Not Logged in.
Book Jacket

The Overstory


"Monumental… A gigantic fable of genuine truths."—Barbara Kingsolver, The New ...
Summary and Reviews
Excerpt
Reading Guide
Author Biography

Discuss The Overstory by Richard Powers:
"The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

Created: 07/26/19

Replies: 13

Posted Jul. 26, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1946

Expert

"The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

Several times throughout the novel people state, "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." What do you think the author means by this? Do you agree?


Posted Aug. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 92

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I think a good story stands a greater chance than an argument but that assumes that people read or listen to the story. Richard Powers is a fantastic writer and a tremendous intellect but his writing takes work, sometimes hard work, to get through. Sadly, it may be that mostly other like-minded folks are motivated to put forth the work.


Posted Aug. 06, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
phyllisrelyea

Join Date: 04/13/12

Posts: 17

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

And that is why I appreciated this novel because the story was so well presented for humankind and nature. My mind was certainly informed and affected by this unusual story. Thanks to Powers for his creative genius! I especially liked his organization: Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 231

Expert

RE:

Phyllis, your appreciation for the organization of the work is seconded.This helped me connect to what was going on in each section and follow the development of the book more easily. I loved the Roots section because each of those was a story, and I followed that in the Trunk section of the novel we were beginning to see those stories connect and "rise up" as tree trunks do to the point where they become the crown, where the limbs and leaves intersperse. This is naturally followed by the Seeds. I have always been more open to stories - I hear and listen to argument but am much less effected/affected by facts and figures than I am to seeing all sides of a situation and thinking about it internally, in isolation. For this reason, this novel became less and less interesting to me as I worked my way through it. The voice grew harsher and louder, I felt, and I found myself backing off. The final scene was a message of hope, I believe, but as a story it didn't work for me.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1946

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I agree with paulak that "mostly other like-minded folks" will be motivated to read "The Overstory." However, in reading through the responses to many of the threads I get a sense that pretty much everyone posting would have considered themselves ecologically-aware before reading "The Overstory" but that many have come away with a new sense of awe, and an understanding of how important trees, and indeed all of nature, are to us. I doubt I would have come away from a nonfiction work as profoundly impacted as I have from "The Overstory."

I was particularly struck by the character of Patricia who comments late on in the book that her life's work to bank seeds for future generations to replant might come to nothing because each species of tree is interconnected with various plants, animals and fungi, without which the tree may not be able to be reintroduced.

The storytelling is a little didactic, but I'm totally fine with that! In fact, while I already had a print copy from the publisher, I've bought an electronic version so I have the ability to search it for information on specific species.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeb

Join Date: 10/09/18

Posts: 21

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

A story can entertain and educate anyone who is able to enjoy the journey. I do believe that a naysayer could be recruited to the cause by a good story. If someone asked you to remember a set of facts, wouldn’t you find it easier to remember if said facts appeared in story form? And that is the insidious part, you have the facts in your head before you know it and you can repeat them to move the chain along.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolf

Join Date: 07/10/14

Posts: 45

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I think arguments become competitions between people - who can shout louder or be more aggressive. This makes the other person unresponsive to any opposing view I think. A story on the other hand can become a source of information presented in a reader friendly format. It takes a much longer time to read a story than to argue a point and therefore, perhaps, some thread of the opposing view comes to light and is understood.


Posted Aug. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ruthiea

Join Date: 02/03/14

Posts: 174

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I think of a story in a different light - I have always found that an anecdote is more effective than an argument - it is more about "showing" rather than "telling" - especially when it comes to fiction. A good writer can show me his point of view rather than trying to force his opinion on me. Straight facts and information can be dry and people may tune out. Giving the info as a story - preferably a small scale story, can engage a listener and influence opinion.
I do agree that this book is work, and it's long, and in my case, even the font was super tiny - I had to buy stronger readers! I will have be careful to whom I recommend this novel, as it is not easily accessible.


Posted Aug. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sarahh

Join Date: 03/05/12

Posts: 23

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I think story hits people at a personal and emotional level that facts and counterarguments cannot. To some extent I wonder if it bypasses cognitive bias by touching the emotional and visual aspects of the brain, rather than the rational, word based brain.


Posted Aug. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 257

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

Agree with paulak. Like-minded tend to read the stories that others need to hear. As far as arguments are concerned, I have become so numbed by the massive amount of people sharing their version of what is right and slamming others who don't think the way they do. I have to tune it out just to keep my sanity!


Posted Aug. 13, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Cariola

Join Date: 12/06/17

Posts: 2

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I agree. It's human nature to prefer to be entertained rather than educated; I think that's a big reason why the current president is so popular and why so many people ignore the facts regarding climate change and other issues.


Posted Aug. 13, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulagb

Join Date: 08/16/17

Posts: 79

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I truly hope so. I really loved this book and hope it has the impact it deserves. I fully acknowledge paulak’s point that those comfortable destroying nature will not read this book. If they did read it they would declare it to be romantic nonsense aimed at denying civilization of the natural gifts it needs and requires. The great body of public opinion can be influenced by stories. I hope this one has animpact.


Posted Aug. 14, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 368

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

I think it depends on the person who's mind you are trying to change. Some respond best to a story where others learn from an arguments.
I especially like Susiej's interpretation of the four sections.


Posted Sep. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BuffaloGirl

Join Date: 01/13/18

Posts: 64

Expert

RE: "The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story." Do you agree?

Having retired from a healthcare background, we repeatedly had to "show the data". Most intelligent, non-self centered people do seem to respond to data. I have found though, that most often, self-centered people simply wont change their mind, whether presented a good story or data. They see it as a loss of face to change their mind.


Reply

Please login to post a response.