May 28, 2012

Book Review: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

Title:The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
Author: Jonathan Gottschall
Hardcover; published April 10, 2012; Houghton Miffin Harcourt

"Humans evolved to crave story. This craving has, on the whole, been a good thing for us. Stories give us pleasure and instruction. They simulate worlds so we can live better in this one. They help bind us into communities and define us as cultures. Stories have been a great boon to our species.
But are they becoming a weakness?" (ch. 9 The Future of Story)
Whether or not you believe that fiction and storytelling make us better able to live our lives, this book on why we make up or listen to stories is thought-provoking. I grew up listening to African-Jamaican folk tales that people passed down or made up/added to as time passed. The spider Anancy was one of the crafty characters of these stories; he was the clever trickster that made himself a winner in every situation, in spite of his size. I loved stories and listened to them every chance I got. Now I read novels.

The author tells us that we make up and listen to stories whether we are fiction readers or writers or not. Our daydreams, our dreams, the video games we play, the movies we watch, even memoirs, spin stories through our heads and we can't escape them. The danger is overload with "junk stories."
"The real threat isn't that story will fade out of human life in the future; it's that story will take over completely." (ch. 9)
The book urges us to read fiction, watch it, revel in its power, daydream, urge your children to read, but beware of going over the top.
"(B)e skeptical of conspiracy stories, your own blog posts, and self-exculpatory accounts of spats with spouses and coworkers." (ch. 9)
One of the chapters is titled, "Ink People Change the World." Do you agree?

The book has about 28 pages of supportive notes and bibliography, lest you doubt what the author/researcher has to say. There are also 15 pages of index, in fine print. In other words, the book is well researched and footnoted. Whether you agree with all he says about the power of story is the challenge. All writers of fiction will love this book.

The author's website is

Visit TLC's The Storytelling Animal book tour
for more reviews of this book.
Thanks to TLC and the author for a complimentary review copy.


Veens said...

I think reading fiction is good too and yes we need to not go overboard in reality.. but one can day-dream :) Great review :)

Vasilly said...

What a great review! I'm going to see if my library has this.

Trish said...

What an interesting book! I've wondered lately how much fiction is too much. I have much to be grateful for in my real life, but the books I read are just so engrossing I have a hard time tearing myself away from them.

Jenny said...

Sounds like this book has some good arguments for reading fiction which might be nice to have when talking to non-readers!

Zibilee said...

I just bought this book for my e-reader, and can't wait to get started with it. I love books about reading and books, and read your review with a lot of interest and excitement. I can't wait to see what I think of it! Very nice review today, and thanks for including the trailer!

BrendaC said...

Hopped over from Blog Train to become your newest GFC follower. Have a fantastic week.

Amy said...

This sounds like a really interesting read, and it sounds like the author makes some possibly controversial points too!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

"All writers of fiction will love this book." I can think of quite a few friends who are currently working on books who would appreciate reading this one - I'll be sure to recommend it to them!

Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Book Beginning: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

  The Last Story of Mina Lee  by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, September 1, 2020, Park Row Source: library  Genre: Asian-American fiction, immigration ...