I read a couple books on writing a year. Often, I don’t even bother to review them here. Most of them are clinically and terminally dull, filled with generalities and not great advice, and pretty boring reads altogether. There are a hand full of exceptions, but I think there is something in the nature of books on writing that make them to kind of dull to read…
So I already made one mistake with this review so far, and it was the same mistake I made when I started this reading this book. This isn’t a book about writing. This is a book about storytelling. I don’t know how many books on storytelling I’ve read, but I imagine that many of them would likely suffer from the same flaw I mentioned above about books on writing (in fact, two books on storytelling come to mind, and both were indeed dull as dishwater).
I kept the mistake in the review because I think it helped me understand how I went into this book. I certainly was hoping it was going to improve my writing in some demonstrable way. It might, only time will tell. But whether it does or it doesn’t is a bit beyond the point because I actually enjoyed reading it. I may be influenced by things I am reading for my job right now, but reading this felt like the first PhD Literature review I ever actually gave a shit about. The book is laid so that it goes into a certain aspect of why the stories we tell are the way they are, and the science that backs up that it is indeed a byproduct of how our brains work make these storytelling aspects. Were we different creatures, we would have alien storytelling. Will Storr brings his receipts to these claims, and there is in it enough advice to be mined if you are one interested in thinking about how to better your storytelling. For me it worked, but it was interesting as well. From a neuroscience point of view, the subject matter is just something that I generally find interesting. Let’s call that a bias.
There were things missing here that missing from the book that I do think may have a scientific explanation: the ebbing and flowing of cliches, tropes, stereotypes, and those who come a long to uplift, break, satirize, and play with those as the season and expectations demand. I am sure there was plenty more that could be expanded on. But I won’t hold that against the author. It is still a pretty damn worthy book. Enough so for me to want to talk about it at all.