Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
It’s one of the last true taboos in civilized culture: cannibalism. From the Donner Party and Alive! to Jeffrey Dahmer and Hannibal Lecter, it conjures thoughts both lurid and compelling. It seems so unnatural. But, as it turns out, at least for some creatures, it’s more natural than you might expect.
Cannibalism examines the concept in many forms, covering both human and animal examples, delineating between acts of cannibalism for survival, in funeral rights, and other scenarios. Schutt takes us up and down human history, pondering whether Neanderthals engaged in the act, whether man-eaters in the Caribbean were real or hearsay, and even into the scientific debate regarding the origins and transmission of mad cow disease.
Schutt mixes science and history with equal deftness, never indulging in gore for the sake of shock value. His scholarly approach, bolstered by his own investigations and interviews — the Donner Party excursion is a particular highlight — all make for an endlessly fascinating read.
Of course, reading this book in public will raise some eyebrows. If you care about that sort of thing.