Mary Roach, called “America’s funniest science writer” by the Washington Post, has tackled the science of death (Stiff), sex (Bonk), the afterlife (Spook), and space (Packing for Mars, linked to my review), and her newest exploration is into the world of digestion. Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal covers how we eat, from tasting, chewing, and swallowing all the way down to, well, pooping.
While writing the book, Mary visits a dog food manufacturer to learn about taste, interviews a saliva expert, sticks her hand inside a live cow’s stomach, and observes a fecal transplant, which is exactly what it sounds like. Her usual wit — Mary never passes up a good pun — is ever-present and makes some nausea-inducing topics easier to stomach (see what I did there?). She shows a child-like glee for appropriately named individuals, such as a detergent industry consultant with the last name of Grime. She tends to go off on tangents but always brings it back around, with clever transitions to the next chapter.
Those plagued by digestive problems will especially be interested in the chapters that discuss those not so pleasant aspects of the processing of the food we eat. From acid reflux to constipation, it’s all discussed in fascinating, and at times disgusting, detail. But this is the type of book that you can’t keep to yourself – I was constantly entertaining my family with tidbits I learned, such as why some animals eat their own feces, and just how it is that competitive eaters can stuff 50+ hot dogs down their throats.
This is not a book for the squeamish, and it’s more appropriate reading material for the bathroom than the lunchroom. But if you want to know if thorough chewing aids in absorption of vitamins and nutrients, are curious about whether mealworms can really eat their way out of a stomach, or want to learn how Elvis really died (it was on the toilet), then Gulp is the book for you.
Nancy is fascinated by how the human body works. She writes about her boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.