Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for MeaningMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm obviously not qualified to debate the academic value of this book, but I also don't think that books should measured on only one dimension, or that my non-academic background invalidates my opinion. In this case my opinion is that a book is more than just the information it delivers, it is also about the delivery. It is about the reader as much as the author.

I related to many of Frankl's conclusions about life, and man's meaning, even though I don't have the background or interest in psychology that he does. Of course, his experiences in Nazi concentration camps were amazing and thankfully unrelatable for me, but it added the heart and soul to the book. As for the rest of it, I'm not sure who his audience was. Was this written for other academics? Practicing doctors? Society at large? Without that question answered I can't know if he hit his mark, but to me his avoidance of a direct narrative of his experiences was a huge missed opportunity. Could he have just told his story, and still given us the lesson he wanted to give? Or did he need to push the stories into the background as mere illustrations in order to reach his true audience of psychologists? Or was the choice of delivery less conscious, and more of a result of who he was and how he approached life? Perhaps dinner at the Frankl home included discussions of not how the vegetables were delicious, but how one farmer's meaning in life was validated (actualized?) by a perfect harvest, and the meal before them was just an anecdotal example of his mastery. (See what this book has done to me?)

So for the rambling delivery, lack of accessibility, and unclear intent, I can only give this one 2 stars. At the same time, I have every respect for Frankl, for what he went through, for his strength in returning to a "normal" life, and for what he contributed to his field. I gained a lot from reading this book, whether or not I was qualified to pick it up. I am not grading the man, or his contribution, just sharing my feelings about the experience I had between the covers of his book. It could have been better.