Reading List (Update):  on Life’s Meaning

By | January 16, 2020

[January 16, 2020]  A number of my blog’s readers have graciously recommended several beautiful books for highlighting.  Thank you, and please continue to email or post those recommendations in the comments section.  I’ll do my best to select some of the more informative works.  There are some of those recommended that are popular, usually from high-level politicians or Hollywood types.  It is unlikely I will read them.  While often quick to reach the height of the charts in the NYT or other similar publications or are selected for review, I find those books to be intellectually unchallenging.  I have a surprise today for a book that makes me think.  It also takes me on an emotional journey, one that I do not fully understand but enjoyed making nonetheless.  The book is by Viktor Frankl.  How I missed his book by not writing a review is still a mystery to me.  Here it is, please purchase the book and read it carefully.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, 2006

Professor Jordan Peterson, whom I’ve pointed out on several occasions in my leadership blog, speaks about the works of Viktor Frankl.  Frankl’s writings have had an impact on American psychology and, yes, on me also.  That is why I chose this particular book.  Thanks to Mr. TJ Asper, one of my readers, who suggested the book.  The book begins with some background.  Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished.  Frankl relates the severe conditions in the concentration camp. Those without any purpose died.  Those that had developed purpose and meaning to the harsh conditions got out of bed every morning to face another unbearable day.

The book has three parts; the first one describes the way the Jews prisoners were treated in the Nazi Concentration Camps and how their lifestyle was.  In the second part, the author described the basics of Logotherapy, a way of treatment of the Psychotherapeutic Patients.  And finally, in the third part, he explains what he means by Man’s Search for Meaning.  Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.  His theory holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we find meaningful.  Frankl has hit upon something of high value here; ‘pleasure’ is not what we should strive to achieve but the adoption of responsibility to ultimately find meaning.

A classic. This book is highly recommended.

To go to the full Professional Reading list, click on this direct link:

Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog.  His website, which I recommend, can be found here:

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Reading List (Update):  on Life’s Meaning

  1. Gil Johnson

    One of the greatest books of the 20th century but overlooked.

  2. Xerxes I

    Having justified the idea of finding meaning in life, this book extends itself to coherently explain where and how one can find their purpose in life—reading this section of the book will most certainly spark a solution to every despaired reader.

    1. Jane Fillmore

      He also explains how “suffering is not necessary to find meaning.” If suffering can be avoided, meaningfulness would lie in attacking the cause of suffering; but if it can’t, meaningfulness would lie in changing the way we look at the situation and unlock the actual meaning lying “dormant” in that suffering!

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Recent researches have also well supported Frankl’s ideas. Thagard (2012) in The Brain and The Meaning of Life, argues how brain science matters for fundamental issues about meaning in life. Positive correlations have been found between search for meaning with other variables such as positive affect (King et al., 2006), well-being (Mascaro and Rosen, 2005), and self-evaluation (To et al., 2014). Steger et al. (2008) found that people lacked the search for meaning in life through a life-span perspective (Steger et al., 2007).

  3. Scotty Bush

    I heard of this book a few decades ago and I think it was originally published in 1984. Frankl, as I also understand it, was a truly great man that the world was lucky to have writing and thinking about humanness.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      At the end of section one of Frankl’s book, an active reader realizes the true meaning of life, of love (which is fairly depersonalized in the recent decades) and also how thankless we have become toward the little mercies in life.

  4. Nick Lighthouse

    Excellent review of an important but overlooked book. Maybe you could create a separate section on your book reviews.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Good idea. That way, we could easily go back and read his previous reviews easily instead of searching for them.

  5. Max Foster

    The beginning of the book on Frankl’s experiences in Nazi Concentration camps is eyeopening. It gives us a perspective into the soul of evil and what it can do when ordinary people fall into its tight grasp. The fact that so many ordinary Germans were an integral part of it show how close evil is to the service of our being.

    1. Eric Coda

      Yes, and Prof Jordan Peterson, who Gen. Satterfield has shown us here in his website, speaks to this very point. If you have time, go to YouTube and search on Peterson and Frankl. You can see where Peterson was influence heavily by Frankl and the ideas of the ‘logos.’ Great book, no doubt. I haven’t read it. Looks intense.

      1. Karl J.

        Excellent comment. Dr. Jordan Peterson is a man we should also study and learn from given his focus on how to live well.

    2. Harry Donner

      Thank you Max for pointing out that ordinary people fell victim to the Nazi ideology. Too many folks today are falling victim to a similar ideology in the west known as Progressivism or Socialism (depending upon your stance). These are the same and will have similar evil outcomes.

  6. Greg Heyman

    Very good review of this seminal book. I’ve already ordered my copy and plan on reading it – slowly – when it arrives. Thanks for the review. It is important that we all understand the lessons from concentration camps and from gulags. Man’s inhumanity to man.

Comments are closed.