Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Mary Roach, whose exhaustive research and spirited writing on such subjects as cadavers, sex and the afterlife have made her a go-to expert on "weird science," returns with Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, a fascinating albeit sometimes hard to swallow investigation into the human digestive tract. With her signature wit and intrepid reporting on full display, Roach takes readers on a fact-jammed journey that starts at the mouth, winds through the stomach, intestines, colon and so on. Addressing the hesitation some readers may feel at embarking on this voyage, Roach states, "I don't want you to say, 'This is gross.' I want you to say, 'I thought this would be gross, but it's really interesting.' Okay, and maybe a little gross." Roach succeeds--and then some--on both counts.

With edifying anecdotes about taste, stomach acid and Elvis Presley's colon, what emerges most clearly in this fascinating book is the resilience of the human digestive tract. How else to explain the ability of drug mules to transport dozens of cocaine-filled condoms inside their bodies, or the practice of "hooping," where prisoners manage to smuggle multiple cell phones inside their rectums without any long-term ill effects? By the end of the book, readers will share Roach's admiration, evident on every page, for this complex system. She clearly relishes the chance to dive into a subject that most writers have avoided and in so doing offers an entertaining and informative (if indeed just a little bit gross) investigation of the human body. --Debra Ginsberg, author

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