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“Splendid book…. A witty history of western civilisation … written in an understated and often amusing way.” —Guardian (full review)

“[An] entertaining study … a broad, well-researched book.” —Economist (full review)

“Essig’s account is fascinating, full of erudition and nuance. He traces societal changes from the pharaohs to Walmart, using the pig. Equally, he uses history to enlarge our understanding of the domestic pig.” —New Scientist (full review)

“Mark Essig’s savory history will provide you with hundreds of facts and anecdotes about the remarkable pig, so you’ll impress your friends and relatives around the fire pit. Essig—who lives in Asheville—loves his pigs; he just loves them a little bit more with a nice vinegar.” —Garden & Gun

“[A] marvellous history.” —The Times of London
“Splendid…Essig surveys the 10,000 year partnership of man and pig, a tumultuous affair full of accusation, fire and litigation… A pleasure to read.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Lesser Beasts offers readers entertainment as well as information… [some] pages sizzle like bacon, and it’s tough to set aside a book about an animal that’s so close to people, in locale and in physiology.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Essig presents an entertaining perspective on pigs…. After you read this book, pigs will never seem quite the same.” —Library Journal

“An enlightening culinary history…. A lively, informative farm-to-table feast.” —Kirkus Reviews


“Forget the egg. It’s the pig that’s incredible and edible. And Mark Essig tells the remarkable animal’s checkered history with a style and verve that’s as irresistible as bacon itself.” —John Donohue, editor of Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families

“Pigs are omnivorous. And so is Mark Essig. From a Roman recipe for salt curing and cold smoking hams that Cato favored, to the ignoble efforts of American industrial farmers who have shown neither their pigs nor their customers respect, he has sifted the archival record to write a smart and thoroughly engaging social history of the curious entwinings of pig and man.” —John T. Edge, series editor, Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place

“A thoughtful book about the fascinating relationship between pigs and people, from Leviticus to Charlotte’s Web. I learned something new on every page: Essig has a knack for delivering reams of information with lightness and wit, even as he makes an eloquent plea for a reformed pork industry, one where the bacon we eat comes from ‘a pig that lived like a pig.’ Whether you eat pork or not, Lesser Beasts is a gripping meditation on the plight of pigs.” —Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork

“Mark Essig tells a fine tale of the unsung exploits of the lowly pig, from the age of the pyramids and the wars of the conquistadors to the awful abattoirs and trendy restaurants of today. With clear prose and careful research, he redeems an animal that has played a seminal role in human history while enduring near universal disdain. This fascinating book provides a marvelous antidote to our unexamined views on the pig.” —Andrew Lawler, author of Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization

“Lesser Beasts is a delightful romp through porcine history from the Neolithic era to the present. Mark Essig offers surprising answers to the question of why humans have had such a love-hate affair with the humble pig, and unveils many other unexpected insights. Well written and well researched, Lesser Beasts is a must for historians, pork lovers, and anyone who just loves a good read.” —Andrew F. Smith, editor-in chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America



“Unlike other livestock, which pull plows, give eggs or milk, or grow wool, a pig produces only one thing: more pigs. Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable meat, swine are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend. As historian of science Mark Essig shows in Lesser Beasts, pork has been a crucial staple of the human diet since ancient times. Yet the very qualities that make pigs so essential—their intelligence, hardiness, and omnivorousness—have also led people throughout history to demonize them as craven, opportunistic, and unclean. Today’s inhumane system of factory farming, Essig explains, is only the latest instance of people taking pigs for granted—and the most recent evidence of how both species suffer when our symbiotic relationship falls out of balance. An expansive, illuminating history, Lesser Beasts celebrates the long-suffering creature that has been a mainstay of civilization since its very beginnings—whether we like it or not.”


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