Reviews for Gulp : Adventures on the Alimentary Canal


Book News Reviews
Why don't terrorists carry bombs in their stomachs? Roach, author of several previous general science books, continues her winning streak with this humorous journey following food through the human body, from one end to the other. Several chapters are devoted to the mechanics of farts. Pet-food taste tests and fecal bacteria transplants are also on the menu. The book is illustrated with humorous b&w historical photos. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Booklist Reviews 2013 March #1
*Starred Review* In her latest rollicking foray into taboo, icky, and underappreciated aspects of the human body, best-selling science writer Roach takes readers on a wild ride down the alimentary canal. Not that the author of Stiff (2003), Bonk (2008), and Packing for Mars (2010) ever takes a direct route anywhere. No, voraciously curious and intrepid Roach zips off in whatever direction her ardor for research and irrepressible instinct for the wonderfully weird lead her. She begins this hilarious, mind-expanding inquiry into eating, digestion, and elimination with the symbiosis between smell and taste, guided by an olfactorily gifted "sensory analyst," then profiles Horace Fletcher, proponent of a rigorous chewing routine known as "Fletcherizing" practiced by Henry James and Franz Kafka. We learn more than one can imagine about saliva and our passion for crispy and crunchy foods. Given Roach's fascination with what we find disgusting, scientific obsessions and bizarre experiments, and horrifying things we do to ourselves, the stories get stranger as she proceeds down the body. Roach interviews a prison inmate about "rectal smuggling" (including cell phones), tells tales of flatulence, and reveals the truth about Elvis Presley's fatal megacolon. For all her irreverence, Roach marvels over the fine-tuned workings and "wisdom" of the human body, and readers will delight in her exuberant energy, audacity, and wit. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 April
An after-dinner adventure

With the smallest shift in marketing, Mary Roach could singlehandedly triple the rate of pleasure reading among teenage boys. She writes about exactly the things that fascinate them: outer space, human bodies and especially all the weird, smelly, slimy, loud, hilarious byproducts of said bodies. In her latest, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Roach follows the process of digestion from beginning to inglorious end. Though her subject matter is the stuff of sixth-grade humor, her approach is (slightly) more serious, and substantially more journalistic.

She begins on a dreamy note: “How lovely to picture one’s dinner making its way down a tranquil, winding waterway, digestion and excretion no more upsetting or off-putting than a cruise along the Rhine.” Alas, most of us don’t particularly like thinking about our food once we’ve eaten it. “The prevailing attitude,” she notes with regret, “is one of disgust.”

Roach wants us to get over it already. And she’s persuasive, thanks to her trademark blend of goofball humor and sincere devotion to her subject. She wants to know what makes us tick, physically and philosophically. While talking spit with scientist Erika Silletti, Roach acknowled[Thu Apr 24 20:12:21 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. ges, “I am honestly curious about saliva, but I am also curious about obsession and its role in scientific inquiry.”

The woman clearly loves her job. She gets to interview people who spend their days classifying bad smells, testing dog food flavors, measuring the colons of eating-contest winners. She has a “favorite snake digestion expert.” It’s hard not to share her delight when she finds a rabbi to quote on the subject of whether human hair is kosher and it turns out his last name is “Blech.” Later, when she’s tracing the use of digestive enzymes (aka spit) in stain removal, she interviews “a chemist named Luis Spitz,” then “a detergent industry consultant named Keith Grime.” The giggling is almost audible through the page.

Roach also writes excellent footnotes, draws vivid if unorthodox comparisons (she likens a colonoscope to a bartender’s soda gun) and asks all the questions you’re too self-conscious to Google, plus others that have never occurred to you (can farts cure cancer?). Along the way she sneaks in sly critiques of bureaucracy, bigotry, animal cruelty and other less-than-noble human behavior. You may be grossed out, but you’ll also be impressed.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 January #2
Throughout her sojourn down the gastrointestinal tract, science writer Roach (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, 2011, etc.) enlists her abundant assets of intelligence and humor while dissecting this messy and astounding part of the human body. The author ties her curiosity about this region of the body and what many consider a disgusting or off-limits subject for polite conversation to a fifth-grade classroom encounter with a headless, limbless, molded-plastic torso: "Function was not hinted at in Mrs. Claflin's educational torso man….Yet I owe the guy a debt of thanks. To venture beyond the abdominal wall, even a plastic one, was to pull back the curtain on life itself." The author begins by detailing the subtle, complex role the nose plays in taste; why humans have trouble finding names for flavors and smells; and how the human nose can be thought of as a "fleshly gas chromatograph." Roach chronicles her visit to an oral processing lab and her interview with a prisoner who patiently explained the intimate details of utilizing the alimentary canal for illegal purposes. The author grapples with the history of flatulence and adeptly describes the torment caused by Elvis Presley's megacolon, which ultimately caused his demise. She also fleshes out just what constitutes the "ick factor" in this tale of ingestion, digestion and elimination. Roach's abundant footnotes serve as entertaining detours throughout this edifying excursion. When a topic heads toward sketchy territory, the author politely provides a heads-up for squeamish readers. Whether Roach is writing about lateral tongue protrusion, the taboo surrounding saliva or whether "rectal consumption of beef broth breaks one's Lenten fast," the author entertains with this incredible journey into the netherworld of the human body. A touchy topic illuminated with wit and rigor, packed with all the stinky details. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #2

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Roach certainly has a way with deeply weird, deeply fascinating, sometimes nausea-inducing subjects--and titles. Her latest fits right in; it's a journey straight down the gullet into the mysteries of digestion. Eat, drink, and be merry while reading yet another fun Roach book.

[Page 58]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 March #1

Best-selling popular science writer Roach (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void) turns her attention here to the alimentary canal. Roach asks the questions that some readers may have always wondered: Does saliva have curative properties? Do pets taste food differently than their owners do? Could Jonah have survived three days in a whale's stomach? Could Americans lower the national debt by chewing their food more thoroughly? As she investigates these questions, Roach encounters many an eccentric scientist who has worked tirelessly to unlock the mysteries of saliva, gastrointestinal gases, and mastication. As she recounts her adventures in tasting centers and laboratories, she aims not to disgust readers, but to inspire curiosity--even awe--for the most intimate functions of the human body. VERDICT Filled with witty asides, humorous anecdotes, and bizarre facts, this book will entertain readers, challenge their cultural taboos, and simultaneously teach them new lessons in digestive biology.--Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA

[Page 87]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Best-selling popular science writer Roach (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void) turns her attention here to the alimentary canal. Roach asks the questions that some readers may have always wondered: Does saliva have curative properties? Do pets taste food differently than their owners do? Could Jonah have survived three days in a whale's stomach? Could Americans lower the national debt by chewing their food more thoroughly? As she investigates these questions, Roach encounters many an eccentric scientist who has worked tirelessly to unlock the mysteries of saliva, gastrointestinal gases, and mastication. As she recounts her adventures in tasting centers and laboratories, she aims not to disgust readers, but to inspire curiosity--even awe--for the most intimate functions of the human body. VERDICT Filled with witty asides, humorous anecdotes, and bizarre facts, this book will entertain readers, challenge their cultural taboos, and simultaneously teach them new lessons in digestive biology.--Talea Anderson, Ellensburg, WA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 January #3

Roach (Stiff) once again goes boldly into the fields of strange science. In the case of her newest, some may hesitate to follow--it's about the human digestive system, and it's as gross as one might expect. But it's also enthralling. From mouth to gut to butt, Roach is unflinching as she charts every crevice and quirk of the alimentary canal--a voyage she cheerily likens to "a cruise along the Rhine." En route, she comments on everything from the microbial wisdom of ancient China, to the tactics employed by prisoners when smuggling contraband in their alimentary "vaults," the surprising success rate of fecal transplants, how conducting a colonoscopy is a little like "playing an accordion," and a perhaps too-good-to-be-true tale in the New York Times in 1896 of a real-life Jonah surviving a 36-hour stint in the belly of a sperm whale. Roach's approach is grounded in science, but the virtuosic author rarely resists a pun, and it's clear she revels in giving readers a thrill--even if it is a queasy one. Adventurous kids and doctors alike will appreciate this fascinating and sometimes ghastly tour of the gastrointestinal system. 18 illus. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment. (Apr.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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