[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
“Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons of famine, burial rites, and medicinal remedies; it’s been used as a way to terrorize and even a way to show filial piety. With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, American Museum of Natural History zoologist Bill Schutt takes us on a tour of the field, dissecting exciting new research and investigating questions such as why so many fish eat their offspring and some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why sexual cannibalism is an evolutionary advantage for certain spiders; why, until the end of the eighteenth century, British royalty ate human body parts; how cannibalism may be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals; why microbes on sacramental bread may have led to execution of Jews by Catholics in the Middle Ages. As he examines these close encounters of the cannibal kind, Bill Schutt makes the ick-factor fascinating.”
[who finds this subject icky? Oh, I guess a lot of people <_<]
A book on one of my favorite subjects! Woohoo!
I got this as a[n awesome] bday gift and I was pretty excited. Despite that I’ve done all kinds of my own research into cannibalism for years and years now [since I was a wee lass], I realized that this was probably my first actual physical book on it. Can strike that of my life goals list now. [and make a collection of them]
Not in a ‘toot my own horn’ way but I went in sort of not sure if I was going to have a repeat to the last book I read [here] where I was going to go in knowing most of what the book was about. However, and happily, I was pleasantly surprised. The book specifically tries to stay away from sort of ‘psychopath’ human cannibals and only mentions one here and there when its related to something specific in the chapter. Instead, it covers cannibalism from the ground up. Starting small like with insects and tadpoles to fish, birds, then mammals and the various kinds of cannibalism within them. From there it goes to primates and then early/ancient humans and the last few chapters dissects the different kinds of cannibalism found in humans and examples of such. Even minor examples that is/are considered ‘self cannibalism’ anything from consuming human breast milk and eating your nails to the ever-rising trend of consuming placenta[s].
In every chapter I learned something new and I drank this book up like, well, human soup. There was quite a few times where I suddenly realized I was up much later than I expected because I couldn’t put the book down.
Schutt does a really good job at covering sort of the ground basics for pretty much everything and sourcing a ton of other research/researchers, and really it was a really satisfying medley of all kinds of cannibalism that some I had even forgot about. [My favorite is sexual cannibalism, second favorite is in-utero cannibalism fyi]
Everything is done matter-of-factly and usually to the point. There’s a few times where the author sat and gloated and also made quite a few dad jokes [DaaAAAAAaaaaAAAAddd…!] but the book goes by rather smoothly.
Also, super kudos for the author calling out racism on a constant basis. Just because most cultures look down upon it, doesn’t mean it’s ‘wrong’ and we’ve fucked over a lot of people and cultures over the year that weren’t tidy and set in a preferred mold.
Definitely if you’re merely curious about cannibalism and it’s cultural and historic significance throughout time, this book is for you. If you’re into everything about it and want all the juicy details, this book is also for you.
I give Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History 5/5 Stir-Fried Placentas
‘There were only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate five of them, you depraved Republican son of a bitch!’