TITLE: Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top
AUTHOR: Jerry Langton
DATE PUBLISHED: 2006 (ebook edition 2014)
In Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top, journalist Jerry Langton superficially explores the history, myth, physiology, habits, psyche and future of the rat. This is a short, super-lite, popular science book in the style of Mary Roach without all the silly jokes and excessive fashion commentary.
In the author's words:
"The rat may be small and ugly. It may not inspire awe as it nibbles and gnaws and skulks its way through life. But it can do something remarkable. It can compete with us as a wild animal and win. It hasn't become our friend like the dog or our captive like cattle, but instead lives alongside us, as constant companion, irritant, and sworn enemy. While human mistakes and negligence have led many species to extinction and thousands to the brink of annihilation, gargantuan, concerted efforts to rid ourselves of rats have failed miserably. There are more now than ever before and their population continues to boom. Truly it is the animal we can't get rid of, the only one capable of challenging human hegemony of the planet, that deserves to be called King of Beasts. You've read a hundred stories about humanity driving some beautiful or terrifying animal to the brink of extinction, or beyond. This is the story about what happens when we try, but cannot."
The author takes a look at anything to do with rats, including their involvement in the plague, their role as pets, their role in religion, extermination issues, their global spread and commensal relationship with humans etc in a fun, superficial manner and conveniently leaves out any references so you have no idea if the author is sucking "facts" out of his thumb or is reporting actual observable data or scientific studies. The book has many interesting observations and anecdotes that involves rats, but is a rather lacking in substance (and references).