The human digestive tract is like the Amtrak line from Seattle to Los Angeles: transit time is about thirty hours, and the scenery on the last leg is pretty monotonous.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
Mary Roach | 2013 | 348 Pages


The Plotgulp

How much do you really know about the digestive tract? What does saliva do? Can you eat until you burst? Do dogs actually taste their food? Author Mary Roach guides readers through the entire process from literally top to bottom, consulting experts, visiting labs, and making the science of digestion fascinating and funny.


I’ve read a few of Roach’s books before, and as always, she infuses heavy topics with her unique voice and humor. When I bought this title the purchase decision was made entirely due to my past experience with her work. I didn’t really care one hoot about stomach acid or colon diseases, but her books Stiff and Spook had me sold.

In doing research for this book Roach hunts down experts left and right- leading researchers on spot, and flatulence, and feline taste buds. As she learns all about food and where it goes in our bodies, she translates the scientific information into facts, historical asides, and anecdotes that the layperson reader can more easily digest. (pun intended)


The book goes a little too casual. In trying to appeal to readers of all experiences and levels Roach often trends to the lowest common denominator. Facts and remarks are given for gross-out shock value in many places, which takes away from the information presented. It’s an interesting book overall, but not one that should be read if you can’t handle fart jokes. There are a lot of fart jokes.

Should You Read This?

Mary Roach is a writer who I’ve always enjoyed. Occasional crude humor aside, she really does have the ability to make any topic seem incredibly interesting. I came away from this book knowing much more about the human body than I did before picking it up… almost too much more. Like… the ins and outs of constipation? Gross as it was, it was still pretty fascinating, and it you’re looking for some funny and educational reading material I can’t recommend Roach enough.