Jonathan Gottschall: THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL

Another once-in-a-blue-moon review! This week I’m reviewing a nonfiction book, THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL: HOW STORIES MAKE US HUMAN.

I picked this up on a rec from a friend, seeing how I am in the thick of a manuscript that is all about stories and our relationships to them, how they affect us as individuals, and as communities, and as macro-scale societies. Which sounds really boring when I put it like that, eh? Think of THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS. It’s like that.

Gottschall’s book is mesmerizing — it’s a paean for story and language, and it explores the biological impetus that makes humans tell stories. From a scientific stance, I felt like Gottschall was citing studies that were rather older than ideal, and perhaps using too many anecdotes. HOWEVER, if you approach this book as if it is philosophy — one man’s personal argument on the importance of story in human life, and indeed the inability for story to be extricated from human life —  rather than as if it is science, these problems vanish. It’s a lovely book, and while it didn’t really introduce any new concepts to me (having been aware of story and its impact both as a reader (for my whole life) and as a writer (for roughly fifteen years)), it put into words some nebulous ideas that I have always understood but never had concrete ways to think about.

It’s a lovely book, and I recommend it particularly for writers.

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