Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
It’s no coincidence that the word “visceral” refers both to entrails and to the sensation one feels on a roller coaster. We humans have a love-hate relationship with our guts, and Roach’s latest book capitalizes on that mix of fascination and repulsion to lure us into reading about the digestive system.
Gulp explores the alimentary canal, moving like a bolus of food from mouth to stomach to lower gastrointestinal tract. Along the way, Roach visits scientists studying the various elements of eating, digesting and eliminating.
Roach has an eye for the odd. Rather than write a treatise on the properties of stomach acid, for instance, she tells the story of surgeon William Beaumont and his career studying the fistulated stomach of Alexis St. Martin. An 1822 shooting accident left St. Martin with a fistula, or hole, through which the