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Gulp : adventures on the alimentary canal
2013
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Genre
NonFiction
Health, Mind and Body
Science
Topics
Human anatomy
Physiology
Health
Biology
Pop culture
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  Library Journal Review

Best-selling popular science writer Roach (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void) turns her attention here to the alimentary canal. Roach asks the questions that some readers may have always wondered: Does saliva have curative properties? Do pets taste food differently than their owners do? Could Jonah have survived three days in a whale's stomach? Could Americans lower the national debt by chewing their food more thoroughly? As she investigates these questions, Roach encounters many an eccentric scientist who has worked tirelessly to unlock the mysteries of saliva, gastrointestinal gases, and mastication. As she recounts her adventures in tasting centers and laboratories, she aims not to disgust readers, but to inspire curiosity-even awe-for the most intimate functions of the human body. VERDICT Filled with witty asides, humorous anecdotes, and bizarre facts, this book will entertain readers, challenge their cultural taboos, and simultaneously teach them new lessons in digestive biology.-Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Roach (Stiff) once again goes boldly into the fields of strange science. In the case of her newest, some may hesitate to follow-it's about the human digestive system, and it's as gross as one might expect. But it's also enthralling. From mouth to gut to butt, Roach is unflinching as she charts every crevice and quirk of the alimentary canal-a voyage she cheerily likens to "a cruise along the Rhine." En route, she comments on everything from the microbial wisdom of ancient China, to the tactics employed by prisoners when smuggling contraband in their alimentary "vaults," the surprising success rate of fecal transplants, how conducting a colonoscopy is a little like "playing an accordion," and a perhaps too-good-to-be-true tale in the New York Times in 1896 of a real-life Jonah surviving a 36-hour stint in the belly of a sperm whale. Roach's approach is grounded in science, but the virtuosic author rarely resists a pun, and it's clear she revels in giving readers a thrill-even if it is a queasy one. Adventurous kids and doctors alike will appreciate this fascinating and sometimes ghastly tour of the gastrointestinal system. 18 illus. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
"America's funniest science writer" (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn't the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of--or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists--who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts. <p>Like all of Roach's books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.</p>
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