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 (108 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.

    The Storytelling Animal Review

    The Storytelling Animal (2012) by Jonathan Gottschall explores the profound impact storytelling has on our lives and why it is essential to human nature. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its well-researched insights and thought-provoking examples, it offers a deeper understanding of why storytelling plays such a fundamental role in our lives.
    • Gottschall navigates through a wide range of topics including literature, psychology, and evolutionary biology, providing a comprehensive and multidisciplinary exploration of storytelling.
    • The book's engaging and accessible style ensures that readers of all backgrounds can enjoy and appreciate the power of storytelling, making it far from boring.

    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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    The Storytelling Animal FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Storytelling Animal?

    The main message of The Storytelling Animal is the crucial role storytelling plays in human nature.

    How long does it take to read The Storytelling Animal?

    The estimated reading time for The Storytelling Animal depends on each reader's pace. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in a matter of minutes.

    Is The Storytelling Animal a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Storytelling Animal is a fascinating read, exploring the power of storytelling in our lives and how it shapes our world. Highly recommended!

    Who is the author of The Storytelling Animal?

    The author of The Storytelling Animal is Jonathan Gottschall.

    What to read after The Storytelling Animal?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Storytelling Animal, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
    • The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr
    • Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks
    • The Storytelling Edge by Shane Snow and Joe Lazauskas
    • Lead with a Story by Paul Smith
    • Lawyers, Liars and the Art of Storytelling by Jonathan Shapiro
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Stories for Work by Gabrielle Dolan
    • Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey