Book #60: The Storytelling Animal

The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall explores how our lives are completely steeped in story – from our dreams to entertainment to even our memory. Written from a humanist perspective, Gottschall provides research showing that story is all around us, and how this differentiates us from other creatures. We are drawn to story in all contexts, from children to adults, though the manifestation of how we partake of story changes. The research he presents is very interesting and eye-opening to truly how immersed in story we are. Gottschall attempts to explain why this is true, but falls a bit flat. He shows how story provides structure to society, empathy toward others, and common morality, but is never quite able to hone in on why, from an evolutionary point of view, we maintained the need for stories versus animals. It might seem simple, but factoring God into the equation gives the answer: we’re drawn to stories because we were made in the image of a story-telling God. A great book along these same lines, but written from a God-centered worldview, is The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper. Though I read Cosper’s book a couple years ago, it could easily pick up where The Storytelling Animal stops. Cosper focuses less on the scientific research and more on drawing out the repeating themes found in the stories we love – themes originating in God’s Word. They’re both great books and make me appreciate this great gift of story God has given us.

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