For those curious about the man behind the famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, this solid, serious biography chronicles an inspiring life. Austrian Jew, Viktor Frankl, was a practicing psychiatrist and creator of logotherapy. His new treatment differed from Sigmund Freud’s and Alfred Adler’s, giants who began as his mentors and ended as his angry competitors. Frankl spent two and a half years in four concentration camps during the Holocaust. He believed people could exist on their inner strength. Using his previous experience doctoring suicide patients, he helped many fellow inmates survive. Upon liberation, he wrote one of the first camp exposés, Man’s Search for Meaning, one of the ten most influential books in America, according to the Library of Congress. More than a personal story, Frankl analyzed the situation as a psychiatrist connecting it to his logotherapy, which finds meaning in action, creation, and suffering. Frankl, a prankster as a child, grew into a man with a flair for risk; his favorite activities included brain surgery, mountain climbing and casino gambling. The volume chronologically unfolds his life, often making parallels with Adolf Hitler who once lived near the Frankl home in Vienna. Marvelous family portraits and wonderful old postcards of Vienna set the scene and recapture the era. Warm moments discuss Frankl’s family life, his two marriages and one daughter. If only title and chapter fonts had followed suit; they are frenetic, slanted and tacky. These are small quibbles in a well written book that, though text bookish, overflows with clearly explained information about heavy topics: competing psychiatric theories, discipline of logotherapy, Nazi rise to power and targeted destruction of Jews. For ages 12 and up.
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.