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review 2017-09-11 05:57
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

TITLE:  Gulp:  Adventures of the Alimentary Canal


AUTHOR:  Mary Roach


FORMAT:  e-book


ISBN-13:  978-0-393-24030-6




NOTE:  The Flat Book Society Book Club selected Gulp by Mary Roach as the book to read for September and October 2017.




When a book is titled “Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal” and marketed as popular science, the potential reader assumes they will be reading a book that discusses how the digestive system works and other interesting facts about the alimentary canal.  Well… that is NOT this book.  This book is something of an unfocused hodge-podge of breezy, superficial facts; throw-away statements (we want to know more!); and odd historical stories about the scientists and their less than savoury experiments on the digestive tract.


The book is divided into 17 chapters which loosely  follow the physiological structure of the alimentary canal, beginning with taste and smell, and covering such topics as organ meats, cultural food preferences, chewing, gastric acid, saliva, swallowing, being eaten alive, eating too much, intestinal gasses and flammability, extra-curricular storage functions, colonic direction, constipation, and gut-microflora transplants.  After a while I found that the chapters started to blur together due to the collection of random facts, pointless fillers, multiple side tangents, and not-so-witty footnotes. 


I’m not really sure what the aim of this book was supposed to be, but it is more entertaining (if you find potty humour and fashion commentary entertaining) than educational.  In any case, Roach seems to take delight in showcasing the more sensational trivia and taboos about the digestive system, while at the same time providing excessive fashion commentary of the people she interviews.  There is very little actual science in this book and a limited coverage of the functioning of the alimentary canal.  This book emphasized the strange and bizarre occurrences related to the digestive system, but never fully explained the system itself.   


I found the writing to be a little sloppy with odd sentence structures, interesting single sentence comments that went no-where and lack of clarity between fact and personal opinion.  In addition, the author has an irreverent, rambling style with excessive asides, puns, dodgy humour and innuendoes, and a preoccupation with toilet humour that might appeal more to a 12 year old boy trying to revolt his baby sister than someone actually looking for information about the topic.  The excessive, crude toilet humour also didn’t appeal to me.


The subject matter has the potential to be extremely interesting; however, this book is not.  One reviewer described this book as the “Trivial Pursuit version of the “adventures on the alimentary canal,” not the informative, organized tour designed to give insight in an entertaining way”.  I can’t really argue with that.


I would not recommend this book to anyone, except possibly the aforementioned 12 year old boy in the hopes of enticing him away from the computer/ TV for a while.  There is too much filler and pointless trivia; and very little actual science in this book.



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review 2017-09-11 04:29
Gulp by Mary Roach
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

Although not quite entirely devoid of interesting content, it was pretty close. Instead of fact-based discussion about our digestive system with some humour sprinkled along the way, we're treated to 19th century experiments that the author admits did not contribute anything to the advancement of scientific knowledge of the day. She wastes space with her musings on a painting of one of the "scientists" and his subject that was painted almost a century after their deaths as if it could give her a hint of their relationship.


Many scientists were interviewed for this book, but almost as much time was spent on describing what they wore and their physical features than on their work. There was some time spent on more recent research and some facts were explored, but it was a case of too little, too late.


Really, this read like a series of magazine articles to be used as filler to fulfill some quasi-science quota in some lifestyle publication. Don't go looking for accessible explanations of the science because most of the text is spent on speculation, fashion comments, and 19th century experiments.


I read this for The Flat Book Society. I hope the next book is more interesting!


Not that that'll be hard.


Previous updates:

44 of 348 pages

42 of 348 pages

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text 2017-09-02 17:21
Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 348 pages.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

Grr, misinformation as far as I can tell.

"Some of AFB's clients have begun marketing 100 percent vegetarian kibble for cats. The cat is what's called a true carnivore; its natural diet contains no plants."

No, the cat is called an obligate carnivore; this means that it cannot obtain all of its nutrients from plants and must have some meat in its diet. A vegetarian kitty is a soon-to-be sick kitty. This is unlike dogs, who are true omnivores and can be fed a balanced vegetarian diet without getting sick.


Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.


And from later on still on the same page: why do we care that the person Roach is interviewing is wearing a "floral-print skirt"?! This book is going to be knocked down a star for that even if it turns out to be otherwise informative.

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text 2017-09-02 17:12
Reading progress update: I've read 42 out of 348 pages.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

"Cats and dogs are not grain-eaters by choice, Moeller is saying."

Maybe not, but that doesn't stop my cat from begging for bread. And yes, he actually eats it.


I'm not finding this laugh out loud funny, and I wonder what the point is of describing the appearance of the people she interviews. I'm hoping it'll be informative though.

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text 2017-09-02 04:48
Reading progress update: I've read 37 out of 348 pages.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach


Authors have profiled the brain, the heart, the eyes, the skin, the penis and the female geography, even the hair.  The pie hole and the feed chute are mine.


It's this irreverence that I remember liking.

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