The Story Paradox

How Our Love of Storytelling Builds Societies and Tears them Down

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781541645974

USD: $17.99  /  CAD: $21.99

ON SALE: November 23rd 2021

Genre: Nonfiction / Social Science / General


Storytelling, a tradition that built human civilization, may soon destroy it

We are storytelling animals. No other tool is as essential to human civilization as stories. Countless books celebrate their virtues. But in The Story Paradox, Jonathan Gottschall argues that there is a dark side to storytelling we can no longer ignore.

Stories tend to be divisive, and they are especially good at short-circuiting rational thought. Societies succeed or fail depending on how they manage these problems. And new technologies that amplify the effects of disinformation campaigns, cultural tribalism, conspiracy theories, and fake news have made separating fact from fiction nearly impossible.

With clarity and conviction, Gottschall reveals why our biggest asset is also our greatest threat, and what, if anything, can be done. It is a call to stop asking “How we can change the world through stories?” and start asking “How can we save the world from stories?”

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


“[a] thoughtful and entertaining investigation on a critical question: ‘How can we save the world from stories?’… Fresh insights about the ways we understand reality.”—Kirkus
“Jonathan Gottschall is not only the deepest thinker about the powerful role of stories in our lives, but a lively and witty writer. The Story Paradox offers much insight and many pleasures.”
 —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and Rationality.
"Jonathan Gottschall has written a gripping and thoughtful book on a neglected but urgent topic: the dark side of stories. With crisp prose and an array of fascinating examples, he demonstrates how our innate ability to spin tales can lead to distortion, dissolution, and destruction. The Storytelling Paradox is a bracing call to action to become more empathetic and to deploy narrative as a force for good."
 —Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive
"In this provocative and insightful book, Jonathan Gottschall shows us why dangerous stories spread so rapidly, and how they lead to division and distrust. But our storytelling instinct can also be harnessed for good, and Gottschall draws on a trove of research and compelling stories to show us how we can stop conspiracies, bigotry, and misinformation. The Story Paradox couldn’t be more urgent."—Jonah Berger, Wharton Professor and bestselling author of Contagious
“This fascinating book explores the dark power of stories, arguing that they are an essential poison—necessary for human life, but too often a force for irrationality and cruelty. The Storytelling Paradox is provocative and original and a delight to read—and ironically enough, Jonathan Gottschall is a hell of a story teller himself.”—Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology at University of Toronto, and author of How Pleasure Works, Against Empathy, and The Sweet Spot.
"We constantly modify one another's brains, and the surgical tool we use is storytelling. In this luminous and incisive page-turner, Jonathan Gottschall takes us deep into the world of stories: what we tell, how we receive, and why it matters so deeply for our world."
 —David Eagleman, Stanford neuroscientist, author of Livewired
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