cover image The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters

Emily Esfahani Smith. Crown, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-5534-1999-3

Journalist Smith, who has an M.A. in applied positive psychology, issues an enlightening guide to discovering meaning in one’s life. She states that despite a culturally ingrained appreciation for the pursuit of happiness, Americans report being more miserable than ever. 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. Agent: Bridget Matzi, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Jan.)