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Book Review: “You Don’t Know Sh*t”

Posted Aug 22 2011 2:28am

By Doug Mayer, Val Stori and Tod von Jahnes

Review by Scott Keith

Men do it. Women do it. Birds do it. Rabbits do it (a lot). Bugs might even do it, although I haven’t bothered to investigate. I’m talking about the end product after we eat our meals: Poop. If you think this is a rather odd and icky subject to cover in a book, you’re right. But open your minds just enough to purchase a thoroughly entertaining and well-researched book titled, “You Don’t Know Sh*t,” by Doug Mayer, Val Stori and Tod von Jahnes.

Face it, this is a subject we don’t (and shouldn’t) bring up at the dinner table, yet all of us are aware of this bodily function. How could we not be? And deep down, aren’t you the slightest bit curious about how astronauts relieve themselves? Did you ever wonder if our ancient ancestors had any inhibitions when it came to pooping? Can some societies function without toilet paper? Are Asian toilets similar to European and American toilets?

It’s all covered in this fast-paced, fact-packed 214-page hard cover book, released this month by St. Martin’s Griffin-St. Martin’s Press.

The book explores ways human waste was disposed of centuries ago, and we’re not talking modern sewage treatment plants. Workers had to manually get rid of the vile stuff…certainly not a dream job by anyone’s definition.  Poop factoids are deposited throughout the book.. Chapter two features a “Poop Data” chart. For instance: “Average number of poops per day: 1 or 2. Average duration of a bowel movement: 5 to 6 minutes. Odd things ever ingested: A fork, $650 in coins, bedsprings, thirty magnets, tapeworms, a radio antenna, an engagement ring, sword, model airplane.”

In an interview for Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Mayer says, “Obviously it’s something we all have in common, whether we’re comfortable talking about it or not. There are all these crazy different sort of cultural ideas about it,” says Mayer, noting that everybody has a poop story whether they’re comfortable about sharing it or not.

Mayer, a humor writer from New Hampshire’s White Mountains and a producer for “Car Talk” from National Public Radio, says there’s almost too much information about poop. “We wrote up a book proposal really quickly. The book proposal totally wrote itself…The fact is we could have kept going and going. There’s so much here,” according to Mayer, who says the book includes “quirky little anecdotes” and “crazy little tidbits.” The idea behind the book, adds Mayer, is to have fun.

And here’s some “feel good” trivia to consider as you wake up some sunny morning, bright-eyed and ready to take on the world: “I think one of the most interest things for me was research that Val (one of the co-authors) did talking to Dr. Elmer Pfefferkorn of Dartmouth…It turns out the world is covered in a thin layer of sh*t. Like it or not, everything we touch has a certain amount of poop on it.” Fear not, details of this fecal veneer, as Pfefferkorn’s theory is called, is in the book. Hint: There might be an upside to this fecal veneer.

OK, let’s face it. We didn’t stop giggling about farts after second grade. Chapter three of this book, titled, “It wasn’t me,” is all about flatulence. Learn some fart synonyms and find out why a silent fart is a deadly fart.

When you buy this delightful, and hilariously funny book, you might want to display it on your coffee table. What a conversation piece when your neighbors arrive for the bridge game! Or, perhaps more logically, you can place it on your bathroom literature rack. After all, if you’ve positioned yourself on the porcelain throne, you know the subject matter of this book is very close at hand.

St. Martin’s Griffin-St. Martin’s Press, 214 pages, hard cover, available on Amazon.com and bookstores.

Visit St. Martin’s Press

Editor’s Note:  Since this is a men’s (and women’s) boomer health and wellness blog, be aware of any changes in your bowel movements or stool color. These need to be brought up with your doctor right away.



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