Open in the App Open in the App Open in the App
Get the key ideas from

The Storytelling Animal

How Stories Make Us Human

By Jonathan Gottschall
13-minute read
Audio available
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

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.

  • 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

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.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Storytelling Animal

How Stories Make Us Human

By Jonathan Gottschall
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall
Synopsis

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.

Key idea 1 of 8

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.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.