Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

We’ve all heard various accounts of how life was like in the Nazi concentration camps; how millions perished in the gas chambers and how fear pulsed through all of the prisoners’ veins day and night. However, rarely do we hear about how everyday life was like for a prisoner in a concentration camp. Sometimes, it’s the smaller things, the things that seem to be less significant, that are really the most horrible. I’m not at all implying that the gas chambers weren’t horrible, they were unequivocally inhumane, but some of the things that Viktor Frankl describes in this book seem just as bad, and, in some cases, even worse. 

Viktor Frankl, a Viennese man, was taken captive initially to a concentration camp in Auschwitz. As a liberated victim, and through his knowledge and understanding of human psychiatry, he has been able to give a very accurate and detailed account of his time and experiences as a prisoner. 

He describes three stages of a prisoners’ mental state: shock, apathy, and coping with depersonalization after liberation (if they were lucky). As he explains each stage in detail, he gives anecdotes, which really helped me to gain a clear understanding of the psychiatry behind it all. 

What really struck me by surprise as I was reading this book was how utterly unjust it was for those who were held captive in the concentration camps. Of course, I knew prior to reading this that the prisoners were treated unfairly, but I suppose I never fully comprehended the extent to which it went. 

At the beginning of the book, Frankl recounts the first time he’d entered the camp. He recalls an SS guard standing by the gate who examined each prisoner carefully, deciding whether they’d be capable of the strenuous labor they’d be subject to if they were admitted to the camp. Anyone who appeared weak in any way was immediately sent to the gas chambers. This need to be “fit” plagued the prisoners throughout their time at camp as, at any time, if someone were to sustain an injury or grow ill, they’d be deemed “incapable” and were promptly sent to the chambers. This was but the first of many horrors that Frankl would encounter at the camp. 

Additionally, Frankl discusses logatherapy, a form of psychiatry, which can loosely be defined as “finding a will to meaning”. He describes it in the context of a concentration camp: along with a lot of luck, the one thing that kept Frankl alive at Auschwitz was his life’s work pertaining to psychiatry. 

I thought that this book was a very fascinating read. I definitely learned a lot more about how life was like in concentration camps, and the section on logatherapy also intrigued me–some of the concepts he discussed really made me think hard. This is a very powerful and inspiring book–Viktor Frankl is an extremely strong and willful individual. 

-Elina T. 

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

When I think of poverty, I think of homelessness, starvation, sadness and hopelessness. I would never have thought that it could be adventurous and fun. But Jeannette Walls does not hold back and tells everything about poverty you never would have known.

In The Glass Castle, Walls tells the true story of her childhood. She grows up in the roughest parts of poverty with her two sisters, brother and parents. They constantly move all over the country. Which the kids think are adventures, but really, the parents are running from bills and responsibilities.

At first I was very skeptical of this book. My mom recommended it to me and sometimes when parents say you should read a book it can be super slow and super educational. I was worried the writing would make this interesting plot turn boring. But luckily, Walls is an amazing writer. She makes you feel like you are right there with them every time they leave in the middle of the night.

Normally when I love a book I read it as quickly as possible, but for this one I didn’t. I felt the need to soak in every situation. Sometimes, I had to put the book down and walk away before I began to read again because it got so intense. I highly recommend this book for anyone who understands funky families (which we all do) and it is definitely one of my favorites. And I hope the movie is just as good!

-Sophie W.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).

Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.

But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.

This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.

I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!

– Leila S., 11th grade

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Farewell to Manzanar is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s personal, non-fiction account of life inside the Japanese internment camps that the US government put in place during World War ΙΙ. Although many Americans acknowledge the injustice that was done to Japanese Americans during the period that they were relocated to camps along the western interior of the US, less Americans understand the full truth of what life was like inside these war relocation camps. In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki tells the story of her family’s time in Manzanar, their assigned camp, as well as detailing the repercussions that this experience had on her family.

One of the most interesting parts about Wakatsuki’s story is that she puts a great deal of focus on her life pre and post war. She does not talk only about her family’s incarceration, but also of their home before the turmoil of the war. She laces the chapters with memories from before her time in Manzanar. Wakatsuki also taps into the memories of her family in chapters where she is not the narrator. This story is not simply one about war; it also talks about a young girl growing up and discovering her interests in a place far from her home.

-Mirabella S.

 

Farewell to Manzanar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

 

The Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Winner of the 2015 National Book Award Longlist, for Young People’s Literature, M.T. Anderson has created a story worth telling.  It is the unfortunate, yet true, biography of Dmitri Shostakovich.  

Growing up in a harsh life as a result of Communist Russian leaders, Shostakovich soon discovered his interest for music.  While his life in the world of the arts was beginning, however, so was the air of terror from Adolf Hitler.  Anderson takes the reader through the cold winters of Leningrad, the warm home of Shostakovich, and of course, the sweet melodies of Dmitri Shostakovich.

I really enjoyed Anderson’s writing style throughout the course of this book.  He told the story of Shostakovich truthfully and full-heartedly.  Anderson must also be a musician himself, as his insight and musical knowledge is vast. I picked up this book, as it was marked new in the Young Adult section, and I was intrigued.  The most interesting topics in nonfiction to me are WWII and music.  I had heard of Shostakovich before reading the biography, but never realized the story behind his masterpiece, Symphony No. 7.  

Anderson brought the reader back in time, into the early 1900s.  Shostakovich, born in 1906, grew up among a family of three children in St. Petersburg, Russia.  As he transitioned from a young scholar enrolled in a music school into a renowned composer, Shostakovich started a family of his own.  However, around him, the people of Leningrad were starving, caused by an unfortunate siege by the Germans.  Their food supply had been bombed.  Their leader had fled.  Citizens were trying to escape the city as fast as possible.  But not Shostakovich.  His pride and honor for the beloved city kept him there, even through the starvation.  Many high-ranking officials tried their hardest to relieve the Shostakovich’s, by bringing them to Moscow.  But, Dmitri insisted on staying in Leningrad to finish his symphony.

 
Later revealed at its debut in Leningrad, Shostakovich had written his masterpiece for the city of his home, the city of the dead.  For young musicians who may want to learn more about some of the greatest composers of the last few centuries, please check this out.  While the book is lengthy, I would recommend it, as it is a 10/10.

Maya S.

The Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

narrativeonthelifeoffrederikdouglassFrederick Douglass was an author and speaker in the 1800s, a human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement who had been a former slave.

In his slave narrative, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass recounts his life in slavery, and how he went from a plantation to living in a city, and vice versa. The examples he makes to illustrate points are effective, in that they show the reader different aspects of the slave system. Douglass details the evils of slavery, pointing out many ways that slave owners subjugate their slaves, both physically (though this was alluded to concerning Douglass himself, there are other graphic examples that highlight the slaveholders’ brutality), and mentally. However, Douglass does make distinctions between different slave-owners, and shows the reader (at the time the audience were people in the North) that, since all slave-owners were not the same person, that they had different personalities and dealt with their slaves in different ways. Though opportunities in Birmingham allowed him to first see the road to freedom, Douglass did not, as he grew older, keep the knowledge to himself, and throughout the narrative establishes that he wants all slaves to lead a free life.

I liked reading this narrative by a historically large figure for a few reasons. For one , it didn’t only bring to light the evils of slavery – evils that most people know the general gist of, like whipping, physical and mental abuse, etc., but also gave specific examples of things that an actual slave experienced and was not simply derived from historical documents written by white plantation owners or visiting people. On top of that, I thought that this narrative was well-written despite its shortness.

-Aliya A.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Launch by Jeff Walker

launch_jeffwalkerWhen an Internet millionaire promises you the “secret formula to sell almost anything online, build a business you love, and live the life of your dreams,” how do you approach it?

With a very skeptical mind.

However, when I began reading Jeff Walker’s book Launch, I pushed away my doubts to try and learn a thing or two about online businesses.

To begin, Jeff Walker was a stay-at-home dad who created a successful online business using a technique he calls the Product Launch Formula. After discovering that his method was relatively unused by the rest of the business world, he began releasing training courses and books on how to emulate his success. According to Walker, the Product Launch Formula has been used by his students in a variety of different markets, from stock trading to dog agility training.

Essentially, the Product Launch Formula involves building an email list of people interested in your product, creating a close relationship with those people, and then building up anticipation to your product launch. Although I can’t personally testify to the formula, I think the book itself is very well written. Jeff Walker markets himself as someone who understands and relates to struggling entrepreneur, and not just some marketing god bestowing his eternal wisdom upon us peasants. When explaining any concept, Walker always provides at least one real-world example he’s encountered, often his peers’ success stories. Right in the beginning, he talks about a man who used PLF to sell over 600 copies of a board game using his technique.

The one change this book needs is more specifics to each step. Sometimes the success stories presented became repetitive. I would often finish the page knowing that the PLF model can work, but without knowledge of how to start. I’m sure he offers meticulous details in his online courses, but I won’t be paying thousands of dollars for those anytime soon.

For any budding entrepreneur out there, this book is a glimpse into one man’s road in online businesses. Even if Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula isn’t for your business, it might help you build your business knowledge for the future.

-Phillip X.