The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 - Literary Criticism - 248 pages
A NYTimes.com Editor's Choice A Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Finalist “A jaunty, insightful new book . . . [that] draws from disparate corners of history and science to celebrate our compulsion to storify everything around us.”
New York Times

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 life's complex social problems—just 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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dmturner - LibraryThing

A very readable gloss on the human need for story. I particularly liked the chapter about dreams. The author makes some nice points, but I disagree with the idea that fiction serves primarily a moral purpose. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Cheryl.Russell - LibraryThing

I'm having trouble deciding what this book is actually about. It covers a lot of ground, and I think that is one of the problems I'm having with it. Even though the book is listed at 248 pages, only ... Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Jonathan Gottschall teaches English at Washington & Jefferson College and is one of the leading figures in the movement toward a more scientific humanities. The author or editor of five scholarly books, Gottschall's work has been prominently featured in the New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, among others. Steven Pinker has called him a brilliant young scholar" whose writing is "unfailingly clear, witty, and exciting.

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