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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  29,016 Ratings  ·  3,720 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
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published April 1st 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 4th 2013)
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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
Petra Eggs
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
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?
Dec 01, 2012 Robin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2013
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
Mar 20, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
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."*

*I challenge you to find a more innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow, and any homopho
Aug 25, 2013 Jim rated it it was ok
Shelves: laid-aside
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
Shelby *trains 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
Jul 10, 2013 Lilo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who wants to gain "insights" in what happens when one ingests.
Recommended to Lilo by: Will Byrnes
If your body features a digestive tract, consider this book a must-read.

However, here are some caveats:

1) I strongly advise you not to read this book within 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating.

2) I strongly advise you not to read this book in any room used for cooking or eating (such as your kitchen or dining room). Instead—even though this might not be acceptable by some etiquette books—I strongly advise you to keep this book in the bathroom and read it while sitting on the john. (Your bathr
Feb 21, 2013 Melki rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2013 Lette rated it really liked it
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
Mrs. Roy
Apr 04, 2013 Mrs. Roy rated it really liked it
If you are a fact-loving nerd looking for an excuse to talk about poop more often, then Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach is the book for you! Each section of this non-fiction book covers a different part of the alimentary canal (AKA the digestive tract), starting with sense of smell, going into the mouth, and following it all the way down to its...conclusion, if you will. I have read three other books by the brilliant and awesome Mary Roach, and I was not disappointed by Gu ...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
Jan 02, 2014 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like learning
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
From the author of the popular "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" comes this quirky and interesting look at the human digestive tract from, literally, one end to the other. Roach again writes about a somewhat squeamish, gross-ish, yucky topic that you didn't know you were interested in until she made you realize the subject matter is interesting.

Examples: 1) Did you know that most laundry detergents contain at least 3 digestive enzymes found in your saliva, to help break down food and
Apr 17, 2014 Carol. rated it liked it
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
You know what would be amazing (or potentially disastrous)? A Mary Roach/Mark Kurlansky collaboration, preferably on some obscure topic. Can you imagine? The depth, breadth, and width of their topic would be so fully explored, we'd all be experts on the subject by the end of their book.

I love Roach's passion for whatever she's researching. She goes down rabbit holes and gets excited to try to tie her findings in with her main thesis, sometimes with success, usually without. Example: While resear
Apr 12, 2013 Jsavett1 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 02, 2013 Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: science, humor, physiology
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
Mar 15, 2013 Ashley rated it really liked it
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
Daniel Chaikin
Nov 25, 2016 Daniel Chaikin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gulp is Roach's 5th major non-fiction book and I think that colors a lot of its character. It feels very casual, and to a large extent Roach is simply having fun in her own way. She follows the topics that interest her, the ones that lead to some of the oddest places. That means as a reader you will be entertained (a word that has a one-off shade of meaning here), but if it changes your life in anyway, its purely accidental. You won't come away with a feeling that you now know the digestive syst ...more
Mar 31, 2013 Lena rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, medical
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
Jun 12, 2013 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
May 09, 2013 Anita rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-read
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
Brendon Schrodinger
May 11, 2013 Brendon Schrodinger rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 28, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 17, 2017 Lauren rated it really liked it
Fascinating and disgusting - Roach has the corner on this market! I learned several tidbits and interesting facts... although not necessarily ones to share in polite company at the dinner table!
Apr 12, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2014 Nikki rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, humour
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
Apr 01, 2013 Louise rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Richie Partington
Apr 01, 2013 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
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
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Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Her most recent book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War, is out in June 2016.

Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, Discover
More about Mary Roach...

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“People are messy, unpredictable things.” 10 likes
“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.” 8 likes
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