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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human Paperback – 23 Apr 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (23 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544002342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544002340
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.9 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 107,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"A lively pop-science overview of the reasons why we tell stories and why storytelling will endure..[Gottschall's] snapshots of the worlds 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 he s a fine storyteller himself."
"Kirkus Reviews" "They say we spend multiple hours immersed in stories every day. Very few of us pause to wonder why. Gottschall lays bare this quirk of our species with deft touches, and he finds that our love of stories is its own story, and one of the grandest tales out there the story of what it means to be human."
Sam Kean, author of "The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements" "Story is not the icing, it s the cake! Gottschall eloquently tells you how come in his well researched new book."
Peter Guber, CEO, Mandalay Entertainment and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, "Tell To Win" "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, University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University ""The Storytelling Animal" is a delight to read. It's boundlessly interesting, filled with great observations and clever insights about television, books, movies, videogames, dreams, children, madness, evolution, morality, love, and more. And it's beautifully written fittingly enough, Gottschall is himself a skilled storyteller." Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale and author of "How Pleasure Works" "Like the magnificent storytellers past and present who furnish him here with examples and inspiration, Jonathan Gottschall takes a timely and fascinating but possibly forbidding subject the new brain science and what it can tell us about the human story-making impulse and makes of it an extraordinary and absorbing intellectual narrative. The scrupulous synthesis of art and science here is masterful; the real-world stakes high; the rewards for the reader numerous, exhilarating, mind-expanding." Terry Castle, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University"

"A jaunty and insightful new book...[that] celebrate[s] our compulsion to storify everything around us. "New York Times Sunday Book Review," "Editor's Choice""[An]insightful yet breezily accessibleexploration 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"isinformative, but also a lot of fun.... Anyone who has wondered why stories affect us the way they do will finda new appreciation of our collective desire to be spellbound in thisfascinatingbook." BookPage"Stories are the things that make us human, and this book'sabsorbing, accessible blend of science and storyshows us exactly why." Minneapolis Star Tribune."This is a work of popular philosophy and social theory written by anobviously brilliantundergraduate teacher. The gift for the example is everywhere. A punchy line appears on almost every page." The San Francisco Chronicle"A lively pop-science overview of the reasons why we tell stories and why storytelling will endure..[Gottschall's] snapshots of the worlds 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 he s a fine storyteller himself." "Kirkus Reviews" "They say we spend multiple hours immersed in stories every day. Very few of us pause to wonder why. Gottschall lays bare this quirk of our species with deft touches, and he finds that our love of stories is its own story, and one of the grandest tales out there the story of what it means to be human." Sam Kean, author of "The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements" "Story is not the icing, it s the cake! Gottschall eloquently tells you how come in his well researched new book." Peter Guber, CEO, Mandalay Entertainment and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, "Tell To Win" "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, University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University ""The Storytelling Animal" is a delight to read. It's boundlessly interesting, filled with great observations and clever insights about television, books, movies, videogames, dreams, children, madness, evolution, morality, love, and more. And it's beautifully written fittingly enough, Gottschall is himself a skilled storyteller." Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale and author of "How Pleasure Works" "Like the magnificent storytellers past and present who furnish him here with examples and inspiration, Jonathan Gottschall takes a timely and fascinating but possibly forbidding subject the new brain science and what it can tell us about the human story-making impulse and makes of it an extraordinary and absorbing intellectual narrative. The scrupulous synthesis of art and science here is masterful; the real-world stakes high; the rewards for the reader numerous, exhilarating, mind-expanding." Terry Castle, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University"

"A jaunty and insightful new book...[that] celebrate[s] our compulsion to storify everything around us. New York Times Sunday Book Review, Editor's Choice

"[An]insightful yet breezily accessibleexploration 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 Animalisinformative, but also a lot of fun.... Anyone who has wondered why stories affect us the way they do will finda new appreciation of our collective desire to be spellbound in thisfascinatingbook." BookPage

"Stories are the things that make us human, and this book'sabsorbing, accessible blend of science and storyshows us exactly why."
Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"This is a work of popular philosophy and social theory written by anobviously brilliantundergraduate teacher. The gift for the example is everywhere. A punchy line appears on almost every page."
The San Francisco Chronicle

"A lively pop-science overview of the reasons why we tell stories and why storytelling will endure..[Gottschall's] snapshots of the worlds 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 he s a fine storyteller himself."
Kirkus Reviews

"They say we spend multiple hours immersed in stories every day. Very few of us pause to wonder why. Gottschall lays bare this quirk of our species with deft touches, and he finds that our love of stories is its own story, and one of the grandest tales out there the story of what it means to be human."
Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

"Story is not the icing, it s the cake! Gottschall eloquently tells you how come in his well researched new book."
Peter Guber, CEO, Mandalay Entertainment and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Tell To Win

"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, University Research Professor and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University

"The Storytelling Animal is a delight to read. It's boundlessly interesting, filled with great observations and clever insights about television, books, movies, videogames, dreams, children, madness, evolution, morality, love, and more. And it's beautifully written fittingly enough, Gottschall is himself a skilled storyteller."
Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at Yale and author of How Pleasure Works

"Like the magnificent storytellers past and present who furnish him here with examples and inspiration, Jonathan Gottschall takes a timely and fascinating but possibly forbidding subject the new brain science and what it can tell us about the human story-making impulse and makes of it an extraordinary and absorbing intellectual narrative. The scrupulous synthesis of art and science here is masterful; the real-world stakes high; the rewards for the reader numerous, exhilarating, mind-expanding."
Terry Castle, Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University
"

From the Back Cover

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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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How important is the story for human beings? This simple yet deep question is a starting point for Jonathan Gottschall's 2012 book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, a well thought-out and richly documented study of the importance of stories and storytelling in our lives. Make no mistake, this book is far from being merely an account of different puzzles and questions concerning human ability to tell stories. The author draws from various disciplines like biology or evolutionary psychology and makes a convincing argument that stories help us to adapt and survive in an ever changing world.

Gottschall is one of the leading scholars of a newly emerging branch of literary criticism, Darwinian Literary Studies, which promises to bridge the gap between humanities and more empirical areas of knowledge. The interdisciplinary spectrum of Literary Darwinism enables scholars to establish a fresh perspective on human cognition. Thus, The Storytelling Animal is a part of a cutting-edge study and as such increases our understanding of basic human drives and behaviors.

The structure of the book is lucid and clear. I particularly liked how each chapter smoothly guides the reader to the following one, much like separate episodes of a story are linked to become a greater whole. On the other hand, every chapter could be read as a standalone work--this speaks volumes about Gottschall's remarkable skill as a scholar and an author. Without a doubt the writing style is a positive element of the book. Gottschall does not shy away from discussing scientific matters in detail, yet manages to do so in a lighthearted tone sprinkled with a bit of irony and a tad of anecdote.
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Very good book, makes us understand why all humans love stories so much , makes it easier to understand what is going on iin the world. And YES I would recommend to a friend
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book was awful, dull, poorly referenced, poorly argued, poorly foot-noted, and gave HUGE sweeping statements throughout, such as "children adore art by nature not nurture" (p23). This statement, and many more, had no background information or further explanation. They were just stated as fact.

From the review I imagined I would be reading an interesting and serious book about storytelling (a big interest of mine, and graduate subject), which uses referencing, argument, and evidence to come to conclusions. This book is based on speculation, gossip and heresay. A thorough disappointment and waste of money.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating exploration of just how central the concept of 'story' is to the human animal, how much the idea of creating a narrative form is to our existence. Humans have been telling stories as long as we have been recognisably human: early cave paintings are telling a story of hunting and conflict; all religions at their core are based on stories, whether those stories be truth or fiction; our memories involve telling stories, filling in blanks based on extrapolation and conjecture; solving crimes involves creating a plausible narrative from the evidence available. Our brains even weave stories as we sleep! And humans aren't the only animals that dream, so there must be some kind of evolutionary imperative for story.

So why? Gottschall argues that the act of storytelling is intrinsic to humans because it allows us to 'act out' or experience things without the inherent perils involved. Studies have shown that our brains react identically to an emotion or experience regardless of whether we are reading about that experience, watching someone else go through it or experiencing it ourselves. To our brains there is no difference between reality and 'story'. So storytelling creates a safe environment for us to practice, for lack of a better world, to experience a multitude of dangers and conflicts from a secure vantage point.

At its heart, he argues, all story is about conflict, about overcoming obstacles, about triumphing over disaster or evil. Even from an incredibly young age, childrens' play involves moral dilemmas, good guys v. bad guys, fighting dragons, protecting the innocent, defending one's own.
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Ever since the first people sat around their campfire, we have told stories to make sense of the world. When we tell a story, we make connections between a series of events. We understand how one thing led to another; we can even predict what might happen next. Stories are important because they literally create reality. They determine how we see the world, and consequently how we will behave.
I was looking for something else when I came across this book. Immediately I was intrigued: because I have also written a book about the power of stories. I teach mythology, and am fascinated by how mythic themes recur in our own lives. We use ideas from stories we have heard to develop our own 'life script'. My book 'LifeWorks' was published earlier this year - I was so excited! I've just been asked to write another article... There, I've told you my story. You see how powerful stories are.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in stories. And that means everyone: because telling stories is what makes us human.
Jane Bailey Bain ('StoryWorks: A Handbook for Leaders, Writers and Speakers')
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