Penelope's Reviews > The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
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's review
Apr 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: goodreads-first-reads, non-fiction, spring-12
Read from April 04 to 07, 2012

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, although it went in quite a different direction than I expected. I was expecting more of a linear scientific examination stories make us human. However, I made that assumption based on a pretty narrow definition of what "story" is. Gottschall's definition of story is broad, ranging from novels, to religion, to the narratives inside our heads about our day to day lives--essentially anything that has "story structure". Gottschall argues that we have storytelling minds, and that this unique quality shouldn't be taken for granted as an evolutionary accident or by-product. Rather, story serves many purpose in our lives--it brings us together as a community, teaches us moral lessons, and educates us about the do's and don't's of acceptable social behavior (in addition to being entertaining).

Gottschall starts off many of the chapters with brief stories, which he then uses to illustrate a point. Although I thought this approach was interesting, it also bugged me a little because half the time I apparently didn't react to the stories in the "right" way--so the point he was making was not strengthened by having told the story. Assuming that people react to stories in the same (or even similar) ways seems a little ridiculous to me. I think there's probably a lot more nuance to many of Gottschall's arguments, nuances which aren't really fleshed out in this book.

Nonetheless, The Storytelling Animal is an interesting, quick read. It made me reconsider how story manifests itself in our lives, what it means, and how it will continue to influence us in the future.
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04/04/2012 page 33
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