- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (April 23, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0544002342
- ISBN-13: 978-0544002340
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 197 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human 1st Edition
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"[An] insightful yet breezily accessible exploration of the power of storytelling and its ability to shape our lives...[that is] packed with anecdotes and entertaining examples from pop culture." The Boston Globe
"The Storytelling Animal is informative, but also a lot of fun.... Anyone who has wondered why stories affect us the way they do will find a new appreciation of our collective desire to be spellbound in this fascinating book." BookPage
"Stories are the things that make us human, and this book's absorbing, accessible blend of science and story shows us exactly why." Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"This is a work of popular philosophy and social theory written by an obviously brilliant undergraduate teacher. The gift for the example is everywhere. A punchy line appears on almost every page." The San Francisco Chronicle
From the Back Cover
Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. Now Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate lifes complex social problemsjust as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal and explains how stories can change the world for the better. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.
This is a quite wonderful book. It grips the reader with both stories and stories about the telling of stories, then pulls it all together to explain why storytelling is a fundamental human instinct.Edward O. Wilson
Charms with anecdotes and examples . . . we have not left nor should we ever leave Neverland.Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Beyond all that heady stuff, Gottschall's work is meticulously researched, yet he delivers it with a breezy, anecdote-riddled style. Love it. GREAT book!
The first few chapters look at children's play, fiction, and dreams, and conclude that an essential function of story is to prepare us for life's inevitable difficulties by running us through thousands upon thousands of trouble-based scenarios.
The next few chapters reveal story's centrality in daily life as meta-social narrative; as personal identity narrative; and, as moral compass; and, Gottschall demonstrates how fictions worm deep inside our minds, parasite-like, and exert a vast influence on our daily behavior. Hitler, for example, is shown to have been profoundly guided by Wagner's opera "Rienzi."
The book concludes by considering story's future, showing how fiction is encroaching more and more upon the territory of reality, and how we may soon be saturated in virtual worlds of illusion (more than we already are, if this is possible).
I recommend the book wholeheartedly to anyone interested in story; however, it left me wanting depth and comprehensiveness. It feels more like a series of charming magazine articles than a coherent work attempting to deeply master and illuminate its subject.
The book nicely conforms to the mold of popular contemporary non-fiction: fast-paced and peppered with anecdotes and soft social science research; provocative, but it doesn't make you think too hard (this can be a good thing, depending on what you're looking for).
There was room here, with a little more patience and a little less attention to commercialism, for a stellar, substantial book. The Storytelling Animal fails to provide definitive statements or true revelations, but it never fails to provoke and entertain.
I started with the audio book then also bought the ebook so I could go through it again to retain the insights. I will be coming back to reference it, and have already done so.
That said, I am only giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because wanted to love the actual reading of it more than I did. I found it took me longer to get through than some nonfiction books that I cannot put down. It is hard to say why exactly, but one reason I think might have to do with the way Gottschall uses story techniques to lead the reader down a path and then takes an unexpected turn. In doing so, he is effective at making a point. Still, as a reader, we trust the author and if he takes us somewhere we did not want to go or if we feel tricked, some of the love is lost. In fairness, the fact that story can so easily manipulate people is one of the major themes of the book, and he acknowledges and apologizes for doing it. I hesitate to be critical in any way because it was thoroughly researched, solidly written and fascinating.
Given his presuppositions about human nature and human origins, it’s not surprising when he argues that the wonderful inner responses we have to stories are strictly biological and that, ultimately, we Story because it helped our ancient ancestors survive. While I don’t disagree with his arguments about the utility of stories (e.g., that stories help us “practice life” in low-risk ways), my belief that we Story first and foremost because we are made in the image of the ultimately Storyteller puts me at odds with Gottschall’s thesis. Still, I enjoyed this book; I laughed, underlined, sighed—even cried—my way through. Gottschall is a very winsome writer.
The best thing about this book: it’s great for literature teachers. There’s a lot of golden discussion material here, as well as many share-worthy passages, both from Gottschall himself and others whom he quotes. A quick, fun and stimulating read for anyone who has ever wondered, “Why do I crave stories?”
I devoured this book and loved every second of it. Dude's super insightful, well-researched, and appropriately and enjoyably speculative. He's got a great sense of humor and a knack for getting his message across.