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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Travels with Cannibals

While I enjoy having hot showers and soft beds in my own travels, I prefer my travel reading on the wild side. Near starvation, deadly wildlife, exotic locations - Survivorman has nothing on the real-life, armchair adventures I love. So, I was thrilled to find Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman on the bookshelves this spring. It doesn't get more extreme than exploring areas with a history of cannibalism.

Take a trip to some of the most remote locations and cultures on the planet this summer with our suggestions below. And don’t forget the library has all the guidebooks you need for your “real” vacation this summer. Whether your trip will be mild or wild, ask your local librarian to guide you to the 914-917 range to find travel books for all your destinations.

In Savage Harvest, Hoffman sets out to solve the mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller during a 1961 expedition to collect artifacts from the Asmat people of  Papua New Guinea. Rockefeller’s disappearance long raised suspicions, never proven, that he’d been killed and eaten by local tribes. Hoffman’s vivid descriptions and intense research bring the reader face to face with the violent ceremonies and rituals of the Asmats’ spiritual beliefs. He recreates the events leading to the cultural collision between a soft-spoken, passionate lover of art and a violent, spiritually complex society. This book will not only keep you on the edge of your seat, but it will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished.

The Amazon forest often meets even well-prepared travelers with starvation, disease and madness. In his quest to find a legendary city he called Z, Percy Fawcett set out for this beautiful but brutal environment eight times. When Fawcett and his son disappeared in 1925, their fate became the subject of decades of rumors ranging from having been eaten by cannibals to discovering a passage to the center of the earth. Journalist David Grann makes a surprising discovery when he travels to the Amazon to follow Fawcett’s final expedition in The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. 

In the last days of World War II, a plane carrying 24 US Army soldiers on a sight-seeing flight over the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea crashed, killing all but two men and one woman. Injured, stranded where no plane or helicopter could land, surrounded by cannibalistic natives ­­and desperate to avoid the Japanese, the three remaining soldiers must find a way to survive until rescue arrives. Help is found from the most unlikely sources in Mitchell Zuckoff’s retelling of their saga. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II covers their ordeal and the stunning moment when an isolated tribe first encounters Western civilization.
By the time J. Maarten Troost and his wife Sylvia set foot on the island of Kiribati, the only cannibals remaining on the island were the dogs. Despite the misleading title, you’ll still find plenty of adventure (and humor) in his travel memoir, The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. If you’ve ever had romantic notions of leaving the daily grind behind for a stint in the Peace Corps, you should first read Troost’s tale of life on an over-crowded Pacific atoll. Troost records his struggles with floating sewage, intermittent electricity, the ubiquitous Macarena and the Great Beer Crisis, while retaining a humorous, if sarcastic, respect for the island’s inhabitants, history and culture.
-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

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