The Storytelling Animal Book Summary - The Storytelling Animal Book explained in key points
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The Storytelling Animal summary

Jonathan Gottschall

How Stories Make Us Human

4.2 (95 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

"The Storytelling Animal" by Jonathan Gottschall examines how humans are hardwired to tell stories and how these narratives shape our lives. It explores the power of storytelling and its impact on the human experience.

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    The Storytelling Animal
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    Our lives are full of make-believe stories that always seem to revolve around trouble.

    Whether you’re aware of it or not, your brain spends a fair amount of its time far removed from real life. While you’re at work, your mind is stretched out on faraway beaches. In the evening it’s attending class at Hogwarts, and at night it tries to escape the jaws of brain-hungry zombies.

    These fantasies are all stories, and we’re addicted to them.

    In fact, our lives are totally dominated by made-up stories. It’s not just that we devour movies, TV shows and novels – we also encounter stories in the form of daydreams or even sports broadcasting.

    Just think, for example, about the way typical pro-wrestling fights are staged. In essence, they look very much like theater plays, just with a little less reflection about life and a lot more violence. They follow simple story arcs with typical schemes and conflicts between the protagonist and antagonist, like who slept with whose wife, or who’s the ultimate US patriot.

    These stories aren’t just something we consume. Rather, we’re constantly spinning them ourselves. Indeed, we are excessive daydreamers. According to one study, we experience around a thousand daydreams per day, each lasting an average of about 14 seconds. All in all, we dream away approximately four hours of every day!

    Interestingly, these stories all tend to conform to the same structure, no matter where or how you encounter them. Put simply, a story is about a person who tries to overcome a problem, whether it’s a knight rescuing a princess or Harry Potter battling with Voldemort.

    In other words: stories are always about trouble. After all, who would want to read a story about someone who spends his entire day lying on a sunny terrace, occasionally grabbing some food from the fridge and going to the bathroom? While this may seem like a desirable way to live, it’s a pretty dull story.

    Trouble is just more interesting.

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    What is The Storytelling Animal about?

    The Storytelling Animal (2012) explores humanity’s addiction to stories. It reveals their surprising evolutionary value, and clearly explains the importance – as well as the complications – that stories bring to our lives.

    Best quote from The Storytelling Animal

    The storytelling mind is a factory that churns out true stories when it can, but will manufacture lies when it cant.

    —Jonathan Gottschall
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    Who should read The Storytelling Animal?

    • Anyone who is addicted to good stories
    • Teachers and parents who fear reading and storytelling is going out of style
    • Students of psychology or evolutionary biology

    About the Author

    Jonathan Gottschall is a literary scholar at Washington and Jefferson College as well as the author of six books. In addition to his book publications, he also contributes to the New York Times Magazine, Nature, Scientific American and others.

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