Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

by Mary Roach
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324036067
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/04/2022
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 115,567
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of five best-selling works of nonfiction, including Grunt, Stiff, and, most recently, Fuzz. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She lives in Oakland, California.


San Francisco, California

Place of Birth:

New Hampshire


B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981

Table of Contents

Introduction 13

1 Nose Job: Tasting has little to do with taste 23

2 I'll Have the Putrescine: Your pet is not like you 41

3 Liver and Opinions: Why we eat what we eat and despise the rest 61

4 The Longest Meal: Can thorough chewing lower the national debt? 79

5 Hard to Stomach: The acid relationship of William Beaumont and Alexis St. Martin 93

6 Spit Gets a Polish: Someone ought to bottle the stuff 107

7 A Bolus of Cherries: Life at the oral processing lab 131

8 Big Gulp: How to survive being swallowed alive 149

9 Dinner's Revenge: Can the eaten eat back? 167

10 Stuffed: The science of eating yourself to death 185

11 Up Theirs: The alimentary canal as criminal accomplice 197

12 Inflammable You: Fun with hydrogen and methane 223

13 Dead Man's Bloat: And other diverting tales from the history of flatulence research 233

14 Smelling a Rat: Does noxious flatus do more than clear a room? 243

15 Eating Backward: Is the digestive tract a two-way street? 269

16 I'm All Stopped Up: Elvis Presley's megacolon, and other ruminations on death by constipation 289

17 Tne Ick Factor: We can cure you, but there's just one thing 311

Acknowledgments 329

Bibliography 333

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

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