I have often heard it suggested that this book should be reread every decade of one’s life. At each stage of life, the book can bring new insights. Many are familiar with the general content of this book, however; no description can adequately deal with the power of the story. The first portion of this book, which entails over half the book, is Frankl’s story of his experience in the concentration camps during World War II. This is both gripping and chilling. I will make no attempts to give an overview of the story because it is a story that each person must read for themselves.
Frankl was a psychiatrist trained in psychoanalytic theory prior to the concentration camps. He began his break from psychoanalysis prior to his experiences in the camp, but these experiences further pushed Frankl toward an existential approach. Frankl in a very compassionate way wondered why some people were able to survive the brutality and horror of concentration camps while others died or killed themselves. His answer, ultimately, was that some people were able to find a greater meaning. While all the physical and political freedoms may be taken away from an individual, no one can take away the freedom to choose the way in which a person will face their life.
In the last two sections of the book, Frankl outlines a brief overview of logotherapy — Frankl approach to therapy. Logotherapy literally means meaning therapy. Meaning is the central tenet of his approach. While this overview does provide a description of the major points of logotherapy, it is not his best writing on his therapy approach. In general, Frankl has never produced an overly organized view of his theory. Most of his books are collections of essays which often don’t provide the best continuity from one essay to the next. The best overview of logotherapy is his book Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning.
Overall, this is one of the most powerful existential books ever written. It is a good read for therapists and those interested in existential theory alike. There are few people for whom this book wouldn’t be an appropriate read.
Added 2004; Never been updated.