• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 10, 2012)
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.
Jonathan Gottschall teaches English at Washington and Jefferson College and is the author or editor of five scholarly books. His work has been 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.”
Visit Jonathan at his website.
Jonathan’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, May 15th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Wednesday, May 16th: The Book Garden
Thursday, May 17th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, May 22nd: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, May 23rd: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, May 24th: The Written World
Monday, May 28th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, May 30th: Built by Story
Tuesday, June 5th: cakes, tea and dreams
Thursday, June 7th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Saturday, Jun 9th: A Life Sustained