Mary Roach, one of my favorite non-fiction authors, takes us on a thorough journey of the human digestive system. From the first moment a food smell enters your nose, to the precise mechanisms that help food waste leave the body, Roach inspects the funny, strange, grotesque, and remarkable processes of the digestive tract, and the people who dedicate their lives to studying it. This book is like the adult version of Everyone Poops– we can all relate.
One of my favorite things about reading non-fiction, especially science and history, is this genre’s ability to keep me humble and grounded. Gulp, like a lot of pop-science and medical writing, revels in our mortality, our bloody mechanisms, and our folly. People (Americans, at least) shy away from acknowledging our mortality- we avoid subjects that remind us that we are pretty much a sentient sack of meat- squishy, ever decaying, and gross. Roach, on the other hand, handles these existential triggers with a giggling joy. Her books invite the reader to lean closer and delight in the disgusting, the tabboo, the awesome.
This book contains one of my favorite lines I’ve ever read. Roach was describing “fletcherizing”- a turn-of-the-century pseudoscience trend of chewing your food to liquification. As she listed off famous people who practiced this health craze (J.H. Kellogg- the major weirdo of Kellogg’s Cereals- for one)- she included ‘the inevitable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”. I closed the book and laughed until I cried. Roach’s historical, scientific, and pop-culture knowledge and wit are apparent on every page, making her books a total joy to read. I was sad to finish GULP in just a few days. Obviously, I love Mary Roach. I’m going to like any book she writes. That said, this one is hilarious, fascinating for all audiences, and completely quotable. Reading Mary Roach is like a rollercoaster- the sheer speed at which she delivers hilarious, amazing, surprising information leaves me breathless and hungry for more.