Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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Overview

"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 ...

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Overview

"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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

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.

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
Library Journal - Audio
09/01/2013
Roach (Stiff; Bonk; Spook) here explores the interesting—and sometimes gross—alimentary canal. As in her other books, Roach successfully explains a complex subject in an understandable and interesting manner. The book provides an overview of the digestive canal and tackles unusual questions and taboos associated with it, taking the listener on a whirlwind tour of the human digestive system with stops including a pet food taste-test lab and a visit to an inmate in a high-profile prison. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller does a decent job with her well-paced narration but tends to overemphasize foreign accents and names. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Roach and those who enjoy reading about science. ["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," read the starred review of the New York Times best-selling Norton hc, LJ 3/1/13.—Ed.]—Saori W. Herman, Southern California Coll. of Optometry Lib., Fullerton
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452613420
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/29/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: 8 CDs, 8.5 hours
  • Sales rank: 987,790
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 6.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Roach

Journalist and former Salon.com columnist Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestseller Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars.

AudioFile Earphones Award winner Emily Woo Zeller has been described by AudioFile magazine as doing "an extraordinary job of varying the voices in the dialogue without losing the intimacy of the story." While she specializes in Asian American narratives, Emily's work spans a broad spectrum, including young adult fiction.

Good To Know

In our interview, Roach shared some fun facts about herself:

"My first job was as a writer for the San Francisco Zoological Society members magazine; I worked in a trailer next to Gorilla World."

"I've been to Antarctica three times, posing as a science writer."

"My dad was 65 when I was born."

"I like to unwind by going out birdwatching by myself; though the hours don't agree with me."

"I love red papaya, seaweed, a beer after a long hike, polar skies, and I'm a sucker for TV ads with monkeys in them. Dislikes: corporate greed, fluorescent lighting, extreme self-indulgence, weak coffee."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2013

    I have read all of Mary Roach's books and have immensely enjoyed

    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. 

    19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Illuminating and humorous!

    Mary Roach has done it again! I very much enjoyed her digestive journey through our miraculous bodies. I highly recommend this book!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2013

    I enjoyed this book. I love the funny way Mary Roach explains t

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    This book has something wrong with it!

    Very excited to read this book.... looks like I never will. It's blank inside. Tech support says it's the publisher's malfunction and they can't do anything about it or refund me. Awesome. Beware of this happening!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    This is a topic I've long been interested in. Ms. Roach does a

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Roach's humor and one-liners kept the book going, and there were

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2013

    Love Mary Roach

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2014

    Great for those who are interested in science and who appreciate humor

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    Kindle sells this ebook for $9.43! I'd like to read it, but I re

    Kindle sells this ebook for $9.43! I'd like to read it, but I refuse to get ripped off just because I was dumb enough to buy a nook.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I like Gulp by Mary Roach because it has good scentific informat

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    fun book

    Very interesting...but then I have enjoyed all of her other ones. This was at least as good as the others!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Another tour de force from Mary Roach

    If you loved "Stiff" and her other titles, you'll love this book. Entertaining, enlightening, informative and hilarious. Mary Roach at her best.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 1, 2013

    Disappointed

    Have always heard her books were great. Was expecting more scientific info, even if funny. Was blah and not very funny.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 18, 2013

    Highly Recommended!

    Mary Roach chooses unusual topics for her books and researches them thoroughly. Her style is a delight to read. She makes her topic, in Gulp it's the alimentary canal, exceedingly interesting to the reader, compelling really. She surprises you with humor when you least expect it. Several times I laughed out loud. Gulp is a great book and I highly recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2013

    Classic Roach

    This is no Michael Pollan... Ms. Roach has all her satirical wit, and this book ,while humorous, is not for the "weak stomached". No pun intended... really.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2013

    Not recommended

    I did not enjoy this as much as her previous work "STIFF". Some passages were, frankly, disgusting and I did not finish the book. I only recommend it if you have a very strong stomach!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2013

    Do not recommend.

    This book is so boring I find that I put it down and can't pick it up to finish it. Maybe someday I will but not now. It was chosen for our book club and I have talked to other people in the group and they feel the same way.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2013

    Good read

    Enjoyable, informative, fascinating, and funny.
    My first Mary Roach book - definitely not my last.

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  • Posted April 28, 2013

    Humorous science leaves people hungering for more

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Fantastic: Better than Stiff; her sense of humor is inestimable.

    The footnotes make the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews

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