“People are messy, unpredictable things.” – Mary Roach

American author Mary Roach wrote the masterful non-fiction work Gulp, published by W.W. Norton in 2013. It was her fifth book published at the time of release and echoed her well developed writing voice: take insanely complex scientific inquiries, send a bajillion interview requests to the experts in related fields, and reduce the interviews in a charming, comedic, and elegant way so that every layperson in America might be educated on the topic.

Including Mary Roach, who herself is a psychology major by education, but continues to ply her trade at the intersection of research and theoretical application of hard-science topics such as death, the afterlife, intercourse, interplanetary travel, and (most recently) war.

The book itself is split into 17 easily linked chapters – traveling from the entrance to the exit of the alimentary canal. Roach’s writing style is peer level with Neil deGrasse Tyson in terms of relating science to the masses. Her interviews are a fabulous blend of self-deprecating humor, wide-eyed curiosity, and the truthful transcription of expert testimony. Blending between chapter titles (which, themselves, are worth the cost of admission) the book covers these topics more or less in order: Smell, Taste, Saliva, Chewing, Stomach Acid, Rectal Smuggling, Flatulence, and Bacteriotheraphy).

I enjoyed Roach’s writing style more so than I would say I enjoyed the subject matter. However, I did learn and appreciated several trivial bits which brought enjoyment to having finished each chapter. I would recommend Gulp to anyone looking for a new non-fiction book to pick up, though I might select another of Roach’s offerings to suggest to the more-squeamish readers in your life.


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