A gut feeling

It is always a treat to read science writer Mary Roach’s fascinating, erudite and funny books. They illuminate not only some of the more unusual research and the unexpected uses its results are put to, but they also celebrate the scientists whose curiosity, daring and tenacity have garnered these results. She has written books on the various afterlives of human cadavers, Stiff, and the scientific exploration of the afterlife, Spook. Bonk is about how science has approached sex and Packing for Mars is about the science behind space travel. All are rather wonderful.

Her latest is Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal, where she gets to grip with our guts. Roach breaks bread with spit connoisseurs, beer and pet-food tasters, stomach slugs, potato crisp engineers, enema exorcists, rectum-examining prison guards, competitive hot dog eaters, Elvis’ doctor, and many more as she investigates the beginning, and the end, of our food. On her travels she revels in those whose names are oddly appropriate to their subjects, enjoys asking awkward, slightly odd questions (the ones you want to ask too) of all and sundry and is joyously gleeful about all the odd experiments  their very Serious experimenters – that are exploring the canal. As usual, Roach is a useful and eclectic footnoter, alerting you to other fascinating morsels she has picked up along the way, like the article in a 1903 Popular Science Monthly about a horse born with only two legs, sort of like a kangaroo, she spotted while chasing up a gut-related reference…

Tasty, satisfying and a delight to digest from beginning to end!


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