Mary Roach is one of my favorite science writers and I always buy her books and read them when they first come out.
This book - Gulp - is all about the alimentary canal; that part of the body that begins at the point where food is consumed and ends where solid waste is expelled. Starting with taste and the mouth, she follows our digestive system all the way down. As with her other books, this one is replete with interesting and often bizarre facts and tales of eccentrics and misguided scientists and experiments gone awry. The author covers all sorts of "taboo" and sensitive subjects and both educates us and makes us laugh.
At the start, we learn about the importance of our nose (our ability to smell) and what that has to do with taste. She also compares our tastebuds with those of cats and dogs - showing how we often assume that they will like what we will. Well, it turns out that's really wrong. We learn how different cultures throughout history have found...
So starting a book about the alimentary canal, we are taken on a tour of what people consider palatable. It doesn't have much to do wih nutrition. For example, organ meats and byproducts have enough vitamins to prevent scurvy, but most people really do not care to eat them. Mary Roach has noted that "some degree of obsession is a requisite for good science, and certainly for scientific breakthrough." I am not sure if she includes herself in this judgment but she certainly does spend a lot of time with strange specialists for her books. While this book would likely be called popular science, she doesn't skimp on source interviews and extensive research. In this case she is following the route of food which "like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles:tranist time is about thirty hours, and the scenery on the last leg is pretty monotonous." This book, however, is anything but monotonous.
I have read her other books, and found them to be instructive, witty, and...
'Laundry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box.' Now, where else but in a book written by Mary Roach, the author who loves wierd science, would we learn such a thing? I mean, it makes sense, but I have never seen anyone write those words. In her new book, 'Gulp' etc, Mary Roach takes us from the mouth to the anus, and all the by-ways in-between. It is one of the more fascinating and informative books I have read in a long time. I am a health care practitioner, but I have learned more about our alimentary canal and the research involved in it's mysteries, than any of my Anatomy and Physiology books. There is so much to know and learn, I want to cover it all, but I won't, I will leave it to you to go on this journey.
"The human digestive track is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles; transit time is about thirty hours , and the scenery on the last lag is pretty monotonous". There you have it, from the first bite of food that is first smelled, chewed,...
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