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Book Review – Man’s Search for Meaning

During these summer vacations, I promised myself to read more books. I did not read as much as I would have liked, but I did read one book that impacted me massively. The book I will talk about in this blog is Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and in his book, he narrates his experience in Nazi concentration camps through a psychological and existential lens. Having gone through some of the worst experiences possible and seeing the destructive capabilities of man, Frankl advocates to find meaning in suffering. While observing his fellow inmates, Frankl states that it was not starvation or overwork that killed the inmates. He explains that most of his peers gave up. They lost all purpose in life and could not bear the insurmountable suffering that they witnessed on a daily basis. In the first section of the book, Frankl describes the transformation of the prisoners from their previous life. They first went into shock and with time that shock turned into extreme apathy and disinterest in the world.

Frankl mentions this quote from Nietzsche multiple times over the course of the book, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”. The idea of finding purpose and meaning is prevalent throughout the book. He explains how love (not necessarily the romantic kind) and compassion are of supreme importance in finding purpose. I will not go into much detail about this idea since I would like to experience reading it themselves.

Later on in the book, Frankl introduces the novel concept of logotherapy. According to the author, this is another form of psychotherapy that helps patients with the existential dread that life throws their way. He explains how it works and how we can use it in our own life.

I cannot overstate the impact that this book had on me. After going through the worst semester in university yet, I felt like a complete mess and had nothing to look forward to. Even though I did not have to experience Auschwitz, I developed apathy and disinterest in everything just like the prisoners. This book helped me feel more hopeful and calmed some of the existential dread that I had been facing.

After having gone through this experience, I sometimes wonder if it would be a good idea to introduce this book into to higher education curriculum. It could perhaps help students develop gratitude and a sense of purpose which would also be helpful for them later on. I would love to hear your thoughts about this proposition in the comment section.

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Man's search for meaning has to be in my Top 10 favorite books. Thank you for writing about it. This book talks about purpose over and over and throughout. I personally think that having a purpose is better in life than any amount of wealth or maybe even health. We see how the suicide rate among accomplished musicians/rappers and movie stars is very common nowadays. Every other day we get to hear about one and everytime i hear such news, i think if they did it because they achieved so much in life that there was nothing else for them to look forward to in life. I know this will sound like a reach and i am aware that their…


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There is this one quote from the book which I have highlighted that always inspires me to face hardships and suffering head-on.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”


I agree with you that hope for a better tomorrow along with gratitude are some of the values that keep humans sane in the face of suffering.

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Man's Search for Meaning is definitely among the list of my most favorite books. I read this other book by Friere the other day, and it elaborated more on the concept of love as sustenance, which you lightly touch upon. While I currently don't agree with the larger notion of the book, I feel very strongly for this particular sentiment. In fact when we look at it, we can even see how all revolutionaries have been actually bound with love, and it is indeed love that has driven them for all the efforts that they do.

In all these examples of personal stories of students we studied throughout the course, be it Zlata or Anne Frank or Malala or even…

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Thank you for this comment. I like how you have connected the idea of love presented in the book with some of the readings from the course.

I think that looking at the stories of Zlata and Anne Frank through the lens of some of the ideas presented in the book can truly help us in understanding their action. This can also be very empowering and inspire the readers to face hardships with courage

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I think that something worth questioning is whether there was always an absence of purpose or, instead, a loss of purpose. In the case of the holocaust, as stated above, it appears to be a loss of purpose in the face of hardships, leading the prisoners to succumb to the advent of death. Does this mean that the purpose they once assigned to themselves so easily evaded them when it was needed? Therefore, is any reason or value we give to our lives legitimate? If we are trialled and hurt and persecuted, and our purpose is to disappear from us at each turn anew, was there ever a real purpose to begin with?

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This is a very difficult question to answer. A lot of philosophers have proposed different things over the years and there is no 'correct' answer for the question that you have posed. Although I do believe that no matter how strong of a purpose a person may have, he can only witness so much suffering until death seems like the better option.

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A great post, and I would love to read this book myself. I think it’s important for our curriculum to have at least a reading list of books both in Urdu and English as I believe it is one of the greatest ways of learning from other people’s experience. I have noted in myself and my peers that we often feel jaded and disheartened potentially because of the turmoil (social and political) that we are forever placed in. I think learning to see the positive side of a struggle and finding meaning and empathy in it, is extremely important. I think that’s what keeps us sane.

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I think that learning about the experience of other people and their hardships, either through reading or any other media, helps us understand the uniqueness of every person's experience and promotes empathy. That is why I think the introduction of more fiction and non-fiction books not related to the course curriculum can be helpful for the students.

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