Guest blogger Carolyn is currently toiling away in the dusty halls of academic librarianship, but when she does emerge, blinking, into the daylight, she enjoys time spent with her very patient husband and her not as patient daughter. She also mightily enjoys Sherlock, Parks and Rec, movies where there is good kissing, and every YA novel she can get her hands on.
I’m just going to say this about me: I like the weird stuff.
Not necessarily gross.
But if it’s weird, I’ll probably like it, or at least want to know more.
I also like to laugh. A lot.
Lastly, I like to read aloud. To my husband. When he’s trying to work. He’s a patient guy.
It stands to reason, then, that I would adore Mary Roach. She isn’t afraid of the weird, she makes me laugh, and so many of her passages just beg to be read aloud to partners who are in the middle of writing a proposal and yes, would love to stop and listen to this hilarious sentence.
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Mary Roach’s latest, Gulp, and to say I devoured it whole would be to really strain the whole eating metaphor so I will only say that it was not disappointing.
Roach has previously explored death and the body in Stiff, followed up on the dead bodies’ spirits in Spook, and returned to the living and their basic needs in Bonk. In Gulp, she goes ever inward, examining the way both humans and animals taste, digest, and eliminate their food.
A quick glance at Gulp’s table of contents gives an overview of not only the topic but Roach’s sense of humor; chapter titles include “Up Theirs: The alimentary canal as criminal accomplice” and “I’m All Stopped Up: Elvis Presley’s megacolon, and other ruminations on death by constipation.” Never one to back away from a pun, Roach’s writing ensures near constant giggling interspersed with actual guffaws.
Not content to rest on humor alone, Roach also backs up her writing with science, searching out foremost experts in her field and observing experiments, investigating results, and continuing conversations and cross-checking facts long into the (metaphorical) night. That’s why I love her books so much. Not only do I get an excellent ab workout from laughing so much, but at the end of the (metaphorical) day, I’ve learned something.
Roach really shines in her footnotes, which often take up more than half a page. They made up the majority of the segments I read out loud. Like this little gem about President Garfield’s doctor:
The D stood for “Doctor.” Garfield’s doctor was Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss. For reasons lost to time, Bliss’s parents named their boy after a New England physician, Dr. Samuel Willard. It would seem they mistook the doctor’s title for his first time, for rather than naming their son Samuel Willard Bliss, as custom would dictate, they christened him Doctor Willard Bliss. Perhaps to simplify his life, the boy went into medicine – despite a seeming shortage of aptitude and professional ethics…. Conveniently, no matter what happened, even were he stripped of his medical license, he would always be Doctor Bliss.
Gulp is out now, so I recommend you grab a copy and accost your favorite busy person immediately. They’re going to want to hear all about it.
Do you have a favorite Mary Roach book? If not, have you read any books with factoids you are compelled to share with friends, family and complete strangers?
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