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Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo Hardcover – March 14, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Santa Monica Press; First Edition edition (March 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595800301
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595800305
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "The truth is, we all have cannibals in our closets," writes Travis-Henikoff in her introduction to this meticulously researched, compulsively readable history of mankind's greatest taboo. As she eloquently illustrates, cannibalism has been around for as long as humans, and it's quite possible that its outlaw is a recent development in terms of recorded history. Many readers are no doubt familiar with the Chilean rugby team immortalized in Piers Paul Read's Alive (recounted again here), but not with the fact that widespread cannibalism has been documented in parts of war-torn Africa as recently as 2003. Sadistic serial killers and the oft-stereotyped tribesmen of the Amazon figure prominently, but where Travis-Henikoff truly excels is in her sociological and anthropological analysis, offering thoughtful insights into the whys of cannibalism, lucidly explaining how cannibalism can begin in a society, as well as its historical employment in times of famine, war and even during a period of political witch hunting in Communist China. A brief but entertaining digression into folklore examines cannibalism in fairy tales such as the Brothers Grimm. Throughout, Travis-Henikoff maintains a thoughtful tone, free of judgment, that frequently challenging readers' beliefs. The result is an eminently enjoyable, albeit very dark exploration of a taboo topic that should give armchair anthropologists, sociologists and historians plenty to chew on.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title for 2008



"Travis-Henikoff covers the phenomenon's many raisons d'être, from survival to politically motivated terror. . . . The book's range is impressive. Highly recommended for public libraries."  —Library Journal



"A careful and scholarly look at cannibalism, filled with humor, history, and fascinating facts; a totally delectable delight to read."  —Ralph L. Holloway, professor of anthropology, Columbia University



"If we are to ultimately fashion a real image of ourselves, not as fallen angels but as risen apes, this book will serve as an essential step in that direction."  —Alan Mann, professor of anthropology, Princeton University


"Exceptionally well researched and beautifully written. Our notion of exotic food may never be the same."  —Alan Almquist, professor emeritus of anthropology, California State University–East Bay


"Travis-Henikoff's lively and sometimes amusing anthropophagic romp shows that starvation and cultural patterns are often strong enough to counter moral taboos."  —College and Resource Library News


"Fascinating, fact and history-filled read that speaks to many of the societal problems we are facing today."  —Gary Sojka, professor of biology and former president, Bucknell University


"A fascinating history of the role cannibalism has played in the evolution of man." —Alan R. Kahn, author, Mind Shapes: Understanding the Differences in Thinking and Communication

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kaeli Vandertulip on June 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The history and psychology is far more interesting, ancient, and intricate than Thomas Harris would lead you to believe after reading The Silence of the Lambs. Travis-Henikoff takes her dual loves of food and cultural anthropology and weaves an excellent description of cannibalism. She begins with a very clear description of all the kinds of food humans eat. This puts the reader in the proper mindset: to understand cultures other than your own, you have to stop thinking that your culture is the only one that has it right. I must admit, I learned more about the edible parts of an animal from this book than I would have liked, but this knowledge helped me to remember throughout the book that humans have a special relationship with food.

She then explains the various types: exocannibalism (eating enemies), endocannibalism (eating loved ones) and survival cannibalism (the Donner Party). All of this goes along with the special relationship with food. She is not judgmental of the societies that practiced cannibalism; in fact, she makes it feel foolish to denigrate "savages" who eat their loved ones (sometimes negatively effecting their own health) to make sure their souls are completely gone to the other side. She is not judgmental of those who are forced into cannibalism because of their situations, such as soldiers forced to eat their captives (though she does appropriately rebuke their commanders) or the men who crashed in the Andes. She does a wonderful job of describing their situations and of showing how these people accepted their acts as their new normal.

She gives almost no attention to those who act outside of societal norms; cannibalistic serial killers do not tell us useful things about a culture in the same way as cannibalistic funerary rights do.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Moulton on June 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Travis-Henikoff (T-K), the daughter of a master chef and paleoanthropologist has written the book she was born to write. Dinner with a Cannibal is a superior book on every level that is researched well enough to be useful to both Anthropologists and lovers of the quirky, strange and interesting. As a reader who falls into the latter category, I recommend this book to absolutely everyone.

T-K uses her extensive research to tell a story that moves as it illuminates, covering topics that give context to cannibalism beyond sitting down to a nice meal of human flesh. Do not expect a glorification of salacious events, but rather a style of writing that allows the facts and her conversations to shine in a way that makes you want more after 304 pages.

Buy this book and share it with a friend. (My roomate dibbed it as soon as I brough it home). Better yet, leave it on your coffee table as a conversation starter.

For people who love these types of books I also recommend: Stiff by Mary Roach, Mutants(s) by Armand Marie Leroi (little heavy on the science if that's your thing), Execution by Geoffrey Abbott, and Infection by Gerald N. Callahan. But not until you finish this one.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Johnson on March 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There were a few grammatical errors, and I wish there was a complete set of end notes, but overall this book was fantastic. This is the kind of nonfiction I deeply enjoy: hard facts mixed with personal stories and a lively use of language. The range of coverage of the book is impressive - from cannibalism in animals to simply odd culinary practices to the amazingly variable forms of cannibalism throughout human history all over the world. Simply a documentation of early-20th century Amazonian and New Guinean cultural practices this is not. My reactions while reading this book ranged from laughing out loud to jaw-on-the-floor wonder. Highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Chris Burroughs on March 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. It should appeal to everyone, from academics to laymen. It's not just about cannibalism but about the human condition, history, food and a lot of topics that are germane to us all. Travis-Henikoff's writing is excellent...it is hard not to read it in one sitting. I was initially turned on to the book's website where you can get a good idea of what is in the book: [...] You will love this book...interesting stuff.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ann Pierpont on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When one mentions cannibals, we cringe as an image comes to mind of men dacing around a cauldron boiling another human. Many do not realize that we, too, may be cannibals, most people are! How is that, you say? Travis-Henikoff's DINNER WITH A CANNIBAL delves into the history of cannibalism with gusto leaving nary a culture uninvestigated, including us. I joined the cannibal clan at three years old, when did you? Wonderfully written and entertaining, it humorously answers that question, but the book is no joke. It is a well researched, scholarly work into man's indulgence in any sort of human substance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TheUgliest on April 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Great book, fun, scholarly and irreverent. If you are too PC to have a sense of humor about who you are or are still caught up in the myths of the "noble savage," it will offend you (of with luck it may educate you). I thoroughly enjoyed it and ended up reading many excerpts from it to friends. Yes, she may have missed or miss-quoted a few scholarly references, but the basic facts and some great stories are there. If she is ever in town, would love to have her for dinner (sorry, over for dinner)!
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