Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

ulpMy mom gave this to Paul for his birthday and as soon as he was done with it I had to read it, too.  If you’re not familiar with Roach she is a very popular non-fiction author who has written about sex and death previously and is know for being a fun science writer.  I thought I had read her books, but it turns out I’ve just seen her on tv a lot and possibly read excerpts before. Thus, it was an especially fun read for me as I loved discovering her chatty style and her hilarious footnotes. If you are looking for readable non-fiction, Roach is for you. If you love interesting and strange factoids, or maybe are a fellow reader of Mental Floss, then Roach is for you. For this topic Roach starts at the top and works her way down. Thus, we begin with taste and smell and chewing and work our way down the digestive track to flatus (my new favorite word) and poop.  I did cringe at some of the poop stuff, and can’t stop referring to my family’s flatus now. But how interesting to find out that Elvis Presley had a mega colon and that’s what probably killed him! Or that our jaws are fabulous designed to exert just the right amount of pressure for chewing and pull back in a fraction of a second so that we don’t smash our teeth.   I wish this had more illustrative photos (after hearing the megacolon described, I want to see it.) I also really enjoyed reading about her research into pet foods. Competitive eating disgusts me, so I found that chapter especially icky.  Roach really does shed a light on how fascinating the body is and perfectly it works in terms of getting nutrition and getting rid of waste.  She also sheds a light on how many fascinating and varied jobs there are out there.  Also that people volunteer for experiments involving flatus, smelling dog’s flatus, etc.

Now more than ever I feel a desire to go visit the Mütter Museum.

*It’s been a week since I read this book and I keep thinking about different parts of it. Let me share with you a part I keep recalling because I think it sums up both Roach’s funny writing style, as well as the fascinating facts that most of us have never bothered to think of before. She says to think of and wonder at the anus, for it must know who is knocking at the door-liquid, solid, or gas-and then open accordingly.  Now that’s some phrasing that sticks with you!

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