The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
Author: Jonathan Gottschall
Genre: Non-Fiction (Literary Analysis / Evolutionary Psychology / Human Development / Cognitive Science / Myths / Folk Lore / Popular Culture)
Publisher/Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (4/10/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: Yes -- I raced through this one.
One-sentence summary: A readable and amusing look at how humans need stories in their lives and why.
Reading Challenges: Dewey Decimal
Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- it's playful, evocative, pretty, and spot on.
I'm reminded of...: Diane Ackerman
First line: Statisticians agree that if they could only catch some immortal monkeys, lock them up in a room with a typewriter, and get them to furiously thwack keys for a long, long time, the monkey's would eventually flail out a perfect reproduction of Hamlet -- with every period and comma and "'sblood" in its proper place.
Do... I think the book trailer is dead adorable/funny?: YES. I'm on the fence about whether I like or dislike book trailers, but in this case, the animation is adorable and you get the gist of this very funny and enlightening book immediately!
Do... I think it's dead adorable that Gottschall includes his daughters in the book's index?: YES. He shares many stories about his young daughters' imaginative play, and I love that he includes their stories in the index. I bet they'll die of joy/mortification when they're older!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- if you like fiction, you'll want to learn why, and this would make a smashing gift for the lit geek in your life.
Why did I get this book?: Reading nerd waxing about how awesome reading is = win.
Review: I loved Gottschall from the first line of this book; I quickly saw he was a book fan geeking out about how awesome fiction is and I cheerfully followed along.
I'm always going to fangirl over books on books -- I can't help it. I love readers and I love reading about reading. Gottschall takes joy in not just reading, but all forms of storytelling, from country music songs to commercials and films. He examines how fiction -- storytelling -- helps us individually and globally.
Trivia fans will love this book because it is chock full of tidbits to toss out at your next party or family gathering (for example, a 2009 study showed more people were scarred by scary films than real world horrors like 9/11 or the Rwandan genocide.) Gottschall's writing style is casual, funny, friendly, and approachable and he references contemporary and classic fictions. He breaks down scientific studies on neurons, behavior, emotions and offers a trenchant and funny argument in support of fiction in all its forms.
In addition to being a great read for anyone who likes fiction and doesn't mind a dip into popular non-fiction, I think this would make a unique book club pick. Breezy readable, this book celebrates what we all love about storytelling, and provides great themes and ideas to chew and discuss. Gift this book for the bookish college grad in your life or the light reader who needs a nudge to pick up a novel because page 66 offers a very good reason why: "In one study, they [researchers] found that heavy fiction readers had better social skills -- as measured by tests of social and empathetic ability -- than those who mainly read nonfiction." Novel readers rejoice: we're awesome.