The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

The Storytelling Animal

By Jonathan Gottschall

  • Release Date: 2013-04-23
  • Genre: Life Sciences
Score: 5
From 22 Ratings
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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.


  • Wow

    By Loco15
    Great book, great read!
  • Creatures of Story

    By Pstipp
    We are all creatures of story and he does such an amazing job painting a vivid picture of how that is so. There are many little golden nuggets hidden away in this writing that have blown my mind and furthered the way I think on things in relation to story. I am absolutely drawn towards story and this was a great first read as I discover more. This shows the foundational ideas behind story and why we as society are drawn to it.
  • Absolutely brilliant

    By aaron-t
    I defy anyone to read this guy's Preface and not instantly BUY the book. I was laughing so hard I nearly choked. JUST from the Preface! And the rest of it is just a riot of great writing, terrific insights, and thought-provoking connections about the way that stories and dreams and myths have so carefully shaped human existence. I was in a thrall through the entire thing, a complete delight. I wish I could meet the author, shake his hand, and say, "Thank you." I guess this will have to do.