Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A short yet insightful account of a psychiatrist’s observations inside the Auschwitz concentration camp and Frankl’s subsequent views on logotherapy.
– A must-read for anyone interested in how the victims of Nazi concentration camps coped both during and after their ordeal
– The second part of the book on logotherapy is insightful and applies what Frankl observed in concentration camps to everyday mental health
– It’s hard not to be in awe of Dr Frankl’s intelligence, knowledge and his work, especially when you consider the trauma he endured during WWI
– The descriptions of the conditions in the concentration camps are written for the most part in a very detached and quite report-like way. This isn’t in any way a problem but it might not suit a reader looking for a more personal account.
– The section on logotherapy has a lot of technical language and references to field of psychotherapy that makes it hard to navigate as a layman.
Dr Frankl’s account of the living conditions within Nazi concentration camps is suitably harrowing and insightful. It was immensely refreshing to see a focus on the psychology of the victims and the neglected focus on the immediate aftermath of being liberated from the camps.
This book is a great companion to read alongside Saul Friedlander’s history of Nazi Germany and the Jews as it personalises the victims giving greater perspective on Friedlander’s celebrated accounts. As a history student, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in genocide history as the mindset of the victims relates to a few other first-hand accounts about genocide I’ve read and certainly gives you a greater understanding of how people manage to mentally cope with some of the worst of traumas.
On the same note, this book is an immensely powerful read for anyone undergoing any sort of mental health problem as it underlines an increasingly common cause of disorders. The type of thinking that encourages a person suffering in an infamously horrific concentration camp to find some sort of meaning out of their experience (and by extension, their life) is one all of us could do with learning from or at very about.
If you see a copy of this, make sure you don’t let it slip you by. You might need to do a bit of digging around the internet to get to grips with the aection of the book on logotherapy but it is worth the effort.
The short length of this book makes it a brief yet powerful read that will stick with you for some time.
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The Illustrated History Of The Nazis The Nightmare Rise And Fall Of Adolf Hitler by Paul Roland
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
It’s difficult to know quite where to start with reviewing this book. It’s like going up to a someone who has lived their life swamped with WWII propaganda and asking them to tell you everything they’ve seen graffittied on the back of a toilet door about why Hitler was bad. I’ll give you an example here, at one point early on in the book the author delves into his own theory that Hitler was evil because he was emasculated by having one testicle. Given that a great amount of debate has been had over the controversy of Hitler’s genitalia, it seems far-fetched for the author to state this as fact and, even more ridiculous, to say that the Holocaust was solely caused by Hitler’s psychological reaction to his rumoured missing testicle. This was one of many problems I found with the author’s rants but it was one of the most notable due to the lengths the author went to try and back-up his theory.
Overall, this book is a pretty useless buy unless you want to look at the photographs (which, I’ll grudgingly admit, it does carry a half decent collection but there’s little there that you won’t be able to find on the internet). It’s the mental equivalent of asking a pub full of drunks at closing time that you’ll buy them a round if they tell you everything they know about Hitler and the Nazis. The whole thing is dramatized and fraught with inaccuracies (for instance, the author has also apparently figured out the mystery of who started the Reichstag fire, something again, that is often debated on by historians).
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Up West: Voices from the Streets of Post-War London by Pip Granger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book merely out of curiosity after the words ‘war’ and ‘London’ in the title awakened my sleepy history nerd self. This is an easygoing read that’s ideal to keep on your coffee table and skim over a anecdote or two every now and then but can’t be taken seriously in large doses. While it’s cheery enough, the book relies solely on anecdotes from a range of people we never hear anything else about and they’re largely remembering their childhoods which makes for quite patchy stories.
I imagine this would make a decent little book if you have a particular fondness for Soho and Convent Garden but it still wouldn’t be a great book due to how repetitive it is and how its coverage is all over the place. It would’ve been better if it had an interview-style write up from the contributors along with mini-profiles because the attempt to group the book into themes meant stretching the anecdotes into themes they didn’t quite fit naturally in. It also meant that it became hard to match the anecdotes up to any particular person and mixing them up all the time meant I had to backtrack a few times to figure out if their stories had contradicted or who they vaguely were from previous anecdotes.
It’s a shame this book wasn’t a touch shorter so it could focus on the interesting anecdotes and leave some of the more uneventful ones aside. That, and a change in its format, would make it so much more of a fun read which I think would be more of a credit to the amount of effort this author has clearly put into trying to keep it as upbeat and enjoyable as possible.
The best thing about this book is what kept me stuck to it as I read more about what people’s lives where like during that time – it is charmingly honest. The love spoken from these pages comes across in waves and makes you really admire how much love these people have for their home. This book is advertised as being for people who want to reminisce about post-war London but I’d recommend it as chicken soup for homesickness and as a side to childhood memories.
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