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Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  747 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
For centuries, blood feeders have inhabited our nightmares and horror stories, as well as the shadowy realms of scientific knowledge. In Dark Banquet, zoologist Bill Schutt takes readers on an entertaining voyage into the world of some of nature’s strangest creatures—the sanguivores. Using a sharp eye and mordant wit, Schutt makes a remarkably persuasive case that vampire ...more
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Harmony
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Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Yes, folks, here it is - all that you will ever want to know about vampire bats, leeches, barber/surgeons and other bloodsuckers (oddly enough, the chapter on corporate lawyers seems to be missing from this edition.) This is a seriously entertaining and informative book for the unsqueamish reader interested in learning more about the world and its unusual creatures.

While I absolutely love bats, I found the leech chapter to be the most fascinating part of this title. True, some anecdotes made me
Jan 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
My favorite quote from this book, which also sums it up nicely: "Feeding on blood is a tough way to make a living."

Schutt, an expert on vampire bats, has written an easily-read treatise on some of the more interesting "obligate sanguivores" (love this term!) that inhabit our world. The main species he dwells on are the three species of vampire bat, leeches, and bed bugs, although there is some mention of a unique blood-feeding finch from the Galapagos and the exaggeratedly dangerous Amazonian ca
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, own
I've just been traumatized by the bed bug chapter. I think I need to walk away for a moment
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Aimed at the armchair biologist, this book was actually pretty entertaining. It was the most amusing biology book I've ever read - the author threw in quite a few dryly humourous observations that I enjoyed. I originally picked it up because I like reading about bats, but the section of the book which will stick in my memory most vividly was the chapter on bed bugs. It was quite horrific, and I don't know if I ever want to move to a new residence or even put my luggage on an airplane again for f ...more
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, humoruous and bizarre: this book has everything I look for in non-fiction. My husband learned far more than he ever wanted to know about vampire bats, leeches, bed bugs and blood while I was reading this book--it's the sort of volume that compels the reader to exclaim aloud "WOW! Listen to this!"
Ryan Mishap
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is awesome! Well-written, descriptive, funny, digressive, and filled with enthusiasm, this amalgation of blood facts and fables, natural history and myths, scientific details and humorous asides,and funny little drawings was fun to read.
Of course I liked the first part about vampire bats the most--oh, like the little bat who spider-walks up to hens, mimics chicks, and then gets invited under the hen where they have a nosh--, but the entire book held my attention beginning to end.
His st
Who would've thought that a book about leeches, ticks, and blood transfusions could be so damn funny? I laughed out loud so many times while reading this, and my poor husband was the recipient of quite a few texts with pictures of the choicest paragraphs. I really loved this author's blend of fact and humor, and will definitely keep an eye out for more books by him.

As for the subject matter - the title kind of says it all. If you're really squeamish about bugs or blood, you may want to skip this
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: geek-fun
I really enjoyed this book over all. However, the section of the book about the author's studies of vampire bats in Trinidad was incredible! One of the best things I've ever read. It helps that I'm a big ol' bat geek, but it really is well written, with lots of relevant footnotes (dude, don't skip the footnotes; you'll miss a lot). Incidentally, if you've ever wanted to learn more about natural selection and/or bat paleontology, Schutt does a great job of explaining both of those subjects to lay ...more
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Iris by: NYTimes Science section
Illuminating! Inspiring! Oh, Bill Schutt, your snappy prose, love of learning, and lifetime of research whetted my appetite and fueled my cocktail party chatter.

I'm particularly grateful for the stylized sketches of vampire bats, for the history of a Parisian sociopath with cow's blood coursing through his veins (Antoine Mauroy in 1667), and for the moving coda about the preciousness of blood-eating creatures.

Schutt's innovative ideas and science-history tangents incite the reader to brainstorm
Frankie Brazelton
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Engrossing and Illuminating.
Concise information presented with, much appreciated, humor.
I was so captivated by this book that my next purchase will be Schutt's other book: Cannibalism- A Perfectly Natural History.
Jamie Jones Hullinger
The appeal lies in the subject matter. If you are naturally curious then Bill Schutt is exactly who you are looking for. I give this 3.5 and encourage you to move on to Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Lizzy Pollard
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving him a 5 for the puns alone. Not even halfway through yet and I'm loving it.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-checkout
Oh, finally, a vampire book worth reading! When was the last time a worthy vampire book was published? I certainly can't remember, but here is one, finally! The best part about Dark Banquet is that it's far creepier than any other vampire book you can find, because the blood feeders in this book are real!

Bill Schutt is a bat biologist and seems to have a particular fondness for the vampiric variety. His enthusiasm is apparent from the beginning, when he retells his experiences in Trinidad observ
Tiz. T.
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is very hard to rate.

On one side, the tone and writing are both very entertaining and I honestly laugh out loud a couple of time (ok, more than a couple). And the part about the vampire bats is stunning interesting, I never knew all the interesting tidbits (bats that pretends to be chicks?! Cool!).

On the other side, the part about insects is...
Well. Sensationalized?
For example, the part about bed bugs is full of factual errors. A bit extreme perhaps? Yeah bed bugs are a pest, but you
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Apart from the bad jokes, Dark Banquet does a pretty good job making the science of blood-feeding creatures engaging and easy to follow. The book is broken up into sections based on different sanguivorous animals and includes accounts from experts on each of them in addition to some background on each. There are also some sections on basic biology and medicine sprinkled in when relevant. For example, there is a chapter on the human circulatory system at one point and later several pages on evolu ...more
Veronica Noechel
Dec 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very well researched, fun, and fast moving. It's a bit like attending a class taught by the coolest biology professor ever. You don't even have to be a goth dork (like me) or an insect-paranoid anxiety case with a morbid facination for bedbugs (like me) to love this book. Do not be afraid--it didn't take me a month to get through this, I just have a habit of forgetting to check in and change what book I'm reading here. In reality, I was so engrossed, I read the majority of the book on a 3 day (a ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am having a difficult time doing an overall rating for this book. I really enjoyed the first part of this book, on vampire bats - that gets 5 stars. Having worked with them in the past, I found his observations to be spot-on, and I discovered many more fascinating insights on them as well. Schutt provided anecdotes from his personal career and experience, which I liked.

The second part on the specific biology of blood was also very interesting. I was especially intrigued with the historical co
Savannah T
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Vampire bats and other blood sucking animals are the main characters showcased. Instead of examining all creatures that feed on blood, the focus is on a few including vampire bats, leeches, chiggers/ticks, beg bugs and even medical blood letting. As I read, it became obvious that the author has a passion for vampire bats. I found that this section was the one I enjoyed the most and was the most in depth. I wish that the author would write a book primarily based on these fascinating bats. Family ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
First, what I didn't like: bedbugs. Ewwwww. Had to skip parts of that chapter. But I did find some tips on how to figure out if you have the critters at your house, what to do if you do, and how to prevent them from moving in. But gross.

Occasionally, I got a little bogged down in technical stuff. Maybe a glossary would have helped.

But everything else, I really liked. The coolest part, I thought, was the part about the leeches. I had actually read some of that before, in Spineless Wonders, but I
Mar 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
dark banquet was informative and fun. it did sometimes go overly science-y so I skipped a paragraph here and there, which is not my norm. the author did seem to be trying to convince you not to hate or denigrate blood feeders (sanguivores) but really, would a creepy hater ever pick up this book? I think only the pro-leech community would get past the title.

any author who writes "...the liquefied dermal stew is snorked up through the stylostome..." about chiggers is okay by me.

the illustrations
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is DELIGHTFUL. I have rarely been so happy with an unresearched, impulse buy as I am with this book. Bats are some of my favorite animals so I was completely enthralled with the first part concerning the blood-sucking subset of those wonderful animals and the following sections on blood itself and leeches were equally fascinating. I'll say I found my enthusiasm lacking in the rest of the book. I am just not that interested in bugs outside of spiders and scorpions (and, apparently, leec ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Maggie Baker,
It seems appropriate that I read this book about vampire bats and other "blood sucking" creatures on Friday the 13th.
Bill Schutt writes a very readable book about the creepy, crawly creatures we shudder about, with little related side digressions in other scientific, historic, and cultural realms.
In addition to vampire bats, there are sections on leeches, and on bedbugs and other parasetic insects.
If you start this book expecting to be scared by the horror movie aspecs, forget it. This is an in
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I like to pepper some non-fiction into my reading regularly, and with my current vampire fetish this caught my eye. The author is a biologist who's specialty is vampire bats, so those sections are by far the most in depth and interesting. He can get bogged down in technical jargon at times, and his outright dismissal of anything expect straight-up Darwinism can get grating, but overall the book is an interesting introduction to the lives of sanguivores. Although the section about bed bugs will u ...more
Elizabeth K.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-new-reads
Fun! Like a Smithsonian article, it's a natural history book about creatures that eat blood, mainly bats, leeches, and ticks. It's gross but in a good way. Did you know that some vampire bats can imitate baby chicks in order to sneak up on the mama chicken?

Grade: A
Recommended: To people who enjoyed being grossed out by the natural world. This would probably be a good gift book for older kids or teens who like the divine ew-ness of nature.
Corinna Bechko
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, zoology
A darkly funny exploration of how several species of sanguivores make their living. The author's affection for vampire bats clearly shines throughout and I soon found myself with a fresh appreciation for not only bats but other blood sippers too. Some species were completely new to me (vampire finches, cadirus) while others gave me the itchy creeps just reading about them (bedbugs). Overall a very enjoyable read but definitely not for the weak-stomached.
Keith Sader
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a fun and entertaining look at the lives and ecology of many fascinating creatures. Mr. Schutt starts off with the vampire bats and weaves his story through bugs, fish, and birds. I was truly entertained by this wild romp through a back-alley of feeding behavior.

Note, this book is pretty basic stuff and written to a popular audience. Serious scientific works are noted and foot-noted throughout.
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was super interesting, but maybe would've benefitted from being organized differently. The bat stuff was so much better than the rest that it felt like the book went downhill. The author couldn't bring as much passion and knowledge to everything the way he did to his main area of study.

Still, a fun read.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic blend of dark satire and informative humor, Bill Schutt has written what we're all afraid to think about (some of us anyway). Schutt not only provides information on vampire bats, leeches, and ticks (just to name a few critters), he also explains what blood really is. Schutt is a witty little vampire and I'm proud to have read his book.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent, positive and well-balanced book about a creature needlessly feared by so many people. The writing style is clear, accessible, but accurate and informative. If you're at all a nature-lover, you will develop a better appreciation of these tiny flying mammals and why their survival is so important.
Todd Martin
Nov 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
What could be more interesting than vampire bats, leeches, ticks, mites, bed bugs, chiggers, mosquitos, candirus and a vampire finch?

Dark Banquet is an interesting and lively written book filled with facts and humor than will have the more imaginative reader scratching their nether regions and checking their urethras for candiru.

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Bio-Nerds: Autumn 2014: Dark Banquet by Bill Schutt 1 12 Sep 15, 2014 04:33AM  
Bill Schutt is a biology professor at LIU Post and a research associate in residence at the American Museum of Natural History. His latest nonfiction, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History garnered rave reviews from The New York Times, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly (Starred Review), The New Yorker, Scientific American and many more. Cannibalism was also a 2017 Goodreads Choice Award Finalist ...more