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  • Leslie Tourish

Read to Me: the Magic of Storytelling

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

Who doesn’t love having a story read to them? Our first stories were essentially audiobooks. Human history began with people telling stories to each other around the fire. The day’s work done, not quite ready for sleep, our minds love to escape the day’s troubles by traveling to an imagined world woven by the storyteller. Will they pick up the tale’s thread from where they left off last time?

Oral storytelling goes back thousands of years, and it’s a magic each of us has experienced ourselves. Parents, caregivers, teachers, relatives, at some point, read us a story, perhaps the same story read to them as a child, giving them the thrill of reentering that special world while sharing it with the next generation.

What’s our draw to stories? Our love of romance, adventure, thrills, and the battling forces of good and evil is one of our most enduring traditions. One school of thought holds that we benefit from stories because we don’t live long enough to gain enough wisdom to be successful in just one lifetime.

If we read about Romeo and Juliet’s plight, for example, then we may learn valuable truths about life or lessons about love as we observe the mistakes these characters make and try to understand their perspectives. (Fun fact: as he grew up, Shakespeare heard many ancient variations on this tragic romance, and finally committed his own version to paper… while socially isolating for 18 months during a pandemic! Sound familiar?)

Knowledge, empathy, and wisdom don't have to come only from direct experience. Stories allow us to explore other worlds without leaving our own, so we can see and feel what the characters see and feel, and learn from their experiences.

Audiobooks may be a relatively new technology, but ancient parts of your brain are hardwired to hear and tell stories. How often have you fallen under the spell of a book? In just a few of the author’s sentences, your imagination conjures up the characters and settings, effortlessly filling in the blanks: proof that your brain is built for stories.

And when someone skilled in storytelling is spinning the yarn while you listen, then that’s magic with a dollop of whipped cream. That’s why I was delighted with the outcome of the audiobook for my first novel, The Headshrinker’s Brigade. The actor Carrington MacDuffie brought Julia, Nick, Graham, Walter, Marlene, Paulie, Glen, Angel, and the fictional world of Elston, Texas vividly to life. I hope you get a chance to listen to it and experience the magic.

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