Best Story Wins



A truth that applies to many fields, which can frustrate some as much as it energizes others, is that the person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not who has the best idea, or the right answer. Just whoever tells a story that catches people’s attention and gets them to nod their heads.


C. R. Hallpike is a respected anthropologist who once wrote a review of a young author’s recent book on the history of humans. It states:

It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously … [It is not] a contribution to knowledge.

Two things are notable here.

One is that the book’s author doesn’t seem to disagree with the assessment.

Another is that the author, Yuval Noah Harari, has sold over 27 million books, making him one of the bestselling contemporary authors in any field, and his book Sapiens – which Hallpike was reviewing – the most successful anthropology book of all time.

Harari recently said about writing Sapiens:

I thought, ‘This is so banal!’ … There is absolutely nothing there that is new. I’m not an archeologist. I’m not a primatologist. I mean, I did zero new research. . . . It was really reading the kind of common knowledge and just presenting it in a new way.

What Sapiens does have is excellent writing. Beautiful writing. The stories (Read more...)