Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A tasty ride through the human insides

Book: Gulp
Author: Mary Roach
Published: 2013 (W.W. Norton and Company)
Pages: 327

Mary Roach makes science fun. I bet that is in 100% of the reviews of this book. Because it’s 100% true. She’s got a humorist’s knack for pointing out unexpected weird gaps between truth and expectations combined with a true nerd’s thoroughness of obsession. Put that together and you have a very enjoyable tour of the digestive system.

She focuses heavily on the front and back ends and makes me envy her job by describing everything about her research travels – not just the scientific bits about the experiments, or their contributions to human existence and all that jazz, but also how unnerving it is to see her own spit flying around in a centrifuge, or explaining why a professional beer-quality-tester prefers to drink Bud Light above a lot of other things when she has a choice, or how she got invited to a party with excrement-themed snacks by a doctor.

It’s good science writing because it’s accessible. The only reason you know about all the research Roach has done, as opposed to just sitting you down and telling a yarn about your stomach off the top of her head (so to speak), is she makes occasional self-depreciating jabs at how she’s the only non-research scientist to subscribe to Colon Cancer Monthly, or whatever. And it’s all infused with a sense of wonder tempered by a finely tuned sense of fun. We all work like this so why be grossed out or snobby about it? Mary Roach says there’s no reason to be, and I totally believe her.


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