New Title Tuesday · non fiction · Reader's Advisory

The Power of Meaning – Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

Initially, I chose a different selection, but after this eventful weekend, I recommend The Power of Meaning – Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith for New Title Tuesday.  It is is an excellent option for anyone looking to discover purpose and meaning in day-to-day life.

the-power-of-meaningPublisher’s Summary:  There is a myth in our culture that the search for meaning is some esoteric pursuit–that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to figure out life’s great secret. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us–right here, right now. Drawing on the latest research in positive psychology; on insights from George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, the Buddha, and other great minds; and on interviews with seekers of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith lays out the four pillars upon which meaning rests….Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling, Transcendence. To bring those concepts to life, Smith visits a tight-knit fishing village on the Chesapeake Bay, stargazes in West Texas, attends a dinner where young people gather to share their experiences of untimely loss, and more. And she explores how we might begin to build a culture of meaning in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities.

Esfahani whose writing on psychology and culture has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times  and other publications, has a notable career in her career in applied positive psychology. She proposes that even though we Americans are committed to the pursuit of happiness, we are not actually very happy.  What we need, she states, is meaning.

It is the same meaning is found in unpacking the many layered books such as The Little Prince and works by  Camus and Tolstoy.  It is up to the individual to choose what is meaningful in spite of the absurdity of what we see in the world.

As explained in the Publishers Weekly  review, “Paradoxically, pursuing happiness for its own sake often leads to unhappiness, whereas studies show that meaningful endeavors instill a deeper sense of well-being. Smith shares evocative stories of individuals who chose to focus on meaning, including famous authors such as Leo Tolstoy and Albert Camus; a zookeeper who spends much of her time with giraffes, kangaroos, and wallabies; and members of the Dinner Party, a national support group for young adults who have lost loved ones. Additionally, she explores the concept of growth through adversity, asking why some people grow after trauma while others do not. She also examines the obstacles that stand in the way of meaning, such as the fast pace of modern life. This survey concludes with the moving story of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist who survived imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camp where most of his family died and went on to write Man’s Search for Meaning. Smith persuasively reshapes the reader’s understanding of what constitutes a well-lived life.

Although happiness may be an abstract or unlikely expectation, belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence are worthy aspirations.

I recommend The Power of Meaning as a resource for anyone seeking personal growth.

Happy Reading, Susan C.

 

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