Author Mary Roach has only been publishing full length novels since 2008. Before that she was more well known for her essays and articles on science and life in such publications as Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, and the New York Times. Her humorous approach to otherwise dry or scientific topics has made her very popular in a short amount of time. And with good reason! Her past titles include Stiff: the curious life of human cadavers, and Packing for Mars: The curious science of life in the void. Now she has published Gulp.: Adventures on the alimentary canal. For those of us without a background in anatomy, the alimentary canal is the entire digestive tract, from mouth to um, “back end.”
In the introduction, Ms. Roach reveals the inspiration for her investigation: in 1968 University of California at Berkeley scientists were working on a way to make a renewable food source for future space explorers. In their creative zeal, one experiment involved seeing if people could live on sustenance made from the dead bacteria grown from “recycled” food. The test, though creative, was a flop. It turns out people like to eat real food, thank you very much. From this attention-grabbing experiment, the reader is steered through other digestive questions such as the taste and smell of food and why we prefer what we prefer, the chewing process, saliva and stomach juices, and sections of chapters on how we digest food once it’s in our stomach and intestines. Throughout, the author cites unusual or (unintentionally) humorous scientific studies, revealing answers to questions you never knew you had. This book manages to avoid “bathroom humor” while still being humorous, and backing quite a bit of knowledge in between the chuckles.
You can get the book reviewed here and more great titles to watch, read, listen to, or play with at the Port Library at 1718 N. Hersey in Beloit, on the North Campus. This is director Rachel Malay, saying “Thanks for checking us out!”
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
ISBN: 9780393081572, 348p.
Adult Non-Fiction Section