Bhargavi found positivity in a book that emerged from the fire of the Holocaust. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Emile Frankl, a leading psychologist of the time, is a book based on real experiences that he witnessed when he was taken prisoner. Although the first part of the book is harrowing as it deals with the harsh realities of the Nazi regime, the rest of this book breathes with a fiery optimism and gives great hope and great courage. Originally written in German, the English version is a small volume that makes for quick reading.

Bhargavi was impressed by these words: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” The book confirms that it is the search for meaning rather than meaning itself that makes even brutality bearable. Listed among the top ten influential books in the world, this one is a must-read.

Abhaya mentioned another book filled with hope but that carries a redeeming sadness — The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, again a small book with a beautiful message encapsulating lost childhood. One of the most translated books from French, the story is about a pilot whose plane has crashed in the Sahara desert where he meets the little prince.

Talking about sad books led to the inevitable discussion of death, its inevitability, and how some cultures let go of their elderly to die as compared to the fight with death today that involves methods like cryogenics to preserve the body until a cure is found. On the downside, conquering death can only be a strain on our own resources and that led to a discussion of the science fiction scenario laid out by John Wyndham in a book called Trouble with Lichen, where extended mortality is shown to lead to complete upheaval, causing fundamental changes in the way that society is organized.

More books coming up.