Written by a biology professor, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History is divided between the non-human world, where cannibalism is common and marvelously varied, and the human world, where we, as usual, have complicated the practice with all kinds of cultural and religious practices and taboos. I much enjoyed the first half, which leaps deftly from sharks eating their siblings inside their mothers’ oviducts to amphibians that consume the mothers’ oviduct lining using their special spoon-shaped teeth (yikes). It took me a while to appreciate the human stories, but the author investigates the Donner party (and gives us a lovely hand drawing of a beautiful Ponderosa pine supposed to be the tree where George Donner lived his last days), the fearsome original fairy tales in which ogres ate many young children (whitewashed by Disney), gruesome stories of the siege of Leningrad (do not use your imagination), and his memorable adventures eating placenta (does not taste like chicken).
Great book. Try not to read it in public, at least if you are reading a hard copy!