Best-selling author Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside. Roach 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 as our guide, 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.
©2013 Mary Roach (P)2013 Tantor
Goodreads reviewer and blogger... also dentist and wife/mom when I get the time!
The science geek in me practically peed her pants she was so excited to read this book. (I guess my inner nerd has a mild case of urinary incontinence but that is neither here nor there...) I mean an entire book about the alimentary canal, starting with my home turf, the mouth? Count me in!
Will you enjoy this book? Well, that depends on how you answer the following questions. Have you ever wondered:
If you can die from trying to defecate too forcefully?
Why do animals eat their own poop?
Could the Jonah biblical story have scientific plausibility?
Why doesn't your stomach eat itself until there is nothing left?
What makes farts smell so disgusting?
What is the purpose of saliva and why do babies make so much?
How to prisoners smuggle so much junk up their butts?
I loved every second of finding out the answer to these questions and about 1,000 more that I didn't even know I had. I enjoyed the refresher course on human anatomy and physiology and LOVED Mary Roach's humorous approach to science. You do not have to have a science background to adore this book. It is perfectly suitable for all audiences, particularly ones that don't mind a little potty humor.
The narrator in the audiobook was spot on: Funny, tongue-in-cheek, and pleasant to listen too. This isn't a character-driven novel or anything like that, so the narrator just had to read the book and read it well, and that she did! I listened to this book in about a weeks time and felt a little more informed each day.
Warning: Possible side effects of reading this book include forcing your loved ones (aka the husband, in my case) to listen to about a bajillion facts about pooping, burps, farts, and gas. In case you are wondering, he did not appreciate learning that information, the neanderthal.
I tried and tried to like this book after reading so many glowing reviews here and in print. I tried starting it over twice in a different frame of mind. But I just never enjoyed it and couldn't finish it.
Narration is very good and Roach describes, using detailed research and graphic but appropriate language, a clinical context that is fasinating to anyone in the medical field or with interest in the digestive system.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
There are so many things wrong with this book -- the anecdotes are hit or miss, depending on your interest in a particular thread; there are far too many anecdotes from the 18th and 19th centuries, when crazy stuff was being done to our digestive systems (and everything else) in the early days of science and medicine; and there is no acknowledgement that today's scientists may prove to be as batty as those guys from the bad old days, despite examples in Gulp of science from the recent past that has already been debunked.
But the one thing that could have made it all coalesce, since this is an investigation into the digestive system in an era of hyper-consciousness about nutrition, would have been a focus on what is going on these days in the science of food consumption and GI medical treatments rather than in horror stories and gross-out jokes from centuries past. The overall idea of taking a journalistic look into the science and mythology of digestion is excellent, but the execution is facile and uninformative.
Most disappointing is the almost complete lack of insight. We don't need Mary Roach interviewing a flatulence expert to teach us that people don't mind the smell of their own farts. Or that nuns may have used enemas to satisfy their sublimated sexual urges. Or that Elvis may have died of constipation. Or that we could eke out that last 10% of nutrition from the things we eat by eating our own poop. Or that the legend of dragons may have been no more than a case of fart lighting gone horribly wrong. (Note the frequent use of the word "may" -- little of concrete insight anywhere).
Worse than that, though, are the instances where the insight is incomplete or wrong. The author recounts a horror story about colectomy surgery being used to cure constipation in the 19th century, but never follows up with even a note about colectomy now being a highly effective treatment for immotility (which worked life-changing wonders for a member of my family) -- it wasn't the viability of the procedure that was ever in question, it was the danger of complications from any surgical procedure in the early days of surgical procedures.
Most egregious is the author's serious debunking of dietary fiber as an agent in reducing colon cancer without a single word of discussion about its other benefits (never mind that the issue of fiber and colon cancer has hardly been resolved to the point of being debunked, certainly not based on the flaws of a long-ago study comparing rural Africans to English sailors that Roach spends too much time on).
The narrator recites the book like an eighth grader making fart jokes, which in fact she is, except that she is not an eighth grader. I can't wholly blame the author for giving her little more than eighth grade fart jokes to work with -- the author didn't force her to narrate the whole thing with a relentless snicker barely concealed beneath her words.
In addition to all the above, this book constantly evoked annoyance -- we are interrupted constantly by "Author's notes" (i.e. footnotes) that spoiled the flow of the narrative. Making it doubly annoying is that, after the rankling intrusion of the phrase "author's note" to signal the start of a footnote, there was never any indication of where the note ended and the main text resumed (not a problem in print, but definitely an issue in audio).
Many other negative reviews of this book discuss the gross-out factor. That really didn't bother me per se. We are talking about the digestive system -- even the most appetizing gourmet meal turns into something gross the second it passes your lips. Perhaps it is the delight with which the grossness is thrown out there that rankles people -- people older than the age of 12, that is.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
Oh it was okay. I enjoyed the usual Mary Roach funny tone which is always the best part. It was for me pretty much a gross out experience but I knew that going in, so no fault of the author or book itself. I guess I was wanting something more, I'm not sure what, maybe if I could have felt a bit more informed, wait......I did learn one thing...or I thought I did... never mind, now I've forgotten. So I will chalk this one up to an easy fun listen, just not memorable in any way.
This book was very interesting and had some funny bits. I certainly learned some things about the body and digestion. It was entertaining and informative. I found some of the anecdotes just a touch on the insensitive/judgmental side...a little compassion for the unfortunate people who made the record books with their unusual stories would have felt better to me, as a listener. If we must be voyeurs we can be compassionate voyeurs, no? Still an excellent listen; it kept my attention, gave me some laughs, and made me a little bit more informed. The narration was good (read: not annoying).
I thoroughly enjoyed the content as written. The delivery lacked.
The story, and the investigative aspect. Who looks for this stuff? Awesome!
The author. She has an obvious comedic tone that emily doesn't deliver effectively.
The greatest detraction was the narrator trying to mimic the voices of the various scientists. It sounded mocking even when it wasn't meant to. This is a really cool trip through digestion! I just wish I had time to actually read the book in my own way vs. this. Still love Audible!
Fantasy & Sci-Fi lover who mostly refuses to read books without their audiobook counterparts. How else can a girl get any housework done?
It was very monotonous. After reading all the great reviews and being familiar with Mary Roach's book, STIFF, I guess I had high expectations. Unfortunately, this fell flatter than flat. It was just....boring.
Not sure....something more interesting, I'm sure.
Tavia Gilbert. The best narrator I've listened to, so far.
Mary Roach has an inquiring mind, and while many of her topics are way off the beaten path, she always uses an approach of scientific inquiry with a quirkiness that's charming and funny and absolutely fascinating. Zeller's reading is right on the mark. As with "Stiff," the fascination factor far outweighs the yuk factor. What a great listen! And what a lot I learned...
I'd hoped to learn some new things about how a healthy body works, but this was mostly a collection of oddities. There were some interesting moments, like learning that organ meats have more vitamins than vegetables. I think it was just a bad fit for me.
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