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The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  22,740 ratings  ·  2,302 reviews
The laugh-out-loud true story of a harrowing and hilarious two-year odyssey in the distant South Pacific island nation of Kiribati—possibly The Worst Place on Earth.

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 hi
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published (first published June 8th 2003)
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Petra X living life blissfully,not through books!
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
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”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 a
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Koivu
Sep 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Apr 17, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" because I alternated between many opinions about this text as I was reading it. It had been on my "too read" list for years, and now having read it I am not sure it deserved its spot.
The first 50 pages or so of this book are irritating beyond belief because the author, J. Maarten Troost, has a pedantic and pseudo intellectual vibe going that comes across as the writer being smarmy and cute. It does not endear him to his reader, and that is
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Bob Newman
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Turtle Gods of the Tortillan Empire

Maarten Troost and his wife Sylvia, tired of boring urban jobs and the usual ratrace in America’s capital, decided to pack it all in and move somewhere different. I must say they chose very well. They moved to Kiribati, a chain of atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and lived two years in a most different environment. Having visited Kiribati myself many years ago when tourist traffic amounted to around 100 souls a year, I was interested to see what the au
aPriL does feral sometimes
'The Sex Lives of Cannibals' (2004) by J. Maarten Troost is a fun travelogue, well-written too. I enjoyed reading it. His adventures on the South Pacific islands of Kiribati are entertaining. I am very envious of people who can travel!

But not this time.

Twenty-six-year-old Troost and his wife Sylvia decided to sign up for jobs overseas in the most remote of places. Intentionally. They both had been attending University seemingly forever, and they were ready to abandon their mundane lives in Ameri
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
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
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
I enjoyed reading about the author's 2 years on Tarawa, one of the Kiribati islands. It was a fast and funny read, which mixed the author's experiences with some history about the islands. What I particularly liked was that my feelings about the place changed with those of the author: at first it seemed like a hellish place, but in the end I found I really cared for the island and its people, and would have loved to read some more. I plan to read more travelogues by Maarten J. Troost. ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
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
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure whether he was trying to be sarcastic or ironic or both, but a great bit of this book stopped short of either and just came across as bitchy. (Long enough sentence?) Anyway, the ending was nice but he bitched about the island so much that I'm not sure I even want to visit Hawaii. Wait, that's nuts, Hawaii is better than Tarawa. Right? Guess I'll have to grab my swimsuit and find out. Oh, the sacrifices I make. *sigh* ...more
Rounded up 3.5 stars.

KIRR-E-BAS, the "ti" sound in I-Kiribati is always an "s" sound. Gonna learn you today.

As part of my ongoing read around the world project, this title was not my first choice - a white man gallivanting amongst the natives on remote island nation? Sounds like a problematic disaster waiting to be read. Unfortunately, I can only read English and Kiribati itself hasn't produced much in the way of accessible literature for people as limited as I am. So, with Troost we shall perse
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gut-busting, laugh out loud travelogue about a couple's well-intentioned-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time relocation to a small Micronesian island in the equatorial pacific and all that goes wrong (which is a lot). I want to read every book this guy has written. I truly wish I had been in a tropical environment while reading this, as it would have made it that much more enjoyable, but alas, I am stuck with cold and foggy San Francisco. Highly recommended if you need a good laugh and enjoy a ...more
Apr 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bailey Jane
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 I r
This is a hard book to rate. There were many times while reading this book that I laughed out loud and thought the author a very funny guy with a very funny sense of humor. There were other times that I felt uncomfortable reading his descriptions of the islands and their people. It felt disparaging at times, culturally insensitive. In the end though, before leaving the island, I feel Iike he gained a respect and love for the island and the people. Ok, maybe not love, but a kinder feeling and res ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Books Ring Mah Bell
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
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
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir by Troost and is very funny. His wife gets a job equatorial island, Kiribati, he goes along as he is unemployed and he feels he will fit in because the majority of island inhabitants are unemployed. This is funny but also a book that looks at life on an atoll, this is not paradise. It is hot, dirty, no food, and life is precarious as there are many things that will kill you.
Oct 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rather than being the quirky ethnography I had hoped for (based on the title), this is nothing more than the touristic, trite and superficial travelogue of a whiny westerner who finds that an impoverished archipelago does not offer the comfort or the adventure he had sought.
Kan Bhalla
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be fair, the title of the book has got absolutely nothing to do with the actual content, not even an iota. Most probably, its a cheap marketing gimmick.
However, if this gets you to pick this up, so be it! Its totally worth it. Its a super fun account of Maarten spending two years (yes, really!) on a tiny tiny island nation that is cut off from the rest of the world like no other.
Maarten tells you point blank how 90% of the stuff you take for granted like food, water, housing, electricity et
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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

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