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The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  16,698 Ratings  ·  1,935 Reviews
At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 8th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published June 8th 2003)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it liked it
This book is like a sandwich. The first piece of dry bread is Troost smirkingly telling us that he is just too good, clever and unique to have to actually work and pay bills, like the rest of us. In the final, dry chapter he tells us just how superior he feels to the idiots who over-pay and over-respect him for his newly acquired job that he knows nothing at all about. He wants to return to the life of a house-husband on a tropical island, supported by his wife while he floats in the blue waters ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 04, 2013 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
”There is no place on Earth where color has been rendered with such intense depth, from the first light of dawn illuminating a green coconut frond to the last ray of sunset, when the sky is reddened to biblical proportions. And the blue...have you seen just how blue blue can get in the equatorial Pacific? In comparison, Picasso’s blue period seems decidedly ash-gray.”

 photo Portrait-of-Angel-Fernandez-de-Soto-1903-Picasso-Portrait-Paintings_zps23516c63.jpg
That look on Angel Fernandez de Soto for some reason reminds me of Maarten

When Maarten Troost’s girlfriend Sylvia comes home and
Jason Koivu
Aug 26, 2015 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to know what it's like to live on a modern "urbanized" Pacific island
Recommended to Jason by: the damn dirty lie of a title
Shelves: humor
That right there my friends is a dangerous title. Why? Because it's misleading. Let me explain...

Go to Youtube, find a video with a hyperbolic title - one that promises the BEST, MOST EXCITING, FUNNIEST of whatever the content is - watch it and if it doesn't live up to the billing see what the viewers say about it in the comment section and check out the ratio of "likes" and "dislikes". A few samplings of that will clearly and quickly display why a misleading title is a bad idea.

Sure, a title li
Feb 09, 2008 Gretchen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone, except folks in Kiribati whom I worry might not think it so funny
Having lived in the exact same equatorial Pacific nation at the exact same time as the author, I feel an unprecedented connection to this book. I loved it and was a little bit bothered by it at the same time. Mostly I cracked up laughing the whole time, as if it was a book of inside jokes between the author and me, as he described the exact things that I experienced there: everything from the toilet with a unique ocean view on the Martha to Kiribati bureacracy. The part of me that loves Kiribati ...more
First of all, this is a very misleading title. There were no sexytimes or people eating.

If you ask people what they enjoy doing, what they love, what's necessary, many will list "travel." But what does that mean? Flying somewhere with an itinerary to spend a few nights in a 5 star hotel with continental breakfast? Living out of a backpack and wearing through your shoes? It's such a blobby answer, "travel."

There was a brief period where I had cable and in that brief period I watched maybe 2 episo
Aug 05, 2015 Melki rated it really liked it
Burdened with student loans and crushing credit card debt, the author decides to run away from responsibility escape with his ladylove to Tarawa, a tiny South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati.


Troost's visions of a lush tropical paradise are soon swallowed by the harsh reality of beaches studded with feces (human), and a diet consisting of boiled (occasionally toxic) fish. And beer. (Thank God for the beer!)

To picture Kiribati, imagine that the continental U.S. were to conveniently dis
Apr 17, 2009 Kiribatidaughter rated it did not like it
To Mr.Troost,
I learned that you are a liar and a disgraceful man, and my opinion about you lay on the beaches of Tarawa. You wrote about my culture, my people and my island I dearly love so you can be famous and rich!!! The title is a scheme and a trick to get people's attention so they can buy your book. The book was given to me because I refused to buy it. I was on the island in 1997 and I didn't remember the LaMacarena and the beer crisis. You got a sick mind. Temawa (rest her soul)was my bes
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I think it is important to separate the subject matter of a book from the book itself. Kiribati? Fascinating. The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific? Not good. The research was interesting. The factoids were interesting. But the author comes across as a complete tool. I would have been far more interested in hearing about his girlfriend's experience in the Republic of Kiribati, since she was actually working with people and doing things, unlike J. Maarten.

It isn't a funny
Kavita Ramesh
Mar 09, 2016 Kavita Ramesh rated it it was amazing
My first book by Troost, and I'll admit that I bought it because the title was so hilariously politically incorrect. I saw it on the non-fiction shelf, and I couldn't stop myself from buying it, even though it cost me a pretty penny.

I have a deep interest in Pacific Island cultures. This one did not disappoint. Actually, it left me shocked at the author's description of the state of some of these islands. I think of them as paradise, but the picture painted here is a lot more gritty than the ph
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
2.5 stars

Martin Troost’s life wasn’t going much of anywhere, so he lucked out when his girlfriend got a job in the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati, where he spent his time learning to surf, drinking with other expats, and trying to write a novel. He never succeeded – from the superficial depictions of everyone else in this book, I suspect character development was a problem – but their two-year stint on the island of Tarawa provided fodder for this book, about the difficulties, pitfalls
Jun 26, 2011 David rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone waiting for a new Bill Bryson work
Shelves: non-fiction
False Advertisement. Defined (loosely) as misrepresenting a product in such a fashion as to entice the buyer to make a purchase "sight unseen". Alternatively, this work stands in nicely.

J. Marten Troost goes out to the middle of "No Where", and there he finds something so trope that he absolutely must write a novel about it. But first, he'll describe his failings to write a novel. In his novel. A non-fiction account of his inability to write fiction. At least I can hope he lies poorly?

There is s
Sep 21, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: misc
Funny, interesting, and relaxing. Edit: forgot to mention, the chapter on the island's dogs is not funny, interesting, or relaxing; if, like me, you hate descriptions of mistreated animals, skip it. Also, the book's goodreads' synopsis is somewhat misleading; the book's author struggles without the niceties of western civilization, but he also comes to appreciate both the culture of the island and the double-edged sword of industrial society. Also, the book loses some of its energy about halfway ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I get a kick out of this guy. I can't remember which one I liked better, this one or Getting Stoned with Savages. They're not always as funny as I expected, but I learned a lot about Pacific island people and customs. I thought this was particularly interesting:

"In the 'bubuti' system, someone can walk up to you and say "I bubuti you for your flipflops,' and without a peep of complaint you are obliged to hand over your flipflops. The following day, you can go up to the guy who is now wearing yo
Bailey Jane
Nov 28, 2008 Bailey Jane rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: travelers, adults, college, men, women
Recommended to Bailey Jane by: I bought it randomly!
J. Maarten Troost has already turned into one of my favorite authors although this is the first I've read of his work. His writing is intelligently witty, dry, and sarcastic. Some chapters of this book are slower than others, but are necessary for the reader to fully understand why the I-Kiribati people behave in the ways they do or maintain their ways of life. I began reading this book around the same time I moved to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and the hilarious pickles in which the au ...more
Mar 05, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
If I could give this book another half star, I would. It's an entertaining & thoughtful look at the life of an American on the Pacific island of Kiribati.

I guess I am at a point in my life where I can say with a certain confidence that I will never visit Kiribati myself. So, in the way that all travel writing tends to allow one to vicariously experience a place, this book satisfies. But there is a cynical, somewhat smug superiority in the way that island living is portrayed.

It's honest, and
Mar 15, 2007 Brant rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Misadventure-sympathetics / Those appreciative of Off the Beaten Tracks
Perhaps I'll rewrite this review, but for now,... this book is an easy read. It's about a couple, independent in their ideals and beliefs, who move to Kiribati in the Pacific for a 2 year stint for international development efforts. The guy (author) goes through wonderful details of the people, the climate, culture, and societal oddities, and oooooooohhhhh so much more.

I couldn't put it down. I must say (and I am definitely easily enthusiastic about new places to travel and experience) I never
Books Ring Mah Bell
Jan 18, 2010 Books Ring Mah Bell rated it really liked it
A fantastic and fun read, one that cured me of ever wanting to live on a remote island in the tropics. Here's how Troost saved me:
1. reiterates throughout the book that it is very hot. VERY VERY hot. While he does this in an entertaining way, one can almost feel (and smell) the humid discomfort.
2. He describes the lack of variety of food. Seafood up the wazoo, and it's not exactly quality stuff. However, dog, if prepared properly is "kang kang". (tasty!!!!!!!!)
3. He tells me of the lack of all t
Sep 10, 2010 Meaghan rated it really liked it
A very amusing literary journey to the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced "Kee-i-bash"), which most people have never heard of, which isn't even a member of the UN. I read Troost's book about Fiji and Vanuatu first and I'm pleased to say I liked this book almost as much. I wish he had written more about his girlfriend Sylvia's job promoting nutrition and sustainable living, though. Troost himself wasn't working, just trying to write a novel and generally idling. He only wrote a few details ab ...more
FYI, the title is relevant.

The narrator follows his married-on-paper-because-it-simplifies-paperwork girlfriend to Kiribati, a loose grouping of Pacific islands not recognized by the UN, but with a proud history of ritual (limited) cannibalism. She works in a government office devoted to public health and stemming the rampant outbreaks of STDs; he drinks with local buddies and sucks at maintenance and attempts to write a book and fend off mangy dogs who keep getting eaten and tides of literal f
Taylor Atkinson
Mar 21, 2016 Taylor Atkinson rated it really liked it
Few books have resonated with me as deeply as this one did... perhaps because I'm currently adrift in the equatorial Pacific myself. Though the author and I live in two very different countries (he in Kiribati and I in the Marshall Islands), the similarities between our two experiences are astounding.

In fact, the author traveled through the Marshall Islands to land in Kiribati, and Chapter 2 of his book is completely focused on the Marshalls. From now on, whenever people ask me about my experie
Dec 19, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
Not about cannibals at all, and featuring very little about anyone's sex life, The Sex Lives of Cannibals is not a book to judge by its cover. But I guess nobody would buy a book called Living on Kiribati or something. Except me. Because that's how I ended up reading this. An evening that somehow developed into reading endless wiki articles about random Pacific islands nobody's heard of led me to discover the nation of Kiribati, which I had genuinely no idea existed at all. And learning about th ...more
Apr 19, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
The author of this book was kind of a douche. So what do I do? Pick up more of his stuff! Looking forward to it (sort of). But I liked the topic a lot. Guy and his gal are recent college grads and guy has no idea what to do, so he follows his gal to the end of the world where she gets a job for a year or two on an atoll in the Pacific. One thing I liked about this book, is the authors total honesty. He has dreams of what it will be like and it so doesn't live up to them. Another thing I liked, i ...more
Dec 03, 2008 Parker rated it liked it
Recommended to Parker by: Burdo
A pretty leisurely commentary on capitalism, consumerism, and romance. Maybe i read a little too much into it. Overall pretty entertaining, but definitely not life altering. The author did a great job making his points subtly, and i know that is his style of writing, but since he created such a great picture of the disconnect between the haves and the have nots and the dysfunctionality of governments both large and small as well as the importance(or perhaps unimportance and ridiculosity[made tha ...more
T.H. Waters
May 28, 2012 T.H. Waters rated it it was ok
Dang. This book really bummed me out. It's one of the few that have come my way which I wish I wouldn't have read. It's billed as a humorous book about a dude who lived on a tiny island near the equator for a few years. Sure, it starts out funny enough. I did laugh during the descriptions about the author's mishap when a turd was relentlessly tracking him in the water during an afternoon ocean dip and again at his inescapable battle with the ubiquitous La Macarena song that incessantly blared fr ...more
Jan 27, 2013 A rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-books
I must start by saying that this was a thoroughly enjoying read. I must also admit that I was too shalllow to comprehend the deeper meanings in this travel book until I read the reviews here on Goodreads after finishing the book.

Having said that this book does a great job of relating what life on a tiny atoll in the Pacific would be like for all of those from Western cultures who will never live there. Yes Troost is a bit jaded in some of his stories and does tend to make himself out to be a bit
Aug 12, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
I read this because my friends back in PA decided they wanted to give a book club a shot and I knew I'd be visiting the weekend that they wanted to hold their discussion. So here you have it: the first installment in the (Un)Official Chestnut Hill Gang Book Club.

Maarten Troost and his girlfriend (wife-to-be, really) graduate with advanced degrees in international studies, focusing on foreign aid to developing nations. The job hunt lands Sylvia an offer to work on the tiny Pacific island nation
Jun 04, 2011 Mag rated it really liked it
This is Maarten Toost’s first book, and the third one for me. It is about two years Troost spent with his wife on a really remote island in the Pacific- Kiribas. It’s a tiny island, a part of an independent country with the population of less than 10,000 belonging to the British Commonwealth, which faces numerous environmental and economic challenges. Written with humour and enough of social and political bite and critique, it’s a great read- honest and compassionate. You definitely become an in ...more
Nov 21, 2015 Audra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2015
The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge - A Book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture
I set this book down about half-way through because I had to start a summer reading challenge and I finally picked it back up and finished it. I find it absolutely amazing that there are places like this on earth. I would love to pick up and go to an under-developed island in the Pacific but I am fairly certain that a mostly developed Fijian island is more my speed (speaking from experience).
Jun 20, 2008 Lauren rated it liked it
this book is slow at first, it's best read after you've purchased it on sale, and it's starred at you from your bookshelf for months, and you have no choice but to read it because of the guilt you feel for having spent the money.

That said. I did like it, it not only opens your mind up to other cultures, but in the end makes you feel like a friend is telling you stories about his crazy life. It's an adventure and an awakening to a world you may never have though about.

While this is far from the
May 16, 2015 Josie rated it really liked it
I had never heard about this book up until 2 week after moving to Tarawa in Kiribati (Kir-ri-bas) where this book is set.
It is the self-written tale of a man who spends 2 years on the tiny atoll accompanying his girlfriend who has secured a job here, and he has nothing really to do. This mirrors my situation somewhat as my partner has a 12 month contract here.
Although the author was here in the 90s, much has changed, although much has also not, and I have found myself wanting to buy copies of t
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Question 9 143 May 07, 2014 07:07PM  
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Jan Maarten Troost (known professionally as J. Maarten Troost) (born 1969 in The Netherlands) is a Dutch-American travel writer and essayist.

J. Maarten Troost is the author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. His essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, and the Prague Post. He spent two years in Kiribati in the equatorial Pacific and upon his
More about J. Maarten Troost...

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“Personally I regard idling as a virtue, but civilized society holds otherwise.” 27 likes
“Like many air travelers, I am aware that airplanes fly aided by capricious fairies and invisible strings.” 26 likes
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