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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Hardcover – 12 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (12 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081572
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.3 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 879,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

As probing as an endoscopy, Gulp is quintessential Mary Roach: supremely wide-ranging, endlessly curious, always surprising, and, yes, gut-wrenchingly funny. --Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)"

Review

'Fascinating [and] funny...Roach pulls off the serious stuff, too. She forces us to re-imagine ourselves not as spinal, brain-driven bipeds, but as splendid digestive tube that has evolved limbs, brain and everything else.' Sunday Times

'Gulp is far and away her funniest and most sparkling book, bringing Ms. Roach's love of weird science to material that could not have more everyday relevance. Having graduated from corpses (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook) and sex (Bonk, full of stunts featuring MS. Roach as guinea pig), she takes on a subject wholly mainstream. She explores it with unalloyed merriment. And she is fearless about the embarrassment that usually accompanies it.' The New York Times

'Utterly fascinating...Roach is unafraid to ask questions and her enthusiasm is infectious.' BRSBKBLOG
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By ACB(swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER on 1 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Science journalist Mary Roach has chosen the alimentary tract as the subject of her latest book. She takes us on a tour through the digestive tube from the entrance to the back passage with flexible scope for illuminating the journey with extraordinary facts and figures on the way. The tales of eccentric scientists and their studies along with the footnotes are worth the price of admission to the exploration alone. Taste and smell are the doormen for the digestive tract, chemical scanners for possible dangerous elements (bitter, sour) and desirable (salty and sweet). Saliva is more than a lubricant. It contains enzymes that start breaking down food that are also used in laundry detergents. How we chew is a physiological fingerprint and we learn of Fletcherism, chewing each bite at least 70 times to release nutrients, still used today by some as a slimming aid. Chew and spit as a weight loss strategy is mentioned. Elton John was falsely accused of practising this by a tabloid and received healthy damages. Chewing without swallowing is counterproductive. Everything above the neck (smelling, tasting, seeing) drives eating and everything below puts the breaks on. Why do we enjoy crispy, crunchy foods that the food industry has exploited? Why do Inuits prefer Caribou liver, brain, eyes and stomach contents to eat rather than steak, or babies preferring brain and bone marrow over sweet foods when presented with a selection of mashed foods? The likely answers are here.

Air swallowing (aerophagia) or overeating producing burps , belching and heartburn are explained, as are stomach rupture and competitive eating with startling revelations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 April 2013
Format: Paperback
'Laundry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box.' Now, where else but in a book written by Mary Roach, the author who loves wierd science, would we learn such a thing? I mean, it makes sense, but I have never seen anyone write those words. In her new book, 'Gulp' etc, Mary Roach takes us from the mouth to the anus, and all the by-ways in-between. It is one of the more fascinating and informative books I have read in a long time. I am a health care practitioner, but I have learned more about our alimentary canal and the research involved in it's mysteries, than any of my Anatomy and Physiology books. There is so much to know and learn, I want to cover it all, but I won't, I will leave it to you to go on this journey.

"The human digestive track is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles; transit time is about thirty hours , and the scenery on the last lag is pretty monotonous". There you have it, from the first bite of food that is first smelled, chewed, oral digestive acids acted up on, moved down the esophagus to the stomach and into the bowels, large and small intestine and then into the anus, where the food that went in is expelled. The circuitous route taken is fascinating.

Chewing leads to a discussion of saliva, and we learn "Bodily fluids, gas and excrement may disgust us once they leave the body, but "we are large, mobile vessels of the very substances we find most repulsive." We learn a lot about 'gas', it's make-up, smell, testing, who makes the most gas, farting, and on and on. Megacolon, the large bowel dilatation that causes much straining to release it's contents and can cause cardiac arrhythmia and death, as it probably did for Elvis Presley.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ms C A George on 13 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
However disgusting it gets, it's impossible not to keep on reading. Immense fun, and the knowledge slips down easily. The digester's read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
I have to be honest, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this book, and put off reading it for quite a while. In part this because anything vaguely medical makes me feel queasy, while as someone who suffers from a serious chronic gastrointestinal problem, Mary Roach's subtitle 'adventures on the alimentary canal' was not encouraging. As it happens, though, the experience was not all bad.

In her usual style, Roach pulls in a lot of characters along the way, from sword swallowers to 'fartistes' (sic) including the inevitable lighting of inflammable gasses, which is where a lot of the fun in the book comes from. Her humorous writing style lacks the subtlety of a Bill Bryson - if I'm honest, I find it a trifle irritating - but a lot of people do like it, with newspaper reviews describing it as 'seriously funny' and 'laugh a minute.'

What's more you certainly will learn a lot more about a part of our bodily system that few of us (who don't suffer from GERD) give little thought to as we pile in the food, really forgetting it after the eating part of the experience, and then dispose of the, erm, detritus from the other end. So it genuinely is educational and sometimes fascinating. I particularly enjoyed, for instance, the section on being swallowed alive, where at least there was a chance to get away from the human digestive tract for a while.

This is without doubt a good book, which is why I've given it more stars than I would on my own personal reaction. However, to get the most out of it, I think it's fair to say you need a strong stomach, which I don't have. So I'm afraid it's a book that is more likely to get flushed than to come back for a second tasting.
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