“Long Story Short” is both written and narrated by Margot Leitman; an American comedic storyteller, humor writer, and teacher. The book is subtitled “The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need”, and the question many may have is if the book stands up to its high claim. I, like most, enjoy both telling and hearing a good story because they are more memorable and draw us into a subject. However, this book is more geared towards the individual who is looking for exercises, methods, and ways of taking a rather bland story and making it a great one. The author also provides help so you can unearth compelling stories from your current and past life experiences. I enjoyed the opening few chapters laying out what and why storytelling is important, but was less captivated with the nitty-gritty of the storytelling process found mostly in the second half of the book. If you are a professional storyteller or want to become one, I believe you will find this book useful is it is a primer on the subject. For the non-storyteller, you will find the book helpful and learn from listening to it. But, for me the book lacked specific areas I was hoping the author would have addressed but did not; more around using storytelling in a business setting.
It is understandable that much of the work outlined in this book is cultivated from the authors background in the comedy scene and teaching for years on the subject of storytelling. For me at times, the book seemed rather academic and less engaging for those looking for some quick ideas or thoughts on the subject. A large number of examples and exercises are focused upon humor and comedy, which for me is not what I was hoping to learn from the book. There is a time to be the class clown and a time where storytelling needs to be serious or more business focused, I felt the book lacked much of the second. I personally was hoping to learn how to better tell stories to my customers, which I guess I could reapply some of the exercises to fit this use case if they were modified somewhat. What I found was that the book focused more on the how one should tell stories and less on the why tell a story. Some of this was addressed in the beginning of the book, but then moved to more practical uses of storytelling.
The examples given were often quite helpful and in many ways strengthened the idea or concept the author was trying to get across. I’m not sure why it seemed to stand out more for me, but the examples seemed to be centered or more female focused that I would have thought. Now, this is not a big surprise as most are taken from the author who is female herself, but I found myself asking for more generic examples as the book progressed. Secondly, I felt the book was less structured than I would have expected for an academic piece. The flow was not as smooth nor the transitions between chapters as fluid. These are all things that can be overcome if you are looking for a decent book on how to tell great stories.
I was not aware there were storytelling competitions, and I have to give the author kudos for winning many of them throughout her career. This helps solidify her credentials and ability to write a book about storytelling and also teach on the subject. Be aware that the book does contain some rather strong language at times. Some of these are from the author herself while others are from others she quotes throughput the book. If the use of vulgar language offends you, you may want to find another book on story telling.
Often when a book is both authored and narrated by the same person one or the other suffers. However, in this book I thought the author did an exceptional job narrating it. There were a few places where I noticed slight volume inconsistencies, but nothing that would take away from the content. You can clearly tell that the author is passionate about her subject matter by her enthusiasm and inflection while narrating the book.
In summary, if you are looking to become, or better your career, as a professional storytelling, I think you will glean some good information from this book. However, if you are more a casual storyteller or just want some high-level information, I recommend you just listen to the first half of the book or find one more fitting to the type of storytelling you are looking for. For me, it was more to assist with storytelling in my career, but this is more business and professional focused and not comedy and humor related.