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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human Hardcover – 10 Apr 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (10 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547391404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547391403
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

From the Inside Flap

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.

From the Back Cover

“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

“A fascinating and riveting account of why we all love a story.”—Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Human and Who’s in Charge?

“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, Yale University, and author of How Pleasure Works

“Stories are everywhere. Stories make us buy; they make us cry; they help us pass the time, even when we’re asleep. In this enthralling book, Jonathan Gottschall traces the enduring power of stories back to the evolved habits of mind. He reveals the ways in which we are trapped, for better or worse, in a world of narrative. If you are in the storytelling business—and aren’t we all?—you must read this book.” —Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Imagine



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