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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  15,953 ratings  ·  2,582 reviews
The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour of our insides. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions inspired by our insides are as taboo, in their w...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Gulp by Mary RoachThe Psychopath Test by Jon RonsonSalt Sugar Fat by Michael MossI Am Malala by Malala YousafzaiZealot by Reza Aslan
The Colbert Report and The Daily Show
1st out of 127 books — 114 voters
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOutliers by Malcolm GladwellMusicophilia by Oliver SacksThe Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Radiolab Suggested Readings
12th out of 178 books — 174 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
Updated 7/12/13 - added links to the New York Times Daily Show interview and the NY Times review

When it comes to literature about eating, science has been a little hard to hear amid the clamor of cuisine. Just as we adorn sex with the fancy gold-leaf filigree of love, so we dress the need for sustenance in the finery of cooking and connoisseurship…Yes, men and women eat meals. But they also ingest nutrients. They grind and sculpt them into a moistened bolus that is delivered via a stadium wave
...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
I've finished the book. I'm left with the feeling that lies somewhere between TMI, an author's perverse, small-boy like joy in slightly shocking the adults by talking about farts and turds, and actually being interested in the transformation from a Michelin chef plate of food into, moments later, a disgusting saliva-covered bolus no one even wants to look at.

The book is punctuated with many small revelations that won't change my life in any way but are good to drop into a conversation for that...more
Robin
This is a book not to devour, but to take in small bites, slowly savoring and digesting every funny phrase and interesting fact.

This is only the first reviewer to use lots of bad puns. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

Update: I simply adored this book and found it to be very tasty--OK, so maybe parts were nausea inducing but for the most part it was fascinating stuff.

And, please note my prediction that poop transplants are going to be the next big thing. Yup, you heard it right, "fecal transferences...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is a journey of a different kind. Sort of like an Eat, Pray, Love for the digestively curious. So I guess that would make it Belch, Gurgle, Fart?
Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
WARNING: Sometimes I have the mind of a 12 year old boy. Beware of reading this review if farts and bodily functions gross you out.

More like 2.5 stars

Mary Roach may have that mindset too. So far I've read books by her detailing what happens with dead bodies and more than you ever want to know about your Alimentary canal.

I love having random facts in my head. My husband hates that fact about me. This book added in a way in which he may never be the same again.
We tackle our bodies food from intak...more
Jim
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Roach truly is the funniest, best science writer I've ever had the pleasure to read. Her inquisitive mind doesn't always follow a linear path & the side tracks are illuminating.

--------------
"While a seaman might survive the suction and swallow, his arrival in a sperm whale's stomach would seem to present a new set of problems."*

[footnote]
*I challenge you to find a more innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow, and any homopho...more
Melki
Yes, men and women eat meals. But they also ingest nutrients. They grind and sculpt them into a moistened bolus that is delivered, via a stadium wave of sequential contractions, into a self-kneading sack of hydrochloric acid, and then dumped into a tubular leach field, where it is converted into the most powerful taboo in human history.

Welcome to Digestion 101 with your instructor, the lovely and talented, Mary Roach. Today's lesson is Everyone Poops! Now Get Over It!

This is the truly magical, m...more
Jim
I'm considering giving up on this book even though the topic is interesting. If only Mary Roach could restrain herself from quite so much levity. The jokes, asides, and snarky personal observations come on strong. They're constant, unrelenting, (somehwhat geeky humor) and are a distraction from otherwise fascinating material.

Her research is impressive and I appreciate her trying to make it not dry and clinical, but she goes overboard. Why do I care how pretty the scientists are, what they're wea...more
Lette
I was driving and listening to NPR one Sunday morning and realized with glee that the author being interviewed was Mary Roach. I had read "Stiff" a few years ago and found myself drawn to her humor. When I drove past a local bookstore, I couldn't resist the urge to pull into the lot and listen as the author discussed feces transplants. Within moments, I found myself searching high and low for the new title, "Gulp".
After scanning all the usual places in the store, I finally asked an associate to...more
Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
The science geek in me practically peed her pants she was so excited to read this book. (I guess my inner nerd has a mild case of urinary incontinence but that is neither here nor there...) I mean an entire book about the alimentary canal, starting with my home turf, the mouth? Count me in!

Will you enjoy this book? Well, that depends on how you answer the following questions. Have you ever wondered:

If you can die from trying to defecate too forcefully?
Why do animals eat their own poop?
Could the
...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
Apr 19, 2014 Carol. [All cynic, all the time] rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of comic science
While reading, I was reminded of long-ago biology studies, and the simplest members of Animalia that are little more than a gastric tube composed of cells. It’s astonishing, really, those primitive forms of waterborne life, and it emphasizes an interesting thing about animal anatomy, that we aren’t a solid, discrete, bounded organism: the environment moves through us as much as it moves around us. We like to think of “inside” and “outside” our bodies when in fact, it’s much more complicated. Tho...more
Diane
I have all of Ms. Roach's books, but this is not the best of them. She has an affinity for odd facts, strange research, and the quirky people who immerse their lives in things that most of us either don't think about, or don't want to think about. Her best books are fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny, but "Gulp" is only mildly interesting and passably amusing. The best chapter, in my opinion, is the one on pet food - how can manufacturers create something that will smell and taste great to dog...more
Jsavett1
I'm a big fan of Mary Roach's books, and that said, this is her best. I'll admit straight off that this opinion is deeply influenced by the very fact of my chronic inflammatory bowel disease; for one thing, I am well beyond the squeamishness and taboos that this subject matter may induce or cross. Digestion, food's long journey through the bowel, and the composition and frequency of "release" are very conscious parts of my daily life. To read Roach approach such familiar and usually off limits s...more
Carmen
Aug 20, 2014 Carmen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like learning
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
Shelves: non-fiction
Mary Roach is an author I can always count on to deliver an amazing book. This time she tackles digestion.

Did you know that holy-water enemas were performed at exorcisms?!
If Jonah was really eaten by a whale, could he have survived?! What if it was a shark?!
What does your pet REALLY want to eat?!
What does it feel like to stick your arm into a fistulated cow's stomach?!
What does it feel like to get a colonoscopy without sedation!?
Is it possible to burst a human stomach?! Eat yourself to death by...more
Stephen
Mary Roach is no stranger to delving into topics which others find icky -- like corpses. Even her more conventional works flirt with taboo, and in Gulp she embraces disgust whole-heartedly, by treating readers with iron stomachs to a discussion of all things digestive. Gulp is not, strictly speaking, a book about the digestive system. Instead, it's a history of the odder means scientists through the centuries have fashioned to study it, though some of the questions themselves are startling enoug...more
Kelly
Fascinating book...there are a few chapters that may be hard for the faint of heart. There were a few things that turned my stomach (only a handful of pages total), but for the most part I was mesmerized by all I was learning about the Digestive Tract. How come competitive eaters stomachs don't burst? Did you know a person who has lost their sense of taste and smell could starve to death? How do prisoners sneak things like cell phones and tobacco into prison? Did you know saliva has antiseptic q...more
Lena
Mary Roach's latest book examines what happens to food from the time we put it in our mouths to the time it comes out the other end. It contains all the elements of her trademark style - cheeky humor, a gung-ho attitude towards the disgusting, and actual quality science.

There were many sections of this book I found genuinely fascinating. Her initial chapters about the elements of taste - both human and pet - got me hooked and wanting to read more, and her closing chapters about maladies of the c...more
Anita
Mary Roach has done it again. She has created a book that I purposely read slowly so I could savor every bite, picture, and footnote*. This time she takes us on a trip down the Alimentary Canal, from nose, tongue, and teeth to the bitter end of the trail with all the explorers, characters, scientists, and even Elvis to enlighten us on our way. Roach has a way of taking you along this field trip asking all the questions that you know you wouldn't have the guts to ask, of the professionals who ar...more
Ashley
When I read Packing for Mars two years ago, I was very vocal about how my favorite chapter was her detailed exploration of pooping in outer space*, so it was with much excitement that I realized her next book, Gulp (subtitled Adventures on the Alimentary Canal) was about the science of eating, digesting, and yes, excreting. Maybe you think that's gross, and if so, to you I say THIS.

*Seriously, if you're not going to read the whole book, at least read that chapter. She includes a transcript where...more
Nikki
Gulp is definitely light, popular science, with an abundance of footnotes, irreverent comments, and some interesting facts/experiences. I wasn't grossed out by it, since I can be fairly clinical, and rolled my eyes at some of the humour aimed at being gross; mostly it was an interesting read, certainly a quick one. It's accessible, no matter what level your knowledge of biology is at, mostly dealing with the various topics in an anecdotal way.

I liked reading it, but now I have and look back, I t...more
Scott
Mary Roach usually writes the funniest book I read all year, and Gulp is likely to be no exception. I mean, I don't really read much, or really any, pure humor, but she always makes me laugh, frequently and out loud. Roach also packs more interesting facts per page--things I never knew before, or even ever thought to think about--than just about any other author; so many that I can't possibly retain all of the information in her books. And she has a genius for nailing people, physically and pers...more
Diane S.
Entertaining science, wish she had been my chemistry teacher in High School instead of the monosyllabic Mr. Worth, who I unfortunately had. Some of this is boring for sure, but some is just fascinating, some is oh so gross, but some is interesting and humorous to boot. Did you know they actually have a poop website? Who knew. There is also a section in this book about pet food tasters for all the pet lovers out there. Amusing informative and gross how can one lose? ARC from publisher.
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: GULP: ADVENTURES ON THE ALEMENTARY CANAL by Mary Roach, W.W. Norton, April 2013, 336p., ISBN: 978-0-393-32912-4

"Food, glorious food!
We're anxious to try it
Three banquets a day --
Our favorite diet!
-- from the musical Oliver

"Silletti hands me a plastic cup and sets a timer. We are moving on to unstimulated saliva. This is background saliva, the kind that's always flowing, though much more slowly. A minute passes. We turn away from each other and quietly spit in our cups.
"'Look at t...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 06, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone--Well, anyone not too easily grossed-out
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Gerri Leen
This is my third Roach book, after Stiff (about corpses) and Packing for Mars (on space exploration). This one is about the digestive tract. Yes, really. All the books I've read by her are very entertaining and had me smiling throughout--though this was the first one (on page 229) that made me laugh out loud--a rare distinction and why this one is getting that fifth star. Roach dares to ask all the questions you wish you thought of--or wished you weren't too squeamish to ask. She'll tell you in...more
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
Dear Elvis Presley,

I'm so sorry for laughing and judging you based on how I believed you'd died. Living with Hirschsprung's disease had to be awful, always worrying, always in discomfort. People assuming you were fat when the distended abdomen was a sign you were seriously ill.

Begging your forgiveness,

Amy


At autopsy, his colon was "two to three times normal size ... was jam-packed [length-wise]... The impaction had the consistency of clay and seemed to defy Florendo's efforts with the scissors t...more
Brendon Schrodinger
Mary Roach has written yet another winner here. Her early books "Bonk" and "Spook" were a little flat and derivattive, but ever since then she has delivered.

Yes, she chooses deliberately risque subjects and yes there is always a chapter on farts, but damn she can make things interesting. It seems she can make the fine balance of making a scientist such as myself happy, while also placating my inner 8-year-old. And really, all she is doing by telling us how artificial farts are made, and the size...more
Bryce
While reading this book, I was constantly, impatiently waiting for people to ask about what I was reading. "The taste of cat food" or "the self-regulating acidity of the stomach" or simply "farts" were such fun answers to give.

I trust Mary Roach to give me the weirdo facts about already weirdo subjects, to go just one step further down into the weirdo basement than you would expect. It's why I automatically buy her books when they come out and it's why her books always entertain even when the c...more
Louise
An interesting and sometimes disgusting look at what goes on in the digestive tract from the mouth all the way down to the anus. What's that? You're disturbed by my using the word 'anus'? Then this book is not for you because it gets a lot worse than that.

I would have rated this higher, but I got tired of Mary Roach's asides and unnecessary footnotes. Some of those footnotes just seemed to explain her jokes, which made the not-funny ones venture into painful territory. Roach is a great pop-sci w...more
Margaret
I waited to review this because at first I was amused by it, but thought Roach was being a little too cute. In the week-ish since I finished, I find myself thinking about it all the time. In yoga, I'll think, "Is this my mula banda, or am I holding in a fart right now? Could a fecal transplant change my life?" That's at least a four-star haunting right there.
Michael Flanagan
Be warned after reading this book you will never look at eating and the digestive process again the same way. Once again Mary Roach serves up another fascinating journey into the less glamorous sciences of subjects most people are happy not to think about.

I mean I had no idea that I produce two types of saliva and I now have a greater appreciation of this and many other of my bodies digestive processes. Being introduced to the wonders of fecal transplant is just one the amazing subjects you will...more
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Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Her writing has appeared in such publications as Salon, GQ, Vogue, and the New York Times Magazine. She lives in Oakland, California.

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More about Mary Roach...
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places

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“I challenge you to find a more innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow, and any homophone of seaman. And then call me up on the homophone and read it to me.” 9 likes
“People are messy, unpredictable things.” 7 likes
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