Cannibalism: Book summary and reviews of Cannibalism by Bill Schutt

Cannibalism

A Perfectly Natural History

by Bill Schutt

Cannibalism by Bill Schutt X
Cannibalism by Bill Schutt
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Book Summary

Eating one's own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans.

Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons related to famine, burial rites, and medicine. Cannibalism has also been used as a form of terrorism and 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; and how cannibalism might be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals.

Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath. But 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 - in other species and our own.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. With plenty of examples of cannibalism in humans past and present, Schutt's well researched and suspenseful work is a must read for anyone who's interested in the topic - and can stomach the gore." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Schutt's writing is delightfully accessible, rarely boring, and utterly captivating. A must-buy for high school and public libraries." - Library Journal

"A fascinating exploration of a normally taboo subject." - John de Cuevas, contributing editor, Harvard Magazine

"Bill Schutt serves up a deliciously entertaining smorgasbord of scientific reality. He gives us a deeper insight into the way nature really works." - Darrin Lunde, Museum Specialist, Smithsonian Institution, and author of The Naturalist

"Butterflies do it. So do some toads, birds, and polar bears. Did dinosaurs do it? What about the Neanderthals? And what about us, for that matter? If you're hungry for a fun, absorbing read about which animals eat their own kind and why, read this book." - Virginia Morell, New York Times bestselling author of Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel

"A clear-headed, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic - and always fascinating - compendium of one of Western culture's strongest taboos. From the Australian redback spider to the Donner Party, Schutt examines the evolutionary purposes that eating one's own can serve. But he goes beyond scientific explanation to show how deeply cannibalism is woven into our own history and literature." - Cat Warren, New York Times bestselling author of What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

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Author Information

Bill Schutt

Bill Schutt is a professor of biology at LIU Post and a research associate in residence at the American Museum of Natural History. His first book, Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures, was selected as a Best Book of 2008 by Library Journal and Amazon and was chosen for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program.

Born in New York City and raised on Long Island by parents who encouraged his love for turning over stones and peering under logs, Schutt quickly grew a passion for the natural world, with its enormous wonders and its increasing vulnerability. He received his PhD in zoology from Cornell and has published over two dozen peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from terrestrial locomotion in vampire bats to the precarious, arboreal copulatory behavior of a marsupial mouse. His research has been featured in Natural History magazine as well as the New York Times, Newsday, the Economist, and Discover magazine. He was recently reelected to the board of directors of the North American Society for Bat Research.

A recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Grant at the AMNH, Schutt lives on the East End of Long Island with his wife and son.

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