Mary Roach represents the ideal nonfiction author, at least in my book she does. Gulp is the latest in her writings relating the tales of the alimentary canal. It is sad but true that we take so much of the inner workings of our bodies for granted. Why does food get digested the way that it does? Why do we eat certain foods in the first place? These questions and more are answered throughout this thoroughly gross but entertaining book.
What makes Roach's writing standout is her approachable style and humorous asides. She manages to make the layman understand all sorts of complicated stuff. Another thing that I love about Mary Roach is that she really does her research. No shoddy data and third party stories for her! Roach gets down and dirty, taking part in experiments and endlessly "harassing" experts with questions, both of the deep intellectual sort as well as those things you and I just have to know. There is no stupid question in Roach's mind.
As with her previous books, Roach starts at the very beginning (which we all know is a very good place to start) and doesn't cease in her quest for knowledge until she reaches the very end. The cool part about the topic for Gulp is that we literally travel with our food as it makes its way through the alimentary canal. Chapter One gives us a taste (pun!) for what science is involved in our food selection and taste preferences. We move through to the mouth, taking a brief stop to talk about all those long chewing fads. Next up is the stomach and then on to the dirty stuff, tooting our own horns and dealing with being plugged up (yuck but oh too interesting). I will never take these everyday occurrences for granted again.
While learning all this scientific awesomeness, we are also treated to some interesting trivial with which to entertain partygoers and the like. For example, what really caused the demise of the King? A couple of my favorites include:
"High-end detergents contain at least three digestive enzymes: amylase to break down starchy stains, protease for proteins, and lipase for greasy stains (not just edible fats by the body oils like sebum). Landry detergent is essentially a digestive tract in a box." - Pg 111
"No engineer could design something as multifunctional and fine-tuned as an anus. To call someone an asshole is really bragging them up." - Pg 216
Mary Roach is wholeheartedly an author I would recommended to anyone who not only wants to learn a bit, but is up for an engaging and humorous read. While Gulp was fantastic, if you are just starting out on your journey through her books, I highly suggest picking up Stiff. Packing for Mars and Spook are also fantastic, but there is just something alluring about Stiff's subtitle: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
For a video preview to the tales included in Gulp, check out Roach's interview on the Daily Show. Two funny folks in the same room! How could it possibly be bad?
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|