Book 5: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning is the easiest book to read among all the five books on this list. I am grateful to have read it last after all the deep and complex books before, which required a sharp mind for interpretation. The other four books have pearls of wisdom but they are hidden in between the text and at different levels of abstraction. This book is deeply rooted in reality and its message is also an observation of real world experience. Everyone should read this book and it can be completed quite quickly.

The reason this book is different from the other four books is that it revolves around a real life experience. The author of this book is a Nazi concentration camp survivor and he lived for three years in those hellish conditions. There is an additional force behind each idea he puts forward. When Frankl says that there is meaning in suffering it is incredibly compelling because it comes from a person who has seen unspeakable suffering. When he narrates experiences of people who found meaning in that suffering, the theories have added legitimacy because he lived through them. Each idea in the book has added legitimacy because it is based of real experience. This is also the reason why the book does not have layers of abstractions and is very transparent in what it is trying to convey. There is very little to read between the lines.

The other standout feature about Man’s Search for Meaning is that there is a gentle undertone of optimism. The conspicuous lack of bitterness and venom towards the perpetrators is quite moving. It raises the character of the author to a person the world can look up to.  The narration of small yet touching instances of love and resilience is powerful. They make his arguments for ‘tragic optimism’ strong and persuasive. They also strengthen the arguments for the branch of psychology called logotherapy that he founded.

Frankl’s book is deeply spiritual. Someone who has survived such loss and suffering often grows spiritually. At various junctures he invokes religious sayings. The book makes a solid case for being religious and depending on one’s scriptures for living virtuously. He often emphasizes on the fact that even in the most terrible suffering everyone has a choice in the way they confront it. The morals derived from these scriptures are profound and greatly strengthen his resolve.


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