Gulp, by Mary Roach

GulpYay Mary Roach! This is her newest book and the only one I hadn’t read (well, listened to) yet, so of course this was book number one on the Great Annual McCarty Northern Migration Road Trip. I might need a better name for that. Regardless, we had fourteen hours each way to spend in the car, and this took up a highly amusing eight and a half of them on the first day. Victory!

Just like World War Z before it, this was a fantastic book for a road trip. Roach covers many topics on her way from the top of the alimentary canal to the bottom, all of them fascinating, and the narrator makes sure to give the craziest ones the right emphasis to keep your attention from wandering too far.

And seriously, there’s some crazy stuff. Scott managed to sleep through probably the most insane chapter, that on Alexis St. Martin and William Beaumont. The former was a man who, because of reasons, had a hole in his side that went straight through to his stomach; the latter was a man who, because of science reasons, more or less enslaved St. Martin while also performing gastrointestinal experiments on him. As you do?

Outside of that horror show, there are much nicer chapters on things like why we disdain certain foods (and how propaganda can fix that), how spit works, a crazy thing called megacolon, and, because it’s Mary Roach, a whole chapter on farts.

Oh! And one more chapter, that actually came up in a recent book club discussion of Orange is the New Black, titled “Up Theirs: The alimentary canal as criminal accomplice.” I’m pretty sure I sold Gulp to my book club on that chapter alone…

As always with Mary Roach, I learned fascinating things that I hadn’t realized I had always wanted to know right alongside fascinating things that I would kind of prefer never to know again, and somehow both kinds of facts were equally entertaining. I love the way she manages to find fancy science people to talk about things like spit and farts and how she does so much research that she could clearly keep writing this book for several more chapters but must content herself with lengthy, well-researched, and hilarious asides (probably footnotes in print?). Non-fiction is so much more fun the Mary Roach way.

Recommendation: For people who love facts about farts, which is, like, everyone, right?

Rating: 8/10

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