. Frankl claims that there are three ways to find meaning in life: through work, through love, and through suffering.
He kept his will to meaning alive through his three years in the camps by focusing on the potential meanings he could create for himself.
The main themes of the book include the search for meaning, suffering and hope, and the three central values in life according to Frankl: purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of difficulty.
The book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?”
Useful takeaways from the book include the importance of not judging others, the idea that suffering promotes growth, finding the positives in overcoming difficult problems, and being appreciative of one’s current situation.
The book has sold over 16 million copies and has been translated into 52 languages, making it one of the most influential books of all time.
What I Liked
There’s a reason why this is “one of the most influential books of all time.” It’s mind-blowing that this book is not from an armchair psychologist crafting theories in his office. This book is by a guy who lived through the actual Holocaust in a Nazi concentration camp watching and observing how humans deal with those conditions in person and up close. No matter how you interpret his observations, the book is mind-blowing.
What I Did Not Like
I mean – it’s heavy and I can’t recommend it to just anyone. But, it’s there’s nothing that I didn’t like in the actual book. It’s brilliant.
What Other Reviewers Have To Say
I wrote down the following quote (I don’t know who it’s from), but I thought it was interesting.
Man is sent to a concentration camp and finds some way for good to come of it. Finds some way to turn it into the ultimate metaphor for life: that we have little control over our circumstances, complete control over our attitude, and our ability to make meaning out of the things which happen to us. In Frankl’s case, we are lucky that he was a brilliant psychologist and writer and managed to turn all this into one of the most important books of the 20th century. I think constantly of his line about the man who asks, “What is the meaning of life?” The answer is that you don’t get to ask the question. Life is the one who asks and we must reply with our actions.