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review 2017-11-14 17:53
Man's Search for Meaning / Viktor E. Frankl
Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl,Harold S. Kushner

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. 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. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

 

If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.

This seemed like a fitting book to read on the Remembrance Day weekend, especially since I recently read Anne Frank’s Diaries. It is a harrowing reading experience, but also strangely comforting. Frankl details his concentration camp history in order to show us the how and why of survival.

I think it was Frankel’s even-handedness that impressed me the most. He sees evil when it presents itself, in the form of sadistic guards and other prisoners who lord it over their peers, but he also acknowledges the presence of good people in difficult situations—the server in the food line who always scoops from the bottom of the soup pot, giving everyone a chance at one of those longed-for peas, the guard who nudges the weaker prisoner towards lighter duties, the fellow marcher who offers a hand.

Survival is often a matter of luck—choosing the right work assignment or choosing a favourable move to another camp, but each person was also responsible for their own luck by paying attention and helping others when they were able or stroking the ego of a guard when the chance arose. Frankl points out that most of those who survived had a bigger goal—a loved one to be reunited with or a project to be finished. He credits his half-finished book with getting him through a bout of typhus during his imprisonment.

A tale of grim survival, leading to a sympathetic psychiatric theory. Have you identified your purpose?

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review 2017-08-07 21:58
The Meaning of Night - Michael Cox

Well, this was a great deal of fun! A BIG read. Set in mid-Victorian England it is a murder mystery, a character study, with the era being one of the characters, and a fascinating one as well. The research is impeccable, and if the pacing is a tad slow in parts I didn't mind a bit since I was enjoying the vision so much. The ending might not be entirely satisfying, but still... a fun read. 

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review 2017-07-22 01:09
Review of The Meaning of Michelle by Veronica Chambers
The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own - Veronica Chambers

This was a bit disappointing to be honest.  Maybe I was not truly aware of what I would be reading, but most of the essays in this book were written by authors who had either never met Michelle Obama, or had simply been introduced to her.  While the themes of the essay were interesting and socially important in our time, none of them were very deep and many had very little if anything to do with Mrs. Obama.  I am a big fan of the Obamas, and I was hoping for more insight into their lives.

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text 2017-07-16 13:03
Nattiness on page 259
Don't Cry Now - Joy Fielding

Natty....

 

Am I the only one who didn't know this word? I've never heard it before. I thought it rhymes with ratty so it must be bad but that didn't make sense with the context.  Natty makes me think of how my hair looks when I wake up in the morning after I've tossed and turned all night.

 

I asked my son when he passed through and he didn't know either. He looked it up.

 

adjective
informal
adjective: natty; comparative adjective: nattier; superlative adjective: nattiest
  1. (especially of a person or an article of clothing) smart and fashionable.
    "a natty blue blazer and designer jeans"
    synonyms: smartstylishfashionabledapperdebonairdashing, spruced up, well dressedchiceleganttrimMore
     
    antonyms: scruffy

     

    P.s. I have to finish this book quickly.  The third book in the Shetland Island series by Ann Cleeves in coming soon to a mailbox near me. Once it gets here I won't be able to stick to this one.  

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review 2017-03-22 14:25
An inspiring book that will make you reconsider what life is about
The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters - Emily Esfahani Smith

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily chose to read and review.

I don’t read many inspirational books so I cannot share a deep analysis of how original the book might be or where it sits in regards to the topic. The book covers a variety of subjects, and it is classed under psychology and health, philosophy and self-help, and I agree it does touch on all those.

I’m a psychiatrist and I must admit I have never studied Positive Psychology as part of my degree but this book doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of any of the disciplines to benefit from it.

The author opens the book by introducing herself, her background, and questioning the current focus on happiness. Is happiness sufficient to lead a satisfying life? She goes on to discuss many of the studies that show that having a sense of meaning can make a big difference to the outcomes of people at a time of crisis, be it a life-threatening illness or students going through exams, and grounds the readers in the subject. She uses one of the pillars she identifies as important to creating meaning, story-telling, to hook the readers into the topic of the book. If somebody came to you and asked you to give him (her) a reason not to kill him/herself, what would you say? That’s what happened to Will Durant and what set him off asking his colleagues and trying to understand what brings meaning to people’s lives. From there, and using positive psychology, Emily Esfahani Smith, defines the four pillars that bring meaning to people’s lives: belonging, purpose, story-telling and transcendence. The author illustrates each one of these topics with individual stories that help make the points more accessible. We have a young man who was only interested in money, became a drug dealer, and when he went to prison discovered his lifestyle was literally killing him. There he changed his habits and ended up not only becoming fit but also helping others to become healthier. We have a woman who loves animals and finds her purpose in looking after the animals in the zoo, ensuring their lives can be interesting there too. I learned about dream directors who help young people find purpose and meaning; I read about projects that help people in the final stages of life to find a purpose, other projects that help individuals tell their stories and record their experiences, groups that bring people who’ve lost somebody together… The author achieves this and more, all the while providing sources for her findings and reminders of how the issues discussed relate to philosophers and historical figures past and current. We might discover belonging by joining a society that enacts battles or find transcendence walking in nature or attending a special service at church. Ultimately, this is not a prescriptive book, and the process of discovery of meaning is an individual one.

I loved the stories, which go from individual experiences to projects that have grown and become important to many people, and the theoretical reflections that underpin the concepts, which are clearly explained and will also encourage readers new to the topic to explore further. The author succeeds in preserving the unique voices of the people whose experiences she shares and her own writing is seamlessly and beautifully achieved.  The book made me think and rethink life and its priorities and I suspect it will have a similar effect on many people.

A book on an important topic, written in an easily-accessible manner, illuminating and inspiring. Although I read it quickly for the review, this is a book that can be savoured and returned to as needed, and it will provide new discoveries and insights with every new reading.

A final note: Although the book appears quite long, the notes at the end occupy a 33% of the e-book (although they are easily accessible) and it does not feel like a long read.

 

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