Top critical review
Disappointing and juvenile
Reviewed in the United States on December 14, 2019
Many years ago, I read Stiff and thought it was a good book, being that the subject matter was of interest to me. I primarily read non-fiction books, usually either science (mainly astronomy and biology) or history. I've spent most of my life studying criminology and forensics, with a focus on serial killers and criminal psychology, so no topic is off-limits or 'too gross' for me. Being that I'd already read Stiff and knew that Mary Roach remained a popular science writer, I thought Gulp would be a great read. I was wrong.
Perhaps it's because the book I read immediately preceding this one was excellent (Bill Bryson - The Body), I thought Gulp was ridiculous by comparison. Or maybe Gulp is just a really, really weak book. Roach spends more time attempting to be clever than on writing anything truly informative. She also makes sure to describe the appearance of every person she interviews, and these pointless asides grew tiresome quickly. I'm not interested in the personal mannerisms of sensory analysts or wildlife biologists -- I'm interested in the data. Sadly, the book fails in this regard as well. Much of the information in the book doesn't pertain to the human body at all. There are entire chapters dedicated to mealworms, pet food, and whales (regarding whether one could actually survive being swallowed by one). And these chapters aren't short, mind you -- most are around 20 pages each.
Perhaps most annoyingly, the second half of the book is dedicated solely to the elimination of solid waste, and not in a scientific, professional, facts-based way (which -might- have been interesting). No. It's written in an immature, giggly style which, by this point in what had already become a boring and irritating book, grew nearly intolerable. The final 80 pages (or so) consist of three short chapters on flatulence (basically, 20 tedious pages about farts), two chapters on items being inserted rectally (mainly drugs and food, but also other things) which totals around 40 pages, and nearly 20 pages more about constipation, all of it written in the same childish tone.
If this sounds like an awesome read for you, go for it -- you won't be disappointed. I, on the other hand, will be donating my copy, and sorely regret wasting my time (and my twelve bucks).