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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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3.93  ·  Rating details ·  40,067 ratings  ·  4,808 reviews
“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so h ...more
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published April 1st 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 4th 2013)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  40,067 ratings  ·  4,808 reviews


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Will Byrnes
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 of sequential contractions, into a self-kneading sack of hydrochloric acid and then dumped in
...more
Petra-X
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
Jeanette (Again)
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?
Jim
Mar 20, 2013 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."*

[footnote]
*I challenge you to find a more innocuous sentence containing the words sperm, suction, swallow, and any homophone o
...more
Robin
Dec 01, 2012 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
...more
Jim
Aug 25, 2013 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
...more
Elyse  Walters
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook....narrated by Emily Woo Zeller ** and ** my Autographed copy by Mary Roach that I got from Mary the 3rd time we met in 2013.
I‘ve read “Bonk”, “Packing For Mars”, and “Stiff”....( my personal favorite). I own these ‘signed’ books and have thoroughly enjoyed her ‘book-readings’ and personal conversations.

Mary Roach is funny and fearless - totally a delightful human being - and must be the most famous brilliant-goof-ball science writer on the planet....[at least in the Bay Area she rul
...more
Lilo
Jul 10, 2013 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
...more
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
...more
Gretchen Rubin
Hilarious, informative. Roach has a very original voice and way of handling scientific information. I plan to read everything she's written.
* A Reader Obsessed *
3.5 Stars

Not the most appetizing way to learn about the ins and outs (literally) of the hows and whys of what happens the second food enters our mouth to ultimately, its final destination but interesting enough.

Points for a well researched book, this was peppered with nuggets of history and bits of humor. I feel quite enlightened in all things digestion and for sure, am not at all hungry.
Melki
Feb 21, 2013 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
...more
Fran
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not my first review of one of Mary Roach books, but with each one I write, I become more and more convince she owns that particular shelf where books that are totally nerdy, highly entertaining and myth debunking sit, waiting for our eager eyes.

In this particular book, Roach centers her researching and fun-loading skills on our digestive system. From the mouth to the other end, the infamous anus, she tells it all.

Why are we repel by saliva that is not ours, or even by our own saliva on
...more
Lette
Apr 03, 2013 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
...more
Book Riot Community
Did you know that the human infant enters the world without information on what is edible and what is not, and until they are around the age of two, you can get them to eat almost anything? Or that saliva could be used to pretreat food stains because of the enzymes it contains (the same enzymes are artificially manufactured for laundry detergents)? Or that one of the reasons we like crunchy foods might be because we have a destructive nature and derive pleasure from destroying things?

Mary Roach
...more
Ellen Gail
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
You may be thinking, Wow, that Mary Roach has her head up her ass. To which I say: Only briefly, and with the utmost respect.

Oh golly gee, Mary Roach is fun! I read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers just yesterday, (or as Goodreads tells me, the summer of 2014. But that's basically yesterday.) And I really enjoyed it. 'Twas a fantastic mix of fun and science. Like Bill Nye meets Bill Schutt. Hell, throw in some Bill Murray too, why not!?

Bills bills everywhere!



Gulp was just what I wa
...more
Monica Roy
Apr 04, 2013 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
Carmen
Jan 02, 2014 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
...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
Dawn
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
...more
britt_brooke
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
“The slang for the rectum is ‘prison wallet.’”

Interesting, but gross, with a good dose of potty humor. I now know more about Elvis’s “super colon” than necessary.
Erica
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
...more
Tudor Vlad
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not as good as Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, nor as informative. It focuses a bit too much on entertaining the reader and less on informing. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing but I don’t really find jokes about feces and the holes it can come out of that amusing. There were also some parts, by the end of the book in which I could feel the author trying to gross me out despite her saying at the start of this book that she will treat this subject with respect and not try to disg ...more
carol.
Apr 17, 2014 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
Jenna
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Who could have imagined that a book on the alimentary canal could be this much fun? Mary Roach has written an absolutely delightful book on the subject. She writes with such wit that even the most obstinate learner couldn't help but enjoy this book. Many times I simply busted out laughing; this is probably the funniest scientific book I've ever read. If learning was always this amusing and fun, no child would ever hate going to school.
Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett
Apr 12, 2013 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
Stephen
Jul 02, 2013 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
Rebecca
Here’s a quick question to help you gauge whether this is a book for you: does the prospect of three chapters on flatulence make you go “Yessssssssss!” or “Ew, no. Why?!” I’m in the former camp so, for the most part, found this fascinating as well as hilarious. The footnotes on bizarre scientific studies and scarcely believable cases of researchers’ nominative determinism are particularly guffaw-worthy.

Roach’s tour through the body’s digestive and excretory systems makes some strange stops I wou
...more
Ashley
Mar 15, 2013 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
...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 28, 2013 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.
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Play Book Tag: [+ Poll Ballot] Gulp / Mary Roach. 3 stars 1 5 Aug 28, 2020 08:15PM  
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Science and Inquiry: Gulp on sale through 8/28 1 11 Aug 26, 2014 10:59AM  

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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

Articles featuring this book

Gross-out subjects become fascinating in the hands of this popular science writer, whose latest nonfiction romp goes down the hatch in Gulp:...
29 likes · 12 comments
“People are messy, unpredictable things.” 13 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.” 11 likes
More quotes…