100 books like The Storytelling Animal

By Jonathan Gottschall,

Here are 100 books that The Storytelling Animal fans have personally recommended if you like The Storytelling Animal. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Early Evolutionary Imagination: Literature and Human Nature

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

Jonsson argues that humans are suspended between a need to see reality and an urge to mythologize. Darwin’s theory is impersonal and mechanical, but authors in the later 19th and early 20th centuries still found ways to turn evolution into morally charged dramas. Jonsson convincingly demonstrates that those same myth-making impulses shape our imaginative experience today. The literary criticism in this book is superb, and Jonsson’s own rhetoric has classic power.

By Emelie Jonsson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Early Evolutionary Imagination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Darwinian evolution is an imaginative problem that has been passed down to us unsolved. It is our most powerful explanation of humanity's place in nature, but it is also more cognitively demanding and less emotionally satisfying than any myth. From the publication of the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has pushed our capacity for storytelling into overdrive, sparking fairy tales, adventure stories, political allegories, utopias, dystopias, social realist novels, and existential meditations. Though this influence on literature has been widely studied, it has not been explained psychologically. This book argues for the adaptive function of storytelling, integrates traditional humanist…


Book cover of Why Horror Seduces

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

If you love horror, or are even mildly interested in it, you will find this book a real treat. Clasen is one of the world’s leading scholars of horror. Like Gottschall, he has the knack for engaging, personable writing, with witty turns that will make you laugh, even while the hair is standing up on the back of your neck at the horror scenarios he relishes describing. Clasen is absolutely convincing about the ways in which horror taps into our inherited ancestral fears and disgusts.

By Mathias Clasen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Horror Seduces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From vampire apocalypses, shark attacks, witches, and ghosts, to murderous dolls bent on revenge, horror has been part of the American cinematic imagination for almost as long as pictures have moved on screens. But why do they captive us so? What is the drive to be frightened, and why is it so perennially popular? Why Horror Seduces addresses these questions through evolutionary social sciences.

Explaining the functional seduction of horror entertainment, this book draws on cutting-edge findings in the evolutionary social sciences, showing how the horror genre is a product of human nature. Integrating the study of horror with the…


Book cover of American Classics: Evolutionary Perspectives

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

Saunders is an unusually acute and subtle literary critic. She is deeply immersed in the great works of American literature, and she brings those works vividly to life. She penetrates deep into the evolved motives that regulate even the most seemingly idiosyncratic works. She demonstrates that literature is profoundly shaped by our evolved human motives and emotions.

By Judith P. Saunders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Classics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of essays examines selected works in the American literary tradition from an evolutionary perspective. Using an interdisciplinary framework to pose new questions about long admired, much discussed texts, the collection as a whole provides an introduction to Darwinian literary critical methodology. Individual essays feature a variety of figures-Benjamin Franklin to Billy Collins-targeting fitness-related issues ranging from sexual strategies and parental investment to cheating and deception. Attention is paid to the physical and social environments in which fictional characters are placed, including the influence of cultural-historical conditions on resource acquisition, status-building, competition, and reciprocity. The discussion throughout the volume…


Book cover of On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction

Joseph Carroll Author Of Reading Human Nature: Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice

From my list on literary Darwinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past thirty years leading the movement to integrate the humanities, and especially literary study, with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I got my PhD in comparative literature right about the time the academic literary world was being convulsed by the poststructuralist revolution (Derrida, Foucault, et co). I felt a profound antipathy to the sterile paradoxes and attenuated abstractions of that theory. I wanted a theory that could get close to the power literature had over my own imagination. The evolutionary human sciences have provided me with a basis for building a theory that answers my own need to make sense of literature.

Joseph's book list on literary Darwinism

Joseph Carroll Why did Joseph love this book?

Boyd combines research on human evolution with cognitive psychology. He offers crisp and lucid summaries of the relevant research. His writing is like that of the best popular science. His marshaling of ideas from evolutionary and cognitive psychology offers an alternative to critical theories that have lost touch with science, and with much of reality.

By Brian Boyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Origin of Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A century and a half after the publication of Origin of Species, evolutionary thinking has expanded beyond the field of biology to include virtually all human-related subjects-anthropology, archeology, psychology, economics, religion, morality, politics, culture, and art. Now a distinguished scholar offers the first comprehensive account of the evolutionary origins of art and storytelling. Brian Boyd explains why we tell stories, how our minds are shaped to understand them, and what difference an evolutionary understanding of human nature makes to stories we love.

Art is a specifically human adaptation, Boyd argues. It offers tangible advantages for human survival, and it derives…


Book cover of Darwin on Trial

David F. Prindle Author Of Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution

From my list on the politics of evolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

While growing up as a budding intellectual, two of my passions were social science (in other words, politics), and natural science, particularly biology. For decades, I thought of those as two unconnected fields of knowledge. I studied politics in my professional capacity as a government professor, and I read nature and wildlife studies as a hobby. Then, one day in 2000, I picked up a copy of a book by Stephen J. Gould, a Harvard paleontologist. It struck me that in every sentence he was combining science and politics. It was an on-the-road-to-Damascus moment. Since then, I have studied and written about the politics of evolution.  

David's book list on the politics of evolution

David F. Prindle Why did David love this book?

The clearest and most comprehensive creationist critique of evolutionary biology. Johnson, a retired law professor, marshals every possible argument like a prosecuting attorney, employing reasoning and evidence that is either masterful and convincing, or deceitful and outrageous, depending upon your point of view. To Johnson, the biologists who work in the tradition of Darwin are not scientists, but propagandists in a political movement, using fake data and spurious arguments to bamboozle the public. His purpose is to clear the way for readers to be convinced that a huge, invisible, omnipotent, supernatural designer (no, don't call him God) authored the millions of organisms that have existed on Earth for 3.8 billion years. Is this a scientific critique or a political polemic?

By Phillip E. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin on Trial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is evolution fact or fancy? Is natural selection an unsupported hypothesis or a confirmed mechanism of evolutionary change?
These were the courageous questions that professor of law Phillip Johnson originally took up in 1991. His relentless pursuit to follow the evidence wherever it leads remains as relevant today as then.
The facts and the logic of the arguments that purport to establish a theory of evolution based on Darwinian principles, says Johnson, continue to draw their strength from faith--faith in philosophical naturalism.
In this edition Johnson responds to critics of the first edition and maintains that scientists have put the…


Book cover of Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection

Samir Okasha Author Of Philosophy of Biology: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the philosophy of evolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor of Philosophy of Science at the University of Bristol. I am interested in most areas of contemporary philosophy, in particular the interplay between philosophy and the natural and social sciences. Much of my recent work has focused on evolutionary biology, a science that is replete with implications for traditional philosophical debates about human nature, knowledge, and our place in the world.

Samir's book list on the philosophy of evolution

Samir Okasha Why did Samir love this book?

This short, clearly written book offers a penetrating analysis of the foundations of evolutionary biology. Godfrey-Smith develops a novel conceptual framework for understanding evolution based on the concept of a “Darwinian population,” which refers to any collection of entities capable of evolving by natural selection, and a “Darwinian individual,” which is a member of such a population. He uses this framework to shed light on topics including reproduction, symbiosis, culture, and transitions between levels of organization. The book is a perfect illustration of why science sometimes needs philosophy.

By Peter Godfrey-Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1859 Darwin described a deceptively simple mechanism that he called "natural selection," a combination of variation, inheritance, and reproductive success. He argued that this mechanism was the key to explaining the most puzzling features of the natural world, and science and philosophy were changed forever as a result. The exact nature of the Darwinian process has been controversial ever since, however. Godfrey-Smith draws on new developments in biology,
philosophy of science, and other fields to give a new analysis and extension of Darwin's idea. The central concept used is that of a "Darwinian population," a collection of things with…


Book cover of Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Author Of Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution

From my list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always wondered why people choose and act in particular ways, from heroism and altruism to selfishness and greed. Human society is a kaleidoscope of changing actions and fortunes. Social science tries to explain why. But I was dissatisfied with its answers. Then I discovered writers who used evolutionary ideas to help explain social and economic change. I realized that evolution did not mean reducing everything to biology. I became fascinated by Darwin’s deeper and wider ideas about human society, cooperation, and motivation. I read widely and joined with others of similar mind. It is an exciting and rewarding intellectual landscape to explore. I strongly recommend a long visit.

Geoffrey's book list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Plotkin’s brilliant book is about the nature and evolution of human knowledge. How do people gain and develop useful knowledge in a complex, uncertain, and changing world? Behaviorist theories of stimulus and response are inadequate. The mind must be primed to deal with complexity and uncertainty. Models from behaviorist psychology are unable to account for the acquisition of knowledge in such circumstances. Darwinian evolutionary theory helps to explain how the mind uses inherited instincts and culturally acquired habits to guide and enhance intelligence. As with the earlier work of the Darwinian psychologist and pragmatist, William James, instinct and habit are the enablers of intelligence, not its impediments. Knowledge is an evolutionary adaptation. This great book reveals more explosive implications of Darwinism for social science.

By Henry Plotkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing together evolutionary biology, psychology, and philosophy, Henry Plotkin presents a new science of knowledge that traces an unbreakable link between instinct and our ability to know. Since our ability to know our world depends primarily on what we call intelligence, intelligence must be understood as an extension of instinct. The capacity for knowledge is deeply rooted in our biology and, in a special sense, is shared by all living things.


Book cover of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Author Of Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution

From my list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always wondered why people choose and act in particular ways, from heroism and altruism to selfishness and greed. Human society is a kaleidoscope of changing actions and fortunes. Social science tries to explain why. But I was dissatisfied with its answers. Then I discovered writers who used evolutionary ideas to help explain social and economic change. I realized that evolution did not mean reducing everything to biology. I became fascinated by Darwin’s deeper and wider ideas about human society, cooperation, and motivation. I read widely and joined with others of similar mind. It is an exciting and rewarding intellectual landscape to explore. I strongly recommend a long visit.

Geoffrey's book list on the seismic implications of Darwinism for social science

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Why did Geoffrey love this book?

This clearly written and well-researched book shows that human evolution is as much about culture as it is about genes. Both evolve. And both involve the Darwinian principles of variation, selection, and replication of key bits of information. Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson are among the leading contributors to our understanding of how genes and culture co-evolve. The work rebuts exclusively gene-based accounts, and it shows how human evolution operates on multiple levels. Darwinian ideas remain paramount because they provide the over-arching framework in which both genetic and cultural evolution interact and guide human behavior. This book shows how a Darwinian evolutionary approach can rescue the theory of culture in social science from its many vagaries and past wrong turns.

By Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not by Genes Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth, and our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In "Not by Genes Alone", Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics. "Not by Genes Alone" offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem…


Book cover of Last And First Men

K.K. Edin Author Of The Measurements of Decay

From my list on exploring philosophy through fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.

K.K.'s book list on exploring philosophy through fiction

K.K. Edin Why did K.K. love this book?

Last and First Men is an imagined history of the human race over two-billion years into the future. The beauty of this work is its ability to give the human race meaning and significance, whereas most other works of such scope instead seek to dwarf humanity and its significance under the scale of the universe. Stapledon achieves this by infusing his narrative with compassion, and with an underlying admiration for the process of evolution. Moreso than Darwinian evolution, the process humanity undergoes is more aligned with Hegelian, idealist dialectical movements, and implicitly evokes many questions about the nature of consciousness, our place in the universe, and what is essential about humanity. Though I cannot quite say why, the book has a refreshingly optimistic quality. I read this book shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, and it brought me much vitality.

By Olaf Stapledon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last And First Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years.

Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.


Book cover of Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Xenia A. Cherkaev Author Of Gleaning for Communism: The Soviet Socialist Household in Theory and Practice

From my list on the possibility of collectivist modern life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am interested in how regimes of ethics and property interrelate, and how this interrelation informs political thought: in questions of cooperatives and collectives, customary use-rights, and household economies. I'm an anthropologist by training and geographically I work in Russia. I've written about socialist property law and stolen late-Soviet penguins, Stalin-era mine-detection dogs and perestroika-era saints, möbius bands, 19th-century Russian cheese-making co-operatives, New World Order theories of “The Golden Billion” and other important matters.

Xenia's book list on the possibility of collectivist modern life

Xenia A. Cherkaev Why did Xenia love this book?

Mutual Aid is an argument against social Darwinism: against the idea that social progress, like natural evolution, relies on cutthroat competition in which the fittest survive.

Kropotkin begins from a different premise. From the idea that life is foremost a cooperative struggle. Beings struggle together against outside forces before they struggle against others of their own kind. First published in English in 1902, the book is a popular and loving account of gregarious life. It teems with examples of beings acting cooperatively: struggling together for their existence and taking pleasure in the sheer fact of being together.

Its many examples are sure to dazzle curious children and dismay self-assured relatives seated next to you at family gatherings. 

By Peter Kropotkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mutual Aid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Short excerpt: Paucity of life, under-population—not over-population—being the distinctive feature of that immense part of the globe which we name Northern Asia, I conceived since then serious doubts—which subsequent study has only confirmed—as to the reality of that fearful competition for food and life within each species, which was an article of faith with most Darwinists...


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Darwinism, evolutionary biology, and storytelling?

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