My obsession with all things Mary Roach is well known, so of course I was glad to get my hands on a copy of her most recent masterpiece, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. This book marks the author’s return to the taboo aspects of the human body; but instead of talking about decomposition (Stiff) or sex organs (Bonk), there are chapters on saliva, competitive eating, and poop transplants.
In other words, my kind of book.
Gulp follows the digestive system from nose to tail (as it were), with stops in the mouth, stomach, and intestines. En route the reader is treated to detailed info about taste buds, thoughts on whether or not you can survive being swallowed alive, experiments that try to prove that a mealworm can gnaw its way out of a frog’s stomach, and thoughts on what happens to farts that are suppressed instead of expelled.
Roach tells these stories and more with great attention to detail and an obvious enjoyment of her research and respect for the people she interviews. It’s also done with a great deal of humor, particularly in footnotes — it’s obvious that the author can’t bear to leave some of this stuff out. And who would, with gems like this:
In “The Effect of a Native Mexican Diet on Learning and Reasoning in White Rats,” subjects were served chili con carne, boiled pinto beans, and black coffee. Their scores at maze-solving remained high, possibly because of an added impetus to find their way to a bathroom.
Just read it
Gulp — like all of Mary Roach’s books — is informative, scrupulously researched, and funny when you least expect it. Sure it’s a little gross, but the author’s enthusiasm is catching. Plus, who could resist picking up a copy after watching the official book trailer?