Jan 28

Book Review: Gut: The inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated OrganGut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders

I went through a long phase where I pretty much only read books like this, pop science books about ordinary subjects. It’s a pretty good example of that subgenre. It’s just sophisticated enough to let the average reader know that the author is very well acquainted with her subject, but not so pedantic that it turns off laypeople.

So how much do you already know about the digestive tract? If you’re like me, you will know more after listening to or reading this book than you did before. For example, I didn’t know that the small intestine is lined with waves of something like cilia on the inside to push the food along, and that they are totally self-cleaning. I also didn’t realize that those two rough patches on the insides of my cheeks are where the saliva comes in. Like most people, I figured I must have bitten myself there pretty hard at some point and just not remembered.
But the author just hints at some of the more fascinating aspects of her subject. For example, in an early scene she describes a man who had terrible, terrible breath, and ended up committing suicide the next day. Clearly, there was some relationship between whatever was causing his halitosis and whatever was making him so depressed. I thought it was just a teaser paragraph and that she’d really delve into the subject in depth later, but when we got to that section it wasn’t as thorough as I had hoped. Does that mean it’s too complicated for the likes of me? Or that there was just too much to put in this book? Or what I think the more likely reason, that the relationship between gut bacteria and human thought is not as well-understood as we’d like. Ever since I heard about toxoplasmosis, the idea that bacteria or a virus in the gut could change the chemistry of the brain has fascinated me. I could have happily listened to a book just on this subject. But alas, it was merely a chapter.
The author gets cheeky and graphic sometimes, such as describing the different types of poo and the various stages a person goes through when vomiting. I kind of like scatological humor, but it’s not a good book to listen to while you’re eating. Actually, I think this would be a better book to read rather than listening. Sometimes, especially when she was talking about organic chemistry or microbiology, I found I wasn’t following along very well. Or maybe the subject was just a little dry for me.
Still, it’s a pretty good book if you like science and medicine.

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