Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

3.8 55
by Mary Roach
     
 

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The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.

“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

Overview

The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.

“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.

Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Roach has been described as "America's funniest science writer," not a superlative that one would expect that an author on a book about human cadavers would receive. In her latest effort, the author of Stiff and Packing for Mars takes us on an incredible voyage down our gullets and into dark digestive regions where more timid observers dare not go. Thanks to her apparently unflagging curiosity, Roach is willing to ask and answer essential questions, like "Why doesn't our stomach consume itself?" and "How long can an oyster live inside us?" Simply put, Gulp will make you gasp with delight; another Discover author continues to do good and make us proud.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Gulp is far and away her funniest and most sparkling book, bringing Ms. Roach's love of weird science to material that could not have more everyday relevance. Having graduated from corpses (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook) and sex (Bonk, full of stunts featuring Ms. Roach as guinea pig), she takes on a subject wholly mainstream. She explores it with unalloyed merriment. And she is fearless about the embarrassment that usually accompanies it…Never has Ms. Roach's affinity for the comedic and bizarre been put to better use.
The Washington Post - Amy Stewart
Gulp is an absolute delight…[Roach is] a very good writer who understands that her job is, above all, to entertain. Every paragraph is a pleasure to read, even if that paragraph is about a partially decomposed gazelle entombed in the body of a python…In the wrong hands, a book on digestion would be rendered tedious by a need to cover every aspect of the subject to some degree. But Roach follows her interests, not a checklist…you'll come away from this well-researched book with enough weird digestive trivia to make you the most interesting guest at a certain kind of cocktail party.
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Steven Pinker
“Once again Roach boldly goes where no author has gone before, into the sciences of the taboo, the macabre, the icky, and the just plain weird. And she conveys it all with a perfect touch: warm, lucid, wry, sharing the unavoidable amusement without ever resorting to the cheap or the obvious. Yum!”
Carl Zimmer
“Mary Roach put her hand in a cow’s stomach for you, dear reader. If you don't read Gulp, then that was all for naught. Plus, you'll miss out on the funniest book ever written about guts.”
Tom Vanderbilt
“As probing as an endoscopy, Gulp is quintessential Mary Roach: supremely wide-ranging, endlessly curious, always surprising, and, yes, gut-wrenchingly funny.”
Booklist
“Starred Review. 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.”
Entertainment Weekly
“As engrossing as it is gross.”
Janet Maslin - New York Times
“Far and away her funniest and most sparkling book, bringing Ms. Roach’s love of weird science to material that could not have more everyday relevance. . . . Never has Ms. Roach’s affinity for the comedic and bizarre been put to better use. . . . “Gulp” is structured as a vastly entertaining pilgrimage down the digestive tract, with Ms. Roach as the wittiest, most valuable tour guide imaginable.”
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
“A delicious read and, dare I say it, a total gas.”
Brian Switek - Wall Street Journal
“[A] merry foray into the digestive sciences….Inexorably draws the reader along with peristaltic waves of history and vividly described science.”
Amy Stewart - Washington Post
“You’ll come away from this well-researched book with enough weird digestive trivia to make you the most interesting guest at a certain kind of cocktail party…Go ahead and put this one in your carry-on. You won’t regret it.”
Chloe Schama - Smithsonian
“A witty, woving romp of a book… Roach…is a thoroughly unflappable, utterly intrepid investigator of the icky.”
Bee Wilson - The New Republic
“Relentlessly fun to read.”
Micki Myers - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Never before has the process of eating been so very interesting…. After digesting her book, you can’t help but think about what that really means.”
Adam Woog - Seattle Times
“One of my top criteria for pronouncing a book worthwhile is the number of times you snort helplessly with laughter and say, “Wow! Did you know that ... ” before your long-suffering spouse throws a book at you from across the room. My personal spouse says that, in this department, “Gulp” takes the cake.”
Jeffrey Burke - Bloomberg
“Letting this brilliantly mischievous writer, for whom no pun is ouch and no cow sacred, dip her pen into the font of all potty humor must have seemed even riskier than her previous excursions into corpses (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook), sex (Bonk) and outer space (Packing for Mars). But dip she did—at one point she put her whole arm into a cow’s belly—and came up with another quirkily informative pop-science entertainment in Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.”
Jenni Laidman - Chicago Tribune
“Roach is a gift to all those unsung researchers with weird curiosities, the people who tell us things we hadn't thought to ask: The teams who reveal that we like crunchy foods that snap at speeds of 300 meters per second and produce a crunch that reaches 90 to 100 decibels; the anthropologist who swallowed a shrew whole (with a little tomato sauce) to demonstrate what remains after digestion; the scientists who put windows into cows to see into their rumen; the researchers who study spit; investigators who sniff icky things; and specialists who examine poop. When Roach talks about her visits to various laboratories, I picture her received as a celebrity, the one person who gets it, the outsider who will teach the world to appreciate the distant exurbs of human curiosity. At this she succeeds admirably.”
From the Publisher
"Roach 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. . . . Adventurous kids and doctors alike will appreciate this fascinating and sometimes ghastly tour of the gastrointestinal system." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Jon Ronson - New York Times Book Review
“There is much to enjoy about Mary Roach—her infectious aw for quirky science and its nerdy adherents, her one-liners... She is beloved, and justifiably so.”
New Yorker
“With the same eager curiosity that she previously brought to the subjects of cadavers, space, and sex, the author explores the digestive system, from mouth to colon.”
The Economist
“Gulp is about revelling in the extraordinary complexities and magnificence of human digestion.”
Library Journal
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.

Kirkus Reviews
Throughout her sojourn down the gastrointestinal tract, science writer Roach (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, 2011, etc.) enlists her abundant assets of intelligence and humor while dissecting this messy and astounding part of the human body. The author ties her curiosity about this region of the body and what many consider a disgusting or off-limits subject for polite conversation to a fifth-grade classroom encounter with a headless, limbless, molded-plastic torso: "Function was not hinted at in Mrs. Claflin's educational torso man….Yet I owe the guy a debt of thanks. To venture beyond the abdominal wall, even a plastic one, was to pull back the curtain on life itself." The author begins by detailing the subtle, complex role the nose plays in taste; why humans have trouble finding names for flavors and smells; and how the human nose can be thought of as a "fleshly gas chromatograph." Roach chronicles her visit to an oral processing lab and her interview with a prisoner who patiently explained the intimate details of utilizing the alimentary canal for illegal purposes. The author grapples with the history of flatulence and adeptly describes the torment caused by Elvis Presley's megacolon, which ultimately caused his demise. She also fleshes out just what constitutes the "ick factor" in this tale of ingestion, digestion and elimination. Roach's abundant footnotes serve as entertaining detours throughout this edifying excursion. When a topic heads toward sketchy territory, the author politely provides a heads-up for squeamish readers. Whether Roach is writing about lateral tongue protrusion, the taboo surrounding saliva or whether "rectal consumption of beef broth breaks one's Lenten fast," the author entertains with this incredible journey into the netherworld of the human body. A touchy topic illuminated with wit and rigor, packed with all the stinky details.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393240306
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/01/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
36,779
File size:
4 MB

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What People are saying about this

Steven Pinker
Fans of lively writing will be delighted by the newest monosyllable from Mary Roach. Once again Roach boldly goes where no author has gone before, into the sciences of the taboo, the macabre, the icky, and the just plain weird. And she conveys it all with a perfect touch: warm, lucid, wry, sharing the unavoidable amusement without ever resorting to the cheap or the obvious. Yum!—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature

Meet the Author

Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
San Francisco, California
Place of Birth:
New Hampshire
Education:
B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981
Website:
http://www.maryroach.net/

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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal 3.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 55 reviews.
coopyjay More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Mary Roach's books and have immensely enjoyed them. I pre-ordered Gulp and couldn't wait to read it. It has lived up to my expectations. I love how she humorously conveys information that honestly can be pretty boring. Her little tidbits of information such as the sound of a food's crunch being little sonic booms in your mouth, keep you wanting to continue reading to find out other information that you never even really thought about before. If you liked Mary Roach's other books, you won't be disappointed in this one. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach has done it again! I very much enjoyed her digestive journey through our miraculous bodies. I highly recommend this book!
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
I like Gulp by Mary Roach because it has good scentific information. It is also humorous. I wouldn't recommend reading Gulp while you are eating. I enjoyed her book about space exploration better than Gulp. But, this is still a good read.
SharynR More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I love the funny way Mary Roach explains the human body. Be sure to read Stiff, Bonk, and Packing for Mars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gulp by Mary Roach is an intensely descriptive journey through the human body. While sometimes rather graphic, Roach keeps it real with her humorous approach to usually disgusting aspects of the alimentary canal, such as stomach acid and rectal drug trafficking. This is not a book you want to read if you are weak stomached, but once you make it through you will feel almost a sense of accomplishment that is right up there with acing a big test because you know you learned something. Some parts of the book move along faster than others, but your curiosity will get you through the slow parts. Each story Roach tells offers new information you will probably never use, but may come up in a Jeopardy game. Funny, witty, and surprisingly educational, Gulp is a must-read for anyone who just likes to learn and discover new things about the world, or in this case, themselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a topic I've long been interested in. Ms. Roach does a good job of discussing a wide variety of topics and experiments related to digestion. It doesn't give an entire overview of the process, though the book is organized from entrance to exit. Some parts were really interesting; others, less so. If you are easily put off by natural bodily functions, then you will likely be disgusted by much of the content, since it contains descriptions of not-so-natural bodily functions. My favorite was the discussion of megacolon, so Mary Roach is a girl after my own heart! What it didn't include was information for a hypochondriac to self-diagnose. I kind of like that thing, so I was a little disappointed.
NJD2002 More than 1 year ago
Roach's humor and one-liners kept the book going, and there were some interesting anecdotes, but it is not as good as Bonk, Spook, or Packing for Mars.  As a warning, this book can be graphic, so if you are easily disgusted, this is not the book for you.
Shannon_Lea_Egan More than 1 year ago
I've not read very much of this book so far, but I am enjoying it VERY much. I bought it after hearing the author on NPR discussing this book. It's fantastic to me that people approach a scientific subject with humor and yet still tell everything in accurate detail. Once I digest this book, I intend to look for more by this same author. And, although I had heard of the fecal transplant methodology of resolving recurrent c-diff infections, thanks to this book I am now aware they are trying to create a tablet or capsule version of the donor poop. I imagine this will make selling this option much more palatable to patients.
MdExTx More than 1 year ago
I've been reading Mary Roach since I first discovered her in "In Health" magazine back in the '80s. This is another thoroughly researched, well written, funny book that imparts knowledge about a specific topic in the style of "Stiff", "Spook" and "Bonk". If Mary Roach writes it, I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you don't buy this, she went into a cow's stomach for nothing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Non-fiction. I read this for the non-fiction book club at my local library (July 2014). Really interesting book, though I may have found it more so than the average person because I have GI issues. Our bodies are really interesting machines. The author has a good sense of humor and goes to some funny places that do some unusual experiments. Mary Roach visited people who are professional taste testers (e.g. olive oil), some people who explain why only smell is important to dogs when choosing their food but that cats only really care about texture so you can call their food whatever you like and it makes a difference only to the owners, scientists who determine the smell factors and components of flatulence, she enthusiastically gets a colonoscopy, and other bizarre, funny, and informative adventures. Boy the history of medicine has been quite bizarre at times. I enthusiastically recommend this one. It really helped me learn quite a bit about my own GI issues in an entertaining way and about some of the new research being done about bacteria and its importance to our digestive and overall health. I look forward to reading some of her other books, if they are half as interesting as this they will be worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a wholistic nutritionist in Los Angeles. I bought this because it was recommended. I find it very disjointed. I was hoping that this could be a book I could recommend to my clients. A simple, cons ice way for them to understand bodily functions, specifically the digestive process. I found this just loaded with too much info that was not relevant, therefor a disjointed read for me.
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A very odd and entertaining book about the alimentary canal. Some parts made me laugh out loud while others created an uneasy nauceous feeling. If you are interested in anatomy and science read this humous and informative book.
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psychedforreading More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I laughed out loud on several occasions and also learned about the human body! Funny, I don' t remember too many chuckles in my science classes. Perhaps my science teachers should have read this book!
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