Just finished: Gulp by Mary Roach

Here’s the blurb:

The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour of our insides. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions inspired by our insides are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find names for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks—or has the courage—to ask. And we go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a bacteria transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal.

My thoughts:

As any good audiobook must have, this narrator was excellent. I often wince when narrators are tasked with pronouncing medical terminology, but Allison Woo Zeller did a great job. She hit all the right notes and really brought the text to life.

I have been wanting to read several of Mary Roach’s novels. She writes about many biological sciences, social sciences, and current research topics. She has a delightful sense of humor that includes puns and double entendre that humanize the content without demeaning it.

I learned some new things, which is my ultimate goal for any non-fiction work I inflict upon myself. For instance, I learned that we have taste receptors in our small intestine! How cool is that? Those receptors look for the bitter and sour flavors that can indicate poison and wave the red flag when they find it. I also confirmed my long held belief that switching up cat food based on the human palate is no bueno. It’s better to stick with one thing because their digestive systems are better served by that. I have not yet rubbed this finding in my husband’s face, but I am sure that time will come.

I really loved that Mary spoke with researchers in these fields and included their candid discussions in the book. Sometimes, reading research findings can be boring and/or intentionally oblique (it is very hard to get published if your findings do not meet the expectations of your funders or your reviewers). This more informal discussion brought the research to a level at which the average person can understand and apply the knowledge.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the social taboos surrounding the digestive system, anyone that needs a non-fiction science book for their reading challenge this year, people who are just curious about how the body works.

Overall: 5 stars


Re-blog: Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): World Autism Day (Week of April 1, 2013)

This has been a whirlwind of a week. We started with April Fools Day, which seemed to involve a lot of cats and alternative search methods this year. April is Autism Awareness Acceptance Month and Tuesday was World Autism Day. Tuesday was also the groundbreaking announcement of the BRAIN Initiative that was outlined yesterday on the THL Blog.

I decided to focus on the autism portion of the week, although, as you’ll see from the tweets, the other two are related. I started with the most obvious hashtag #autism. I focused on research and personal stories about autism. As you can see, Twitter delivered.

I clicked through into the #neuroscience and #psychology streams to see what scientists and researchers were talking about this week as well.