- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (April 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393081575
- ISBN-13: 978-0393081572
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,018 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal First Edition Edition
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2013: Mary Roach’s investigations into weird body science were inspired by a plastic torso with removable organs in her fifth-grade class, “the point at which curiosity began to push aside disgust or fear or whatever it is that so reliably deflects mind from body.” Since then, she’s investigated death (Stiff), sex (Bonk), life after death (Spooked), and life in zero-gravity (Packing for Mars). Now, she cruises down the alimentary canal with Gulp. As you’d expect with Roach, this isn’t a methodical top-to-bottom tour. It’s more delightful and memorable than that. She’s a gorgeous writer, a master of sly asides, puns, and the bizarre but ultimately relevant story, sounding at times like an absurdly well-informed comedian (her footnotes are must-reads). And her evocative portraits of experts obsessed with their piece of the digestive puzzle--the surprising properties of saliva, nuances of chewing and digesting, and, yes, the incredible control of the colon--coaxes her readers beyond the gag reflex, inspiring awe for the world inside ourselves. --Mari Malcolm
*Starred Review* In her latest rollicking foray into taboo, icky, and underappreciated aspects of the human body, best-selling science writer Roach takes readers on a wild ride down the alimentary canal. Not that the author of Stiff (2003), Bonk (2008), and Packing for Mars (2010) ever takes a direct route anywhere. No, voraciously curious and intrepid Roach zips off in whatever direction her ardor for research and irrepressible instinct for the wonderfully weird lead her. She begins this hilarious, mind-expanding inquiry into eating, digestion, and elimination with the symbiosis between smell and taste, guided by an olfactorily gifted “sensory analyst,” then profiles Horace Fletcher, proponent of a rigorous chewing routine known as “Fletcherizing” practiced by Henry James and Franz Kafka. We learn more than one can imagine about saliva and our passion for crispy and crunchy foods. Given Roach’s fascination with what we find disgusting, scientific obsessions and bizarre experiments, and horrifying things we do to ourselves, the stories get stranger as she proceeds down the body. Roach interviews a prison inmate about “rectal smuggling” (including cell phones), tells tales of flatulence, and reveals the truth about Elvis Presley’s fatal megacolon. For all her irreverence, Roach marvels over the fine-tuned workings and “wisdom” of the human body, and readers will delight in her exuberant energy, audacity, and wit. --Donna Seaman
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Top Customer Reviews
This book - Gulp - is all about the alimentary canal; that part of the body that begins at the point where food is consumed and ends where solid waste is expelled. Starting with taste and the mouth, she follows our digestive system all the way down. As with her other books, this one is replete with interesting and often bizarre facts and tales of eccentrics and misguided scientists and experiments gone awry. The author covers all sorts of "taboo" and sensitive subjects and both educates us and makes us laugh.
At the start, we learn about the importance of our nose (our ability to smell) and what that has to do with taste. She also compares our tastebuds with those of cats and dogs - showing how we often assume that they will like what we will. Well, it turns out that's really wrong. We learn how different cultures throughout history have found different things palatable and that the foods consumed by the most privileged may not be the healthiest. She also goes on later on to compare the anatomy of man to those of various other animals and points out how we are the same and how we differ. We learn about the problems and benefits associated with our digestive system and the various theories and treatments over time for various intestinal ailments.
In typical Mary Roach style, she candidly discusses such "taboo" topics as intestinal gas and our bowel habits. We read about the dangers of prisoners secreting contraband in their stomachs or their anal cavities and go from there to learning about the digestive systems of competitive eaters. We learn about the importance of saliva, all about acid reflux, and the various problems associated with indigestion among many, many other topics. We even learn why Elvis died, and yes it was on the toilet. We even hear a theory why people believed in dragons; and yes it has to do reptiles with gas and combustion. We find out why we don't digest our own stomachs (well, while we're alive) and whether or not animals other than parasites can survive being swallowed and even forcibly make their way out.
It's difficult to give a fair summary to this book because it covers so much. This may be favorite book of hers since Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and like that book this book will literally have you laughing out loud. For example, in trying to avoid the embarrassment of releasing intestinal gas, she writes:
"Or perhaps to take the advice of a gastroenterologist I know: get a dog. (To blame.)"
As a person who has GERD (acid reflux) and has spent time in the hospital for an episode of intestinal blockage (worst pain, ever), I was especially interested in this topic. But I think it's really something that would interest everyone. You will learn a lot and you will laugh a lot and you will end up wanting to make friends with this author because she is so amusing and so personable.
Highly recommended. You just have to read the first few pages to see if this is something you would enjoy. I read this in one sitting; it was not only entertaining but I'm smarter for having read it.
In my case, this book was used the basic textbook for an eight-week discussion group studying microbes and the human gut. We were a dozen or so very bright seniors, all retired from a variety of successful professional careers. The “class” was affiliated with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) where we organize group discussions and presentations around a strong peer-learning concept. Before each class session, we read one or two chapters from this book and then had discussion based on questions prepared by one or two of our members about those chapters. In addition, we listened to, and discussed, one or two presentations prepared by members. All the presentations dealt with topics related to our human microbiome, especially those microbes in the alimentary canal. Our OLLI has found that this is a good format for casual academic group learning, especially in an environment where almost everyone already has an advanced degree. Basically, we rely on learning through individual reading and research, and enhance that learning by sharing it with our peers.
Our class had a lot of problems using this book as the central discussion text to support the class. There was just not enough substance within each chapter for adequate discussion questions. Sure the book was fun to read, but it didn’t leave the group with much to discuss.
If you’re interested in this topic and enjoy humorous light books covering scientific topics, then this may be exactly what you’re looking for; but, if you want more in- depth knowledge on this topic, I suggest you look elsewhere.
I never knew people taste tested pet food, why would they anyway? She also discusses the taboos behind eating certain foods. There is an entire chapter on saliva and one on William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin and his experiments. The author introduces you to all kinds of strange experiments as different scientists discuss and examine the digestive tract. There is a chapter on constipation and how it can kill you.
I need to be brave a grab a copy of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.