By Jonathan Gottschall
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.00, 272 pages
In The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human, Jonathan Gottschall makes his point maybe too strongly, but convinces us that “story” is an essential part of our psychological make-up and, in most cases, good for you. The book does not just focus on human evolution and anthropology, but also sociology, psychology, literary studies and history. For millennia, telling stories has given us a better sense of who and what we are. It has enabled us to better understand our place in the world. One will find here all manner of related facts and anecdotes. There are also great pictures, captions and wit, which keep the presentation lively. Gottschall covers the convergence of art and science.
His argument may be experienced by some as an encounter with a salesman. The product, however, is worthwhile, in that it illuminates and explains our human condition. This book would make a great gift for a psychologist or literary artist who would appreciate the points made here, even if they might have a problem with the verisimilitude. Though a tad self-indulgent and maybe tangential sometimes, Gottschall does try to cover the whole subject and doesn’t avoid things. Like in many stories, there is sex, scandal, crime, humor, vision and hope.
Reviewed by Ryder Miller