Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  111 ratings  ·  32 reviews
“To be up on stage, shoving food in your face, beats everyday existence for most people.” —David “Coondog” O’Karma, competitive eater

“Hungry” Charles Hardy. Ed “Cookie” Jarvis. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut. Will such names one day be looked back upon as the pioneers of a new manifestation of the irrepressible American appetite for competition, money...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Crown (first published 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 206)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Seriously fascinating. The author, Jason Fagone, is a wonderful storyteller and does a great job of understanding and describing his subjects - the impressive gurgitators of the world of competitive eating. The time and research Fagone puts into this book is apparent; he spent a year flying from IFOCE (international federation of competitive eating) event to IFOCE event. The two gurgitators that Fagone gets to know the best are profiled honestly, humorously, and lovingly. It's obvious that the a...more
Adam Cogbill
I really, really liked this book. I like that it struggles with what to make of a particularly absurd subject--competitive eating--rather than trying to prove that its particularly awful or wonderful. Turns out it fits into the American milieu kind of perfectly. Hyper consumption. The desire of competitors to be extraordinary, to be good at something. Plus, Fagone is funny, really smart, and has a great eye for detail. My kind of writing style, definitely.

This book took a subject in which I had no interest and engaged me to the point of being enthralled by the world of competitive eating. It takes a talented journalist to offer equal parts education and entertainment, and I think Jason Fagone achieved that balance. I really liked that he presented the subject as a personal journey - it helped me connect with the many people and evens chronicled in the book.
Welcome to the cut throat world of competitive eating. These boys mean business and their records are life accomplishments to some. If I could eat 60 hotdogs in 12 minutes or 100 hot wings in 20 minutes I would respect that record and hope to god I didn’t have to defend it.

The author traveled the competitive eating circuit around the United States. He profiles several "champions" and each has their own persona and motivation for competing. Some get addicted to the fanfare and victories and othe...more
I guess after two pretty amazing books, it was a bit of optimistic of me to expect my run of good reading to stretch to three. I can devour a good book on food lit - work and other commitments notwithstanding - over a couple of days. The fact that it took me more than a week to plough through this book isn't a good sign.

On the face of it, Horsemen of the Esophagus has everything going for it - I mean, a behind the scenes look at the competitive eating circuit, written by a guy named by the Colu...more
Obviously I checked this one out because of the title.
This is a nonfiction book about competitive eating and the people who participate. I've honestly never given a thought about eating competitions (other than something like, "why is this on the news?"), and I've REALLY never thought of it as a sport. After reading this book I'm still "meh" on calling it a sport, but i now see the completely human side of the whole thing.

The author follows around a few of the more popular eaters to see how the...more
A journalist, Jason Fagone, explores to world of competitive eating, no where exemplified better than the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island every 4th of July. He follows a handful of competitors - El Wingador, Coondog O'Karma, Eater X, and the current Nathan's champion, Kobayashi.

The book is fun and light and the people are highly entertaining. But I found it a bit overwritten and I didn't like how much the author inserted himself into the narrative. That's appropriate if t...more
I am equal parts horrified and amazed by competitive eating. It's such an incredible waste of food, and it cannot possibly be anything but unhealthy and destructive for your body, but at the same time I cannot look away.
These people have characters, shtick, and a whole tour circuit, international opponents, a federation (the IFOCE), eating contests both scheduled and impromptu, and merchandise, merchandise, merchandise! IFOCE the breakfast cereal, IFOCE the toilet paper, IFOCE the flame thrower!...more
I don't know why I picked up this book. I supposed I was just curious about how they eat all that food and what happens to it the way, ewww. This book took me two years to read on and off. For such an interesting sounding subject, the book is really kind of boring. It got pretty tedious to read especially towards the end when I realized I didn't give a damn about Wing Bowl or the history of the competitive eating. It was interesting at first, but I guess the subject got to me. I...more
I'd like to say I devoured this book - it seems fitting. But I didn't. I took little nibbles here and there. It's one of those odd Trader Joe's snacks that seems like it might be great, but is merely aaaight. Not great, not bad, so you keep on nibbling until you've finished almost the whole thing - then you throw away the last 1/10.

I can't say I learned anything new about competitive eating. I already felt it was a pointless, strange endeavor pursued by the curious and the occasional offbeat fan...more
Why has competitive eating attracted so many fans and so many different types of stars? Jason Fagone intends to explore these questions and more in "Horsemen of the Esophagus." Fagone contemplates the IFOCE and trails three big eating stars - Coondog O'Karma, Bill "El Wingador" Simmons and Tim "Eater X" Janus" - with appearances by Kobayashi, Sonya Thomas and many many more.

I'm not sure what to say about this. I really hate competitive eating but thought this looked interesting so I picked it up...more
I love competitive eating, but I would've preferred a little more science, and a little less liberal arts from this book. I don't think most people read a book about champion cannoli and hamburger eaters to hear meandering poetical musings and cultural theories about America's relationship to food. Trying to fit this sideshow into a larger context turns into a fool's game for the author. I much preferred to learn about the "gurgitators" and the rival competitive eating leagues. (Yes, unbelievabl...more
This book does a good job of covering a pretty disturbing phenomenon. A local pie-eating contest doesn't seem weird, and neither does the Nathan's hot-dog competition. It gets weird when there are enough competitors, money, and events that it becomes a lifestyle choice. It's unhealthy, and it really reveals a need for gluttony, excess, and cheap fame in our culture that is very unflattering.
The comparisons with Japanese culture are interesting, but I'm not sure if it means much. In Japan or Amer...more
Much MUCH better than *Eat This Book.* It contained true information, not fictional "reality TV-brand history" or marketing or propaganda. While ETB was amusing at times, it wasn't really about the people involved in competitive eating EXCEPT for the guy writing the book and the guys who control the major "gustitators association" that runs most of the big competitions. It rang false, whereas this book felt honest and was written by somebody who's also truly interested in people and why they do...more
Mark Farley
An intriguing study of the world of competitive eating and the stories behind the individuals who dare to gorge on behalf of fame and fortune. The author deftly explores the subject and tantalizes the reader with the fascinating tales of the eaters and the unbelievable techniques that they use to eat as much as they can. But not only that, the author touches upon the American Dream, the idea of fame, wastage and consumption in America. Great read.
History of competetive eating contests, Nathan's Fourth of July event at Coney Island, IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating)and other organizations, as well as concentrated biographies of three "gurgitators." Author spent a year observing the competitive eating circuit, interviewing active participants, and attempting to understand why (and how) they do it. Obsession seems to be the key word.
Wow! I just loved this book. I initially bought it because of my obsession with competitve eating, not really thinking that it would be that great. Was I in for a surprise! The book is insightful and funny. Even the notes (I'm a huge footnote junky, is that wrong?) are hilarious. It almost reads as a novel with very well developed characters, etc.
Highly recommend it.
Sarah Pascarella
Ok, I'm partially biased, as a friend wrote this book. But it's not just about competitive eating--it's a critical look at trash culture in America and our hyper-consuming ways, as well as an in-depth portrayal of the oddballs who put their bodies through hell to get their 15 minutes of fame.
Easily the most fascinating book about America's fastest growing and most interesting sport. Yeah it sounds stupid, yeah its kinda ridiculous but so is America.

Easily one of the best reads in the last six months. Read it and I guarantee I will see you all at the Wing Bowl this Feb in Philly.
Jul 04, 2007 Natalie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: inquiring minds who want to know
This is an interesting book about the competitive food eating circuit. If you ever wanted to look into the psyche of a competitive eater, this book might be a good start. I'm not sure how reliable I find the "narrator" though, and it's not as funny or well written as Candyfreak.
this was the most dense book i have read in a long time. after struggling through it, picking up other books to peak my interest i am finally done with reading it. for what it was it was interesting and okay but mostly overdone, dense, and kind of boring.
Jul 21, 2010 Helen marked it as to-read
For some strange reason, I now own two books covering a year on the competitive eating circuit. They appear to be totally unrelated books, but both of them have hot dogs on the cover. I don't know what to think of this.
I will never look at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating contest the same way again. Competitive eating is gruesome, fascinating, and full of greedy, money-grubbing hangers on. Just like a regular professional sport!
I mainly picked this up because of the awesome title, but I just got a little grossed out after a while.
It would have made a great New Yorker-length article, but a book was a bit much.
For the most part this book was pretty interesting. There were some dry parts but I just skimmed those.

Don't eat while you're reading it. You may vomit.
Loved this book. Great examination of our culture, urge to excel at any cost and also offers a unique look at the history of PR stunts.
absolutely terrible. and this was one of my pre-library PURCHASES. in hardcover nonetheless.
Sep 02, 2009 Aimee marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
I try not to judge books by their covers, but I am a complete sucker for a clever title!
Maria (Ri)
This is a pretty disgusting but also fascinating book.
Sorry I just couldn't stomach this book!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
I've written about science, sports, and culture for Wired, GQ, Men's Journal, Esquire,, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, Philadelphia, and the 2011 edition of The Best American Sports Writing. A few years ago, I wrote a book called "Horsemen of the Esophagus," about competitive eating and the American dream. For the last three years, I've been working on my next book...more
More about Jason Fagone...
Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America Patient No. 7: One Man, Four Researchers, and the Quest to Cure Cancer Insatiable: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream Kill Screen Issue One: The No Fun Issue (Kill Screen, 1) Horseman of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream

Share This Book