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In his third book, Robert Sullivan leaves the wilds of the (Meadowlands and the rough whaling waters of the Pacific Northwest to take up rat-watching in the alleys of New York City. Sullivan learned to appreciate the rodents during nocturnal stakeouts; a night-vision scope helped him observe rats without scaring them. As in his previous books, Sullivan uses pointillist details rather than broad portraiture to paint his subject, and the details in Rats are devilish. There are plenty of facts in the book to make your skin crawl, such as a description of the greasy skids rats leave on the paths they frequent, and a list of garbage items they prefer to eat. But Sullivan's style is often less that of a nature writer than a historian. In personable, essayish chapters, New York's history is revealed to be particularly ratty, with tall tales about the rodents' disgusting accomplishments going back to the city's founding. Although many people have never seen a rat outside a pet store, Sullivan reminds us that they are our constant neighbors, staring out from dim corners and messy crevices with beady eyes and twitching whiskers. --Adam Fisher [via]