Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gulp by Mary Roach

cover of Gulp by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. Roach looks at her subjects with a scientific researcher's outlook. You will get tons of details with lots of references to read more about it. Roach's past books have looked at death, ghosts, sex, and travel to Mars. All the books were highly entertaining because Roach not only take a scientific approach to the topics, but she also looks at them humorously. Her latest book Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal looks at the digestive tract. Roach tackles all the topics that we don't like to talk about in polite society: spit (meaning saliva), farts (especially the stinky kind), and constipation. I would imagine that my mother would have publicly poo-pooed the idea of reading a book like this while devouring it in the privacy of her bedroom/bathroom. Yep, I would say that Gulp would make interesting bathroom reading. If you find yourself scheduled for a colonoscopy cleansing, which would result in an extended bathroom stay, take Gulp with you.

A few of the more interesting things I learned from Gulp:
  • Cats and dogs don't like variety. The human owner likes variety in diet, but as Roach said, a cat is either a mouser or a birder.
  • Laundry stain removers contain enzymes found in saliva: amylase for starches, protease for proteins, and lipase for grease.
  • People find spit disgusting, even their own spit. So if you spit in a glass, you would be too disgusted to re-ingest it.
  • Prisoners refer to the rectum as the "prison wallet" because of the number and variety of objects smuggled into the jail via the anus
  • Doctors have you thoroughly clean out the colon for a colonoscopy to make sure that all the methane and hydrogen in your colon is cleared out. If they didn't, they might ignite a pocket of gas while using a cauterizer to remove polyps. That's also why they blow air into the colon. With the air, doctors can maneuver better in the colon and dilute any flammable gas.
  • Hydrogen sulfide, the rotten egg smell in farts, can be deadly in large enough concentrations. People who work in manure pits could die if they didn't wear breathing apparatus.
Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive, and Roach's writing style is entertaining and accessible. That means that you don't have to worry about being bogged down in boring, clinical language. Roach talks to the reader in plain, old regular English, with a good sprinkling of slang. I love reading anything written by Roach because I know that I will get a thorough education on the topic, and the questions that I would ask are the ones she answers. Read Gulp. You'll enjoy it!

No comments:

Post a Comment