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The Story Shelf: 3/2016

the story shelf green

Like the growl for pad thai or blood orange gelato, sometimes I get hungry for a good story. Usually this craving happens when too much busy bullies up against my soul. I want nothing more than to settle into a darkened theater, crack open a thick novel or call up a friend for coffee, to gorge on the satisfying effect of a story.

Well, guess what? There’s a legitimate neurological reason for this feeling. According to an article by Pacific Standard magazine, “There are proven intersections between neuroscience, biology, and story we cannot ignore.” Want to read some fascinating sciencey stuff? Google the connection between oxytocin and storytelling.

Our brains are wired for connection through narrative. We CAN actually feel story hunger! I feel incredibly validated by this good news.

However, not all stories are created equal. A trashy novel or gossipy conversation is the story equivalent of downing half a dozen Krispy Kremes. They might taste sweet initially but have negative longterm effects. Mindfully choosing the stories we consume takes as much intentionality as eating healthy. Life is too precious and short to feed our minds empty calories.  It’s OK to turn the channel, click out of social media, walk out of a movie or excuse yourself from a conversation.

Another article cites the benefits of a good story to be heightened empathy, deeper connection, and compassion. This happens in ways as broad and vast as the human experience. Good stories are everywhere, spreading like virus but also hiding in the unlikeliest of places.

Devouring a good story is only made more delicious when shared with others. I’m starting a monthly collection, in case you get hungry, and as a way to remember my favorites.

“I am always hungry for this,
for a story to swallow me whole.”
Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines

March 2016:

  • La’Porsha Renae on the final season of American Idol
    We don’t watch much reality TV, but have gotten drawn into American Idol’s last season. And I’m so glad we did because what is AI except one long story fest. La’Porsha’s story had me from the minute she walked in the audition room. This gal makes a lasting first impression. Full of broken pieces and heartbreak, she’s an olympic caliber overcomer. I’m pretty sure in another lifetime she was some mythically regal queen that has the power to make all the people cry (including Keith Urban) with the purest of singing gifts. If La’Porsha doesn’t win, America is whacked. Watching this song will make your day, I promise
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
    I don’t do scary or horror in any genre. EVER. After watching The Shining in college I didn’t sleep for a week, so Stephen King is persona non grata in my book. I never could understand how so many could love his stories. That is until I read his memoir On Writing. Mr. King is a genius writer and storyteller. Duh. I started seeing everyone buzz about a book he wrote outside of his usual genre about a man who travels back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. I just finished the audiobook and it will blow your mind. I may have to tentatively explore more of his work.
  • The Prayer of a Young Boy
    Rereading all the stories recorded in the Bible is of course the best place to go when you get hungry. 1 Samuel 3 tells the story of a young boy who went to live in the temple because of his mother’s promise. It’s the middle of the night and a voice keeps waking him up. Disoriented and confused he follows the directions of  the priest and on the fourth time speaks these words back to the voice….”Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” This childhood conversation with God defined the rest of Samuel’s story as prophet and judge. This month I’ve tried to whisper his words as my first prayer into the early darkness. Listening is surely step one of a good story.

Of course I’m always on the lookout for good stories. What was your favorite story this month?

I invite you to subscribe to The Story Place, which means you’ll get each post in your inbox and won’t miss any of the stories I share. Thanks for trusting me with your email!

3 thoughts on “The Story Shelf: 3/2016

  1. I am in agreement with you about the genius of ‘On Writing’ and while similarly terrified by ‘The Shining’, have come to appreciate Mr. King’s gifts as a writer.
    In another genre entirely, I recently read ‘Ordinary Grace’, by William Kent Krueger. “Once in a blue moon a book drops down on your desk that demands to be read. … Such a book is Ordinary Grace.” – Huffington Post A beautifully told story of the challenges and growth of faith in the midst of a messy, painful world. I loved it.

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