The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apr 10, 2012 - Science - 272 pages
8 Reviews

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. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?

In this delightful and original book, 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. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?

Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.

But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

 

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Review: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

User Review  - Hannah Harkey - Goodreads

A very well written and well researched argument that explains the human need for story. A bit biased in terms of what makes good modern story but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody who is fascinated by reading. Read full review

Review: The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

User Review  - Kyle - Goodreads

Good to go back to the source for some of the most entertaining and mind-bending podcasts I've heard over the past few months, and Gottschall takes the storytelling impulse back even further, to a ... Read full review

Contents

1 The Witchery of Story
1
2 The Riddle of Fiction
21
3 Hell Is StoryFriendly
45
4 Night Story
68
5 The Mind Is a Storyteller
87
6 The Moral of the Story
117
7 Ink People Change the World
139
8 Life Stories
156
9 The Future of Story
177
Back Matter
201
Back Flap
249
Back Cover
250
Spine
251
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

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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