• The Storytelling Animal

  • How Stories Make Us Human
  • By: Jonathan Gottschall
  • Narrated by: Kris Koscheski
  • Length: 5 hrs and 32 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (426 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $20.99

Buy for $20.99

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It's easy to say that humans are "wired" for story, but why?

In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life's complex social problems - just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?

Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more "truthy" than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler's ambitions were partly fueled by a story. But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral - they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

©2012 Jonathan Gottschall (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Gottschall brings a light touch to knotty psychological matters, and he's a fine storyteller himself." ( Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about The Storytelling Animal

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    162
  • 4 Stars
    134
  • 3 Stars
    86
  • 2 Stars
    31
  • 1 Stars
    13
Performance
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    156
  • 4 Stars
    109
  • 3 Stars
    63
  • 2 Stars
    17
  • 1 Stars
    10
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    138
  • 4 Stars
    110
  • 3 Stars
    64
  • 2 Stars
    22
  • 1 Stars
    19

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

We humans crave narratives. From ancient fire circles to books to radio and movies to TV sets, headphones, and computers, "story is the glue of human social life."

This short listen may not bring to light any really new concepts, but it offers interesting examples of how we use stories for education, entertainment, and reassurance that there is meaning in life. Gottschall also alerts us to reasons why we should be aware that this tendency also opens us up to the possibility of misinterpreting and being manipulated. We long for patterns and reasons - can conspiracy theories be far behind?

I especially enjoyed the discussion about ways in which new technologies are changing how we tell and experience stories -- from so-called "reality" shows to interactive and role-playing computer games.

The narrator is OK, but I wonder why he felt he had to deliver some quotes in quite bizarre accents. The book starts slowly but picks up in energy and interest as it goes along. I think most people interested in books and psychology will enjoy it.



19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Making Sense of Life Through Stories

If you stop to think about it, stories are the framework around which we build our understanding of reality--whether the stories revolve around history, religion, myth, nationality, science, gaming, drama, fiction or our own lives.

This is Gottschall's premise and he makes his case pretty convincingly. The book does drag in parts and significant sections consist of summaries of materials covered in more depth in other books. However, unlike some other reviewers, I particularly enjoyed the sections on brain science and the role story plays in our dreams, in mental illness and in the development of human culture. In one example, the author contends that at root, the malaise of depression is the loss of our own story and the effectiveness of talk therapy is in helping us to rebuild our own personal narratives. Although the author doesn't take this step, one might argue that whenever a story loses its vitality, whether it is the story of a nation, culture or religion, it is only a matter of time before the demise of that institution inevitably follows.

Not surprisingly perhaps given his premise, the best parts of this book are in the stories. Narration is sub-par particularly when the narrator ineptly (and distractingly) attempts various accents.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Starts well, then derails

I was expecting a lot more about the history and tradition of storytelling, and maybe some more about mythology. What I got was a lot of canned Freudian theory with all of its potty-focus and repressed sexuality. I don't know why the author went in that direction, but I couldn't stomach the flip attitude and hyperfocus on what to me was irrelevancy.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly interesting read

I honestly got this book thinking that I would learn how to better tell stories. I was taken aback by how much depth the book went into the history, psychology, method, and adaption of our species and its need for story. While this book did not provide me with a blueprint for creating stories it has provided me with a new appreciation for the human mind, the need for story to teach better, and a deeper understanding of how other people may just be living their best life.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

An okay book, an okay narration

I learned quite a bit from the book, but it needed more depth and more scholarly context.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book, idiosyncratic narrator

It’s an excellent book. The narrator had a few too many distracting mispronunciations (dropping the “L” in “wolf” or “werewolf”, and most irritatingly, pronouncing “experiment” like “experience” or “spearmint”). Once is odd, 20 times is a sin (where was the proofer/editor?!?)

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Warning

Only read it if you are stable and have a plan of your future. And consult with a terapist. Good information if you able to take it.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Pretty good

Pretty good. Coalesces a number of fairly familiar ideas into insightful arguments and anecdotes .
As a writer I feel like this book gave breadth to the dimension of which I understand narrative.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A solid introduction

Most of this book is solid, it is a solid resource to get an overview and find more in-depth researchers. It has a fairly US centric bent and the final chapter and conclusions are a bit simplistic and preachy.

NOTE: No one in the games industry or around it says MMORPG as “more-peg,” whoever told the author they do was pulling their leg.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Nothing New

What disappointed you about The Storytelling Animal?

It was a rehash or compilation of a common understanding of narrative

What could Jonathan Gottschall have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

explored ideas instead of just regurgitating summaries of what was already known

What three words best describe Kris Koscheski’s performance?

Upbeat but monotonous

1 person found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alek
  • Alek
  • 02-01-16

Exciting but not extremely practical

The book is full of interesting facts and research, stories and reasons for them to exist. But it is hard to draw something practically useful from the book. This could be because I needed a kind of more practical guide on storytelling but not reasoning about why stories exist and how they evolve.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nicholas
  • Nicholas
  • 05-17-13

Interesting angle.

This is an interesting book and looks at the human need for stories from a variety of angles which I enjoyed. The reason I dropped an overall star was because at times it feels terribly overwritten. It felt as though the editor told Jonathan Gottschall that each chapter had to be this long. Although having made his point in each chapter, the author noticed he hadn't reached the word count then padded it out. I may be wrong, but it felt that way.
Secondly, I have to mention the reader. Please, whoever directs or produces these books, do not let them do accents unless they are competent. In this case the accents the reader attempts (for no obvious reason aside from the fact that they are referring to English writer etc) are dreadful and totally detract from the importance of what he is reading.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-10-18

Mostly banalities

If you're minimally informed about psychology there's isn't much in this book. I didn't find it interesting and I don't much recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Brenda
  • Brenda
  • 04-13-13

The value of using stories

As a trainer, I am aware of the value of using stories to deliver a message. Stories do seem to generate more interest and, as people 'lean toward' the story, they also lean toward the storyteller. When I use stories, I notice that people seem to 'get it'. They also seem to then generate their own stories, to help them create something meaningful. This book can be a useful starting point to learning how stories may help you get your message across. It is generally agreed that stories 'stick' and are remembered and repeated more easily. This book is certainly worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for jackjohnkirwan
  • jackjohnkirwan
  • 01-12-22

A long Ted talk

Not insightful beyond the basics of storytelling, completely misses some long established and interesting explorations of storytelling, it's predictions were long expected since the mid-90's A waste of time and energy, beyond getting a basic idea of story.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for mark twain2
  • mark twain2
  • 08-25-21

good

good summary of the literature.. .. . . . ' ' ' ' ' .

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Chris Cairns
  • Chris Cairns
  • 03-24-21

awesome book & audiobook!

A great audiobook for anyone interested in story, and storytelling. And well narrated .

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Douglas Mackay
  • Douglas Mackay
  • 01-13-19

Disappointing presentation of interesting subject

I enjoyed some points in this book, but found it hard going overall.
I'm very interested in storytelling and the social attraction to it, how it shapes our worlds and interests. I found myself occasionally captivated by ideas in this book, but unfortunately more often I found myself irritated or bored. I found the majority of examples to be weak, especially when espousing stories and persona narratives.
It felt like an amalgamation of pseudo science, in a book written by someone who made massive leaps of assumption, and pretty judgemental in commentary.
This book does have some value, but I find myself repeatedly wishing it was written by someone else.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Mossias
  • Mossias
  • 07-16-18

Delightful, but somewhat repetitive.

a wonderful read, truly a must read for any aspiring story teller, out to understand his craft and its ancient origins.
could be sometimes beating too much on a topic, but still, great book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Rturn
  • Rturn
  • 05-02-18

A fun listen and informative

An accessible whistle stop tour of our species’ obsession with stories.
Covers literature, other media, games, therapy and religion.
Mentions some of the major players in empirical research in this field.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 12-21-21

Tells why we tell stories, not how we tell stories

It’s a great book, with some good anecdotes about why humans tell stories that are backed by science, but it lacks any examples or explanations on how to actually tell better stories.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Michelle
  • Michelle
  • 04-30-19

Stories are human

An interesting and enjoyable read. I was hoping for more depth into the science behind why we are storytelling animals.