Surprisingly funny and compulsively readable, Rats is an unlikely account of a year spent in a garbage-strewn alley in lower Manhattan. Sullivan spends the year with a notebook and night-vision goggles, hunting for fabled rat-kings, trapping a rat of his own, and trying (and failing) to conquer his own fear of rats. He meets the exterminators, garbage men and civic activists who play their part in the centuries-old war between human city-dweller and wild city rat. He travels to a bizarre Midwestern conference on rats that brings together the leading experts on rat history, behaviour and control (did you know that one pair of rats has the potential for 15,000 descendants in a year? That rats' teeth are harder than steel?) And he reveals the many ways rats' lives mirror those of humans. Sullivan's unusual and absorbing book earns a place alongside the classics of travel writing.
Robert Sullivan is a contributing editor to Vogue and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker. He is the author of Meadowlands and A Whale Hunt. He lives in New York.