Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick di Justo

This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth?: From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets
What do a cup of coffee and cockroach pheromone have in common? How is Fix-A-Flat like sugarless gum? Is a Slim Jim meat stick really alive? If I Can't Believe It's Not Butter isn't butter, what is it?

All of these pressing questions and more are answered in This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? Based on his popular Wired magazine column "What's Inside," Patrick Di Justo takes a cold, hard, and incredibly funny look at the shocking, disgusting, and often dumbfounding ingredients found in everyday products, from Cool Whip and Tide Pods to Spam and Play-Doh. He also shares the madcap stories of his extensive research, including tracking down a reclusive condiment heir, partnering with a cop to get his hands on heroin, and getting tight-lipped snack-food execs to talk. Along the way, he schools us on product histories, label decoding, and the highfalutin chemistry concepts behind everything from Midol to Hostess fruit pies.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the writing here at all, but I do think the style and length of each chapter is better suited to magazine writing.  If I were reading these articles one at a time I would have enjoyed them much more than trying to read through them as I would any other book in a linear, start to finish fashion.  It took me several months to get through it and I still felt like I was reading it to get through it, not because I was enjoying it.  Again, this isn't a reflection of the author's skill as a writer, maybe just my opinion that the writing is better suited for its original purpose, a magazine column.

Entertainment Value
It's described as funny, and honestly, I have to say that just didn't come through for me.  As above, I think it could very well be related to the format - I'm just not sure that this column needed to be collected in this format.  I think it might have translated to book format better if it had focused more in depth on fewer products, as opposed to only having one to two pages for each product.  It's an interesting idea and one that I think is done very well by the columnist, but I'm not sure that it worked for me as a book as well as I expected it to.

I think it works best as what I would describe as a bathroom book - something you pick up and read a bit of for just a minute or two and then put back.  It wasn't designed to be read the way I most enjoy reading and I don't think the column format worked well as a book in this case, at least not for me.  It took me a lot longer than expected to make my way through what was pretty simple reading, just because I wasn't hooked.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for providing me with a copy to review.

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