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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by…

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013)

by Mary Roach

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,8841336,110 (3.94)183
Few of us realize what strange wet miracles of science operate inside us after every meal. In her trademark style, Mary Roach investigates the beginning, and end, of our food, addressing such questions as why crunchy food is so appealing, how much we can eat before our stomachs burst, and whether constipation killed Elvis.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
All our plumbing from nose to tail. ( )
  notalice | Mar 28, 2020 |
NOTE: The Flat Book Society Book Club selected Gulp by Mary Roach as the book to read for September and October 2017.

When a book is titled “Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal” and marketed as popular science, the potential reader assumes they will be reading a book that discusses how the digestive system works and other interesting facts about the alimentary canal. Well… that is NOT this book. This book is something of an unfocused hodge-podge of breezy, superficial facts; throw-away statements (we want to know more!); and odd historical stories about the scientists and their less than savoury experiments on the digestive tract.

The book is divided into 17 chapters which loosely follow the physiological structure of the alimentary canal, beginning with taste and smell, and covering such topics as organ meats, cultural food preferences, chewing, gastric acid, saliva, swallowing, being eaten alive, eating too much, intestinal gasses and flammability, extra-curricular storage functions, colonic direction, constipation, and gut-microflora transplants. After a while I found that the chapters started to blur together due to the collection of random facts, pointless fillers, multiple side tangents, and not-so-witty footnotes.

I’m not really sure what the aim of this book was supposed to be, but it is more entertaining (if you find potty humour and fashion commentary entertaining) than educational. In any case, Roach seems to take delight in showcasing the more sensational trivia and taboos about the digestive system, while at the same time providing excessive fashion commentary of the people she interviews. There is very little actual science in this book and a limited coverage of the functioning of the alimentary canal. This book emphasized the strange and bizarre occurrences related to the digestive system, but never fully explained the system itself.

I found the writing to be a little sloppy with odd sentence structures, interesting single sentence comments that went no-where and lack of clarity between fact and personal opinion. In addition, the author has an irreverent, rambling style with excessive asides, puns, dodgy humour and innuendoes, and a preoccupation with toilet humour that might appeal more to a 12 year old boy trying to revolt his baby sister than someone actually looking for information about the topic. The excessive, crude toilet humour also didn’t appeal to me.

The subject matter has the potential to be extremely interesting; however, this book is not. One reviewer described this book as the “Trivial Pursuit version of the “adventures on the alimentary canal,” not the informative, organized tour designed to give insight in an entertaining way”. I can’t really argue with that.

I would not recommend this book to anyone, except possibly the aforementioned 12 year old boy in the hopes of enticing him away from the computer/ TV for a while. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Mary Roach isn't afraid to "go there". This is a fun, informative, gross-out book for adults. You'll never look at spit the same way again! You'll learn alot, but be left asking, Who are these people that do these ridiculous studies? Oh, and whatever you do, don't read this while eating!
( )
  Gittel | Jan 7, 2020 |
Interesting but annoying. Various players get capsule descriptions, mostly about their appearance, which I'ld be just as happy to ignore. Some of the topics, like drug smuggling, are disturbing. But Roach does approach the subject somewhat like a scientist: Does X happen? If not, why not? and the answers she gets can be unexpected and do indeed teach a bit about biology. ( )
  themulhern | Dec 22, 2019 |
I need to begin with saying that I have a hard time listening to non-fiction. My mind tends to wander. This author is famous for writing humorously about science. I think I caught most of the book and did, indeed, find it very interesting. My friend purchased it after I was telling her about it because she teaches 6th grade science; I thought she could share cool, funny, interesting parts of the book with her classes. When the book arrived at her home, her husband started reading it immediately. He was a science teacher in his former career.

This novel focuses on the alimentary canal, which is basically, what happens from your mouth to your colon. You will learn all sorts of things about saliva, taste, the stomach and how food is digested and what science has done to experiment with people to learn these things, why the colon doesn't explode when one is unable to expel excrement, and why pooping is so important.

I am interested in the information as I'm listening but then can't remember information to pass along afterward. What I do remember isn't necessarily what I can write for middle schoolers. It is a very interesting; I just don't remember science information. Know that it's a good book; I do recommend it. It is listed as adult, but there isn't anything "bad." It's a science book about the alimentary canal. There is information, however, that middle schoolers might be uncomfortable reading concerning prisoners and drugs. ( )
  acargile | Nov 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 133 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roach, Maryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Babcock, MaryCopy editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staggnitto, JudithDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zeller, Emily WooNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Lily and Phoebe, and my brother Rip
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In 1968, on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, six young men undertook an irregular and unprecedented act.
The sensory analyst rides a Harley.
"The human digestive tract is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles: transit time is about thirty hours, and the scenery on the last leg is pretty monotonous."
RodentPro gift certificates are available.   Because nothing says "I love you" like $100 of dead rodents delivered to the doorstep. (Chap. 12)
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Book description
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.

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