A Perfectly Natural History

Book - 2017
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"Eating one's own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons relating to famine, burial rites, and medicinal remedies. Cannibalism has been used as a form of terrorism but also as the ultimate expression of filial piety. With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, Bill Schutt, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, takes us on a tour of the field, exploring exciting new avenues of research and investigating questions like 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 regularly ate human body parts; how cannibalism may be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals; why microbes on sacramental bread may have led to Catholics' to persecute European Jews in the Middle Ages. Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath, but be forewarned: As climate change progresses and humans see more famine, disease, and overcrowding, biological and cultural constraints may well disappear. These are the very factors that lead to outbreaks of cannibalism. As he examines these close encounters of the cannibal kind, Bill Schutt makes the ick-factor fascinating"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Chapel Hill, North Carolina :, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781616204624
Branch Call Number: 394.909 Sch
Characteristics: xviii, 332 pages : illustrations, map


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OPL_DavidD Sep 19, 2018

An informative and entertaining take on a fascinating subject. Serial killers only get a brief mention in the introducation (this isn't a true crime book). The author looks at the different reasons both animals and humans partake in acts of cannibalism, whether out of desperation or ritual. You will learn a lot of fun facts that will get you sideways glances if you bring them up at dinner parties (which is a course of action I recommend).

Mar 25, 2017

Drenched as it is in philosophical naturalism (hard-core materialism), the book and judgments reflect the author’s opinions. To give you an idea: the author partakes in cannibalism, eating the fried placenta of a woman and, of course, it tastes like . . . . you'll have to read it to find out. Likewise, his discussion of Roman Catholic (I'm not RC) communion as an act of cannibalism is infantile and feeble. His tracing of “mad cow” disease and the kuru among New Guineans are interesting. So, too, his discussions of varied animals and insects. Popularly written. Of passing interest.

SCL_Tricia Feb 25, 2017

The author does a great job of approaching the subject, he attempts to keep sensationalism out of his work, but at the same time he is not overly dry or boring. It doesn't seem likely but parts of the book are very funny. I finished this book quickly, I could not put it down! It would seem that once an interesting topic had run it's course, another equally intriguing subject would be brought up, leaving me in a perpetual cycle of just one more chapter! El terrifico was a secondary reader of the book, gleaning all the good parts through my constant "did you knows".
If you want sensational tales of murderers and man-eaters, you won't find that here. Instead, this book focuses on cannibalism in a biological, anthropological, and sociological sense. A much more interesting read. Wonderful creative nonfiction.

Dec 28, 2016

at a fine restaurant sometime in the near future: the maitre d' announces "donner, party of ate, donner, party of ate" burp.

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