This week’s book recommendation is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Though this book takes on that penultimate question of humanity, it does so in a way that is derived from experience (an experience that pushes the limits of the human mind and body) and a careful examination of that experience. Vicktor E. Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist. This book details his experience and observations during his time in concentration camps. A majority of these reflections take place in Auschwitz.
Please try to prevent yourself from letting that information bias your opinion of this book. In fact, I suggest you try to temporarily forget what you know of World War II as you read it to better grasp what this book is attempting to discover. This book is a record of events and a psychological analysis of the human mind. The themes found here are dark at times and unveil some of humanity’s worst traits, but there is a triumph. Human history is plagued with injustices. This book doesn’t try to make sense of those injustices, it tries to make sense of the human mind and the differences between individuals. It attempts to discover what humanity really is.
This book was published in 1946. The first half is Viktor’s experiences in the concentration camps. He spends time analyzing the camp guards, but he spends even more time analyzing his fellow prisoners. The second half delves into Logotherapy, which is Viktor’s theory that human nature is motivated by a search for a purpose for one’s life. This search is individual and suggests that each person discovers their own answer to what their meaning is.
Most copies of this book are printed as a small paperback. Small enough to fit in a pocket and is roughly 150 pages. Despite its brevity, this book has the potential to cause introspection for the reader that in turn causes analysis of others. At the base of it all is a hope for humanity.
I often recommend books that have positively impacted me and that I greatly enjoy. Some of my past recommendations were purely entertainment picks. Many were books that opened my mind by making me questions certain things in this world. This book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is something a little more. Maybe because it is steeped in history or straightforwardly examines the very definition of humanity. Something about it resonated with me, and I believe I will return to it several times throughout my life.