Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall

Title: The Storytelling Animal
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

Rating: LOVE!
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.

25 comments:

  1. Oh, this book is going to be mine very soon, thanks to your incredible review. I, too, love books about books, and it sounds like this one is just the right mix of humor and information. Loved this review. Now off to shop. Audra, I swear, you are so bad for my wallet! I may have said that before, but it bears repeating!

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    1. Heather, I'm only slightly sorry! ;) I've been on an excellent run lately and this one so absolutely needs to be bought and read -- it was marvelously fun.

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  2. Wow! What the great review. I'm definitely adding this one to my to be read pile.

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    1. Belle -- do, do -- it was so good!

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  3. This sounds wonderful. Glad I spotted Belle's link to your review on pinterest. :)

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    1. So glad you did, too! I love finding new bloggers -- or in this case, new bloggers finding me! :)

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  4. I love trivia, so this seems right up my alley. :) So glad you loved it! Thanks for being on the tour!

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    1. Thank you for having me -- this was a marvelously fun read!

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  5. This sounds so fantastic -- I'll definitely check this one out!

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    1. I'm so sad there isn't a giveaway copy available -- this book was just so fabu!

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  6. Gasp. What a wonderfully generous review. You've made my day. My week. Thank you so much.
    --Jonathan Gottschall

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    1. Mr. Gottschall -- thank you so much for stopping by! You made MY week! ;)

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  7. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book! My favorite bits, though, were the parts about evolutionary psychology. I hadn't thought about this as a book club read, but its accessibility and humor would make it a great read amongst a group of book nerds.

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    1. When I found myself gushing about this to just about everyone who made the mistake of greeting me, I realized this book needed to be chewed over by other passionate readers -- and yet again, I yearned for a book club of my own!

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  8. This sounds like an interesting read, and I always enjoy a good book about books.

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    1. Exactly -- I love geeks being geeks.

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  9. Ok, I am so GLAD I am not alone on the book trailer thing. It's just so odd - like the new "teaser" trailer for movies which is basically a trailer for a trailer? Odd.

    ANYWAY. I had never heard of this before but it seems outstanding! I don't read many (any!) books about books but hey, maybe this will be the first.

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    1. I really am undecided about them. When they're well done, they're fabu, and I certainly am excited, but watching a movie to learn about a book seems so odd to me! But maybe I'm a dinosaur?

      If you're going to start with a book about books, start with this one -- fun and funny. You'd love it.

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  10. I really enjoyed this one too, it was a very interesting read.

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    1. It had so much I never really considered about storytelling -- but I loved what I learned!

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  11. THIS sounds like a book I could really get into. I've been doing a bit more non-fiction reading lately (The Power of Habit is my latest) and have enjoyed it; i'm not always able to concentrate on the array of facts presented, but I guess the coffee drinking (of late) has been helping.

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    1. This book is super relational -- there are facts, but they're offered so gently and pithily that you can absorb them with or without coffee!

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  12. *old follower just stopping in* I loved this book, too. Then I pressed it into my husband's hands to read. Surprising just how much storytelling comprises our lives in unexpected ways, isn't it?

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  13. This book looks fantastic. I cannot wait to read it. As a fiction lover, I'm fascinated by the power of story. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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  14. I love non-fiction like this that is so readable others without academic backgrounds can indeed pick it up and think about all the connections between our lives, fiction, story, etc. If a book simply makes a reader think about something he/she has never thought of before, then that's half the battle right there. I enjoyed this one too :)

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