Dinner with a Cannibal
by Carole A. Travis-Henikoff
Dinner with a Cannibal - The Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo
by Carole A. Travis-Henikoff  •  Foreword by Christy G. Turner II


Dinner With A Cannibal chosen as one of CHOICE magazine's Outstanding Academic Titles of the Year!

This year's Outstanding Academic Title list includes 679 books and electronic resources chosen by the CHOICE (Current Reviews for Academic Libraries) editorial staff from among the 7,190 titles reviewed by CHOICE during the past year. Of these, 629 are print products; the remaining 50 are electronic. These outstanding works have been selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important -- often the first -- treatment of their subject. Comprising just over 9 percent of the titles reviewed by CHOICE during the past year, and less than 3 percent of the more than 25,000 titles submitted to CHOICE during this same period, Outstanding Academic Titles are truly the "best of the best."

Dinner With A Cannibal receives "editor's pick" for October/2008 from:
CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

  • A publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries
  • A division of the American Library Association
  • October 2008 Vol. 46 No. 02
  • Anthropology
  • Travis-Henikoff, Carole A. Dinner with a cannibal: the complete history of mankind's oldest taboo. Santa Monica Press, 2008. 333p bibl index ISBN 9781595800305

Cannibalism is the "ingestion of others of one's own species and is practiced throughout the animal kingdom, from one-celled organisms to humans." By the time readers have finished digesting this history of cannibalism, they may not approve of the practice, but they will understand its various causes, such as starvation, medicinal purposes, and cultural/religious belief systems.

Travis Henikoff, an independent scholar who specializes in paleoanthropology, spent seven years researching and writing this fascinating book about the history of cannibalistic practices. Her writing engages readers to the point that one does not want to put the book down. If the reader has a background in anthropology, this book will be more valuable, but an educated layperson will find it very enlightening too. The book is short and concise enough to fulfill research requirements for undergraduates, but it also provides enough information to entice scholars to research further. It ends with good chapter notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a precise index. It will become a classic in its field. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Should be purchased by all academic libraries and most public libraries.

 -E.M. Burns, Ohio State University

Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo - Carole A. Travis-Henikoff. Santa Monica, $24.95 (336p) ISBN 9781595800305

"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 challenges 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. (original review)

 -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Web Exclusive Reviews: Week of 4/21/2008

Raffaele, Paul. Among the Cannibals: Adventures on the Trail of Man's Darkest Ritual. Jun. 2008. c.288p. photogs. index. ISBN 978-0-06-135788-6. $25.95.

Travis-Henikoff, Carole A. Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo. Santa Monica. 2008. 336p. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1-59580-030-5. $24.95. ANTHRO

Those seeking tales of serial killers like Hannibal Lecter will be disappointed in these books, as both authors favor in-depth examinations of cannibalism across a wide variety of cultures. Likewise, both discredit the conclusions of William Arens's The Man-Eating Myth, instead asserting that cannibalism has been a very real human practice around the globe. Travis-Henikoff, a scholar of paleoanthropology, covers the phenomenon's many raisons d'etre, from survival to politically motivated terror. Her perspective as a gastronomist helps to situate cannibalism within a wide range of global culinary practices from the Amazon to the American Southwest to Polynesia. Some sections, e.g., those on archaeological dating and on the Inquisition, could have been shorter, but the book's range is impressive.

Raffaele (Smithsonian magazine) focuses on cannibalism in a few particular regions: New Guinea, the Ganges basin, Tonga, and Uganda. He meets with cannibals, the locals who condemn them, and descendents of other known cannibals. His beautiful descriptions of life among these cultures show that cannibalism is a local belief that, unlike the rapidly changing landscape, is still going strong in some places. Unlike Travis-Henikoff, Raffaele maintains that cannibalism not related to survival is an "evil" act, yet his portraits of cannibals show their essential humanity. Both books are highly recommended for public libraries; endnotes and a bibliography additionally recommend Travis-Henikoff.

 -LIBRARY JOURNAL 5/15/08 - DAN HARMS, SUNY at Cortland

Everything it should be and more

Travis-Henikoff, 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. Travis-Henikoff 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.

 -D. MOULTON "BookmanNYC"

"Dinner with a Cannibal covers the subject of cannibalism with amazing thoroughness as it passes through seldom opened doors to disclose the underpinnings of our humanity."

 -GARNISS CURTIS, professor emeritus of geology, University of California at Berkeley

"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

"Events over the last century have provided us with many examples of human activities of such monstrous depravity that they can scarcely be comprehended. Dinner with a Cannibal brings us face to face with another aspect of ourselves that many would prefer not to confront. And yet, 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

"No one, to my knowledge, has told the complete story of cannibalism from the Triassic to the present - until now. Dinner with a Cannibal is 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 brings together knowledgeable speculation and fascinating detail, combining discoveries of others with her own experience, theories, and explorations. This is an 'I-couldn't-put-it-down' book."

 -ANN E. BERTHOFF, professor emerita of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston

"The research and logic found in Dinner with a Cannibal places us firmly in front of a mirror in which we can clearly view our primitive nature and see how it has enabled us to survive monumental challenges during our evolutionary history. By removing the denial, which segments our thinking, Travis-Henikoff offers a way to integrate our basic nature with the skills and talents we have developed during that history. This, in turn, provides us a set of tools for creating our future."

 -DR. ALAN R. KAHN, physician, researcher, inventor, author and teacher