The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
a copy of this book was provided by the publisher through TLC Book Tours
What is it that story does for us? Why have humans evolved with story "hard-wired" into us?
Jonathan Gottschall may not provide a definitive answer to that question, but he does offer a plausible theory, along with a plethora of entertaining narratives and a smattering of scientific research. Gottschall's theory--that story acts as a kind of "flight simulator" for humans--may explain why story is so thoroughly interwoven into human life. But frankly, The Storytelling Animal is filled with entertainment value, and that's mostly how and why I read this book.
For a dedicated bibliophile, what could be more entrancing than a book about story? The Storytelling Animal is not just about the kind of story we find in novels (although Gottschall spends a good amount of time on why people read novels, and how reading novels affects us). Gottschall defines story more broadly: he is also talking about the ongoing stories we tell ourselves about ourselves (we are the heroes of our own stories, and like the children in Lake Woebegone, we are all above average). The Storytelling Animal shows that humans need narrative and are in a sense defined by narrative. Our stories form our religious traditions and influence our behavior, and story can cause a beneficient change of heart (Uncle Tom's Cabin) or inspire war and genocide (Hitler experienced an epiphany while watching a Wagner opera and was inspired to begin a path toward atrocity).
The Storytelling Animal is chock-full of interesting facts wrapped in narrative. If you love stories, you will love this book. If you are a book geek (and if you're reading this you must be) then you will love finding out that the more absorbed we are in a book, the more influenced we will be by that book. You'll love finding out that we are so hungry for meaningful patterns, that a video about geometric shapes becomes a narrative about two men and a woman for most viewers. And if you love reading memoirs, you'll probably be disturbed to find out how malleable and unreliable memory really is. Highly recommended for bibliophiles, book geeks, and lovers of story.