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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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. Its 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: Hitlers 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.

Review:

“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

Review:

“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

Review:

“Charms with anecdotes and examples...we have not left nor should we ever leave Neverland.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"A lively pop-science overview of the reasons why we tell stories and why storytelling will endure...[Gottschall's] snapshots of the world's of psychology, sleep research and virtual reality are larded with sharp anecdotes and jargon-free summaries of current research....Gottschall brings a light tough to knotty psychological matters, and hes a fine storyteller himself." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

A provocative young scholar gives us the first book on the new science of storytelling: the latest thinking on why we tell stories, what stories reveal about human nature, what makes a story transporting, which plots and themes are universal, and what it means to have a storytelling brain — what are the implications for how we process information and think about the world?

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

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."

Table of Contents

Preface xi

The Witchery of Story 1

The Riddle of Fiction 21

Hell Is Story-Friendly 45

Night Story 68

The Mind Is a Storyteller 87

The Moral of the Story 117

Ink People Change the World 139

Life Stories 156

The Future of Story 177

Notes 201

Acknowledgments 213

Bibliography 215

Credits 231

Index 233

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

peter in port, October 26, 2013 (view all comments by peter in port)
As a habit, I read many more non-fiction books than fiction. My reasoning is that there is so much that is fascinating in the world, in science, history, biography and politics that reading about imaginary lives is a waste of time. Jonathan Gottschall, a professor of English at a liberal arts college, has convinced me that my reasoning is wrong. We are wired to need and love storytelling, even though it may not seem very useful. Gottschall explores how small children love fairytales, even though they are, if taken at face value absolutely terrifying. He examines the roots of religion as being storytelling. And, he explains how stories are often the best way to express moral values. Gottschall will change my reading habits. This is a great find.
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412Scott, September 21, 2013 (view all comments by 412Scott)
A testimony to the power of storytelling beyond one particular genre, this book provides a fascinating guide through the immense shift readers are experiencing at the beginning of the 21st century. Gottschall's mix of anecdotes, research and Q-magazine style dry humor for the photo captions lend a welcome sense of humor into what easily could have become a meta-cognitive text with only a limited intellectual audience. I recommend this book to anyone interested in stories, regardless of how much they like to read them compared to watch them or see them live.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780544002340
Author:
Gottschall, Jonathan
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Subject:
Evolution
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20130431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Science
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.95 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Mariner Books - English 9780544002340 Reviews:
"Review" by , “A jaunty, insightful new book...[that] draws from disparate corners of history and science to celebrate our compulsion to storify everything around us.”
"Review" by , “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.”
"Review" by , “Charms with anecdotes and examples...we have not left nor should we ever leave Neverland.”
"Review" by , "A lively pop-science overview of the reasons why we tell stories and why storytelling will endure...[Gottschall's] snapshots of the world's of psychology, sleep research and virtual reality are larded with sharp anecdotes and jargon-free summaries of current research....Gottschall brings a light tough to knotty psychological matters, and hes a fine storyteller himself."
"Synopsis" by , A provocative young scholar gives us the first book on the new science of storytelling: the latest thinking on why we tell stories, what stories reveal about human nature, what makes a story transporting, which plots and themes are universal, and what it means to have a storytelling brain — what are the implications for how we process information and think about the world?
"Synopsis" by , 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.
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