Cannibalism is an uncomfortable topic for most of us. It stirs up images of Hannibal Lecter stalking his victims and turning them into brain omelettes. As a culture, we’ve relegated it to horror movies and terrifying tales of travels gone awry. However, Cannibalism in nature is more common than one would expect. In Bill Schutt’s new book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, readers explore a world in which many creatures eat their young, consume each other after sex, and even the circumstances under which human beings eat each other.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural an excellent job of looking at the scientific angles, rather than sensationalizing the concept. That isn’t to say that the book isn’t utterly fascinating; Schutt is a Vertebrate Zoologist and makes sure that readers know the theory and science behind cannibalism as a concept.
I will let you know that the end portions of the book can be a bit stomach churning. In these sections, Schutt talks about cannibalism in areas during periods of mass starvation, medicinal use of human body parts, as well as ritual cannibalism after the death of a loved one. There is one section entirely describing diseases and disorders that are theorized to be caused by eating human flesh. Be warned: if you don’t want to read a few paragraphs about how a brain can end up looking like Swiss cheese thanks to certain virus activity, maybe skip the last section.
Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History is a great read for the slightly morbid science nerd and the budding anthropologist. Just don’t read it during your lunch break.