The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human Audiobook | Jonathan Gottschall | Audible.com
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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human | [Jonathan Gottschall]

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2012 Jonathan Gottschall (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Gottschall brings a light touch to knotty psychological matters, and he's a fine storyteller himself." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (59 )
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3.5 (50 )
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Performance
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  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 10-04-12
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 10-04-12 Member Since 2006

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night..."

    We humans crave narratives. From ancient fire circles to books to radio and movies to TV sets, headphones, and computers, "story is the glue of human social life."

    This short listen may not bring to light any really new concepts, but it offers interesting examples of how we use stories for education, entertainment, and reassurance that there is meaning in life. Gottschall also alerts us to reasons why we should be aware that this tendency also opens us up to the possibility of misinterpreting and being manipulated. We long for patterns and reasons - can conspiracy theories be far behind?

    I especially enjoyed the discussion about ways in which new technologies are changing how we tell and experience stories -- from so-called "reality" shows to interactive and role-playing computer games.

    The narrator is OK, but I wonder why he felt he had to deliver some quotes in quite bizarre accents. The book starts slowly but picks up in energy and interest as it goes along. I think most people interested in books and psychology will enjoy it.



    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 04-14-13
    Diane Louisville, KY, United States 04-14-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Making Sense of Life Through Stories"

    If you stop to think about it, stories are the framework around which we build our understanding of reality--whether the stories revolve around history, religion, myth, nationality, science, gaming, drama, fiction or our own lives.

    This is Gottschall's premise and he makes his case pretty convincingly. The book does drag in parts and significant sections consist of summaries of materials covered in more depth in other books. However, unlike some other reviewers, I particularly enjoyed the sections on brain science and the role story plays in our dreams, in mental illness and in the development of human culture. In one example, the author contends that at root, the malaise of depression is the loss of our own story and the effectiveness of talk therapy is in helping us to rebuild our own personal narratives. Although the author doesn't take this step, one might argue that whenever a story loses its vitality, whether it is the story of a nation, culture or religion, it is only a matter of time before the demise of that institution inevitably follows.

    Not surprisingly perhaps given his premise, the best parts of this book are in the stories. Narration is sub-par particularly when the narrator ineptly (and distractingly) attempts various accents.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TJS Seattle, WA USA 04-11-14
    TJS Seattle, WA USA 04-11-14 Member Since 2006
    ratings
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    13
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    Story
    "Nothing New"
    What disappointed you about The Storytelling Animal?

    It was a rehash or compilation of a common understanding of narrative


    What could Jonathan Gottschall have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    explored ideas instead of just regurgitating summaries of what was already known


    What three words best describe Kris Koscheski’s performance?

    Upbeat but monotonous


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted La Palma, CA, United States 11-05-12
    Ted La Palma, CA, United States 11-05-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Where Were the Stories?"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    They really threw me a curve with this one. Not at all what I expected. It was more of a book about the brain. I thought I was listening to a required lecture in Medical School. While there were a few interesting facts, overall it was boring and tedious.


    What was most disappointing about Jonathan Gottschall’s story?

    Much too medical and biological in nature.


    What three words best describe Kris Koscheski’s performance?

    Saved the listen.


    What character would you cut from The Storytelling Animal?

    Character? There was a character?


    Any additional comments?

    Take a cue from author Malcolm Gladwell. This type of subject could have been presented in a much more powerful and entertaining manner.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve San Ramon, CA, United States 03-28-13
    Steve San Ramon, CA, United States 03-28-13 Member Since 2006

    Steve

    ratings
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    4
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    Story
    "Yech"
    Would you try another book from Jonathan Gottschall and/or Kris Koscheski?

    No


    Has The Storytelling Animal turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Put me to sleep


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    anger. disappointment. feeling cheated.


    Any additional comments?

    I wish I had that time back.

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-5 of 5 results
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  • Nicholas
    London, United Kingdom
    5/17/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting angle."

    This is an interesting book and looks at the human need for stories from a variety of angles which I enjoyed. The reason I dropped an overall star was because at times it feels terribly overwritten. It felt as though the editor told Jonathan Gottschall that each chapter had to be this long. Although having made his point in each chapter, the author noticed he hadn't reached the word count then padded it out. I may be wrong, but it felt that way.
    Secondly, I have to mention the reader. Please, whoever directs or produces these books, do not let them do accents unless they are competent. In this case the accents the reader attempts (for no obvious reason aside from the fact that they are referring to English writer etc) are dreadful and totally detract from the importance of what he is reading.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Brenda
    Dunstable, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "The value of using stories"

    As a trainer, I am aware of the value of using stories to deliver a message. Stories do seem to generate more interest and, as people 'lean toward' the story, they also lean toward the storyteller. When I use stories, I notice that people seem to 'get it'. They also seem to then generate their own stories, to help them create something meaningful. This book can be a useful starting point to learning how stories may help you get your message across. It is generally agreed that stories 'stick' and are remembered and repeated more easily. This book is certainly worth a listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-2 of 2 results

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