• H1

Man's Search for Meaning

Tags Holocaust Memoir Psychology

  • Author: Viktor Frankl
  • Year of publication: 1959
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Fiction / non: Non-fiction
  • Recent / classic: Classic read
  • Primary Category: Self-help
  • Additional categories: Self-help, Memoir

This book would appeal to you if

you are searching for greater depth, personal significance or meaning in your life.

You probably wouldn't like this book if

you find it too distressing to read material that describes the experiences of the Nazi death camps.

The key themes of this book are

The pursuit of meaning — and why it is more satisfying than the pursuit of pleasure.

Our experiences of suffering, and methods of deriving meaning from these experiences.

What the Nazi death camps have to teach us about human psychology.

The foundations of logotherapy — a psychological therapy related to the pursuit of meaning — devised by Viktor Frankl.

The writing style is

conversational, relating theoretical ideas to anecdotal experiences. It has a sense of immediacy, which is possibly related to the fact that the first part of the book, Experiences in a Concentration Camp, was written over nine days.

This book is recommended as therapy because

Viktor Frankl was able to pursue a meaningful life inside a Nazi death camp, and his reflections about this experience have universal value. If life can be meaningful under such circumstances, if experiences of beauty and love and compassion can be found there, then they are available for us all. 


‘The attempt to develop a sense of humour and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practise the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.’ Page 44

‘Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may grow beyond himself, and by doing so change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.’ Page 146

‘Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say! — success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.’ Preface to the 1992 edition.

Man's Search for Meaning

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.