I am reposting this 2013 review because Audible.com is having a sale on all of Mary Roach’s books. Each of the books is on sale for $4.95. Bookwi.se has also reviewed Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and has read (but not reviewed here) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science. Sale runs until July 23, 2015.
Mary Roach is a unique writer. I think her closest comparison is Sarah Vowell. Where Sarah Vowell writes in a unique way about random historical matters, Mary Roach writes in a unique way about science issues. This is my third book by Mary Roach. The first book I read was the best, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, because well, who isn’t interested in sex?
The second book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers was also interesting, but frankly cadavers are a bit disconcerting. It veered wildly between gross and fascinating.
In a slightly less disgusting way, Gulp covers pretty much everything you wanted to know, and a number of things you may not wanted to know about the Alimentary Canal (or digestive system).
What makes Roach (and Vowell’s) writing unique and interesting is the way that they put themselves into their stories. As a reader you know that she is answering her own questions and scratching her own itch to know. In Bonk, she involved herself and her husband in some of the sex studies and and in Stiff she talked clearly about visiting morgues and cemeteries and smelling decomposing bodies. In Gulp she visits cat and dog food companies to learn about how the human and animal digestive systems are similar and different and food research labs as well as attempting to be a food taste tester and smeller.
The subjects can be a bit odd, but the voice is fascinating.