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It took a supreme effort of will to read past that section without my head exploding in incredulity. It's pretty obvious that the author has some weird inferiority complex regarding writing about such a "low" topic and that he's compensating with overblown efforts to show he's "above" his subject. There are even cringeworthy sections where he describes himself justifying writing the book to people at cocktail parties. The rats deserve better. The cover is the best part about this book, so drink that in and then move on. Urban nature writing.

While researching rats, Sullivan also tells the story of the social history of the New York alley he becomes a fixture in. He becomes this fixture so the rats become comfortable with him there and they go about their business of running through restaurant garbage every night. I found th Urban nature writing. I found this book full of random and interesting information about rats and their place in this world. I was also entertained through the whole book and amazed that this guy's wife let him back in the house every night. A good book with a great cover by Cooper Grad Peter Sis also did the Whale seen on the new trains as part of the Arts for Transit program.

Ah, if only everyone judged this book by its cover it would have done even better.

Unfortunatelyl some smart people unlike me read reviews first. The author, a layman takes on studying rats in New York by repeatedly visiting an alley that I myself have previously reported to for Rat issues. There are lots of strange tid bits of information but also lo A good book with a great cover by Cooper Grad Peter Sis also did the Whale seen on the new trains as part of the Arts for Transit program.

There are lots of strange tid bits of information but also lots of dead ends to his tirades. To publish a book the author has added chapters on Plagues and other grotesque things in other cities which don't directly play into his New York theme.

RATS: OBSERVATIONS ON THE HISTORY HABITAT OF THE CITY'S MOST UNWANTED INHABITANTS

This weakens the book and these chapters fall in at strange intervals. I feel the volume could have been published just as easily without them. He has a newer book on the Meadowlands. Although Rats left me a bit disappointed, and the afterword, more annoyed than anything, I'll pick it up mainly because of the subject and also because it doesn't require me to think.

This is a good book for reading on a packed subway when you don't have to focus and keeps you from being disgusted by the uglies that surround you. Aug 10, miriam rated it really liked it Recommends it for: urban history buffs, rodent lovers and haters. Jan 18, Jenna Los rated it it was ok. Another great idea for a book that fell a bit flat. Sullivan spent a great deal of time sitting in an alley watching rats, but I don't think he really "discovered" all that much that wasn't already known.

He mentions several scientists whose experiences would have been much more informative and interesting to read than this bit. For instance, one scientists takes rats off a street in Baltimore and then presents them with various bits of garbage to see which they prefer; Sullivan remarks that onc Another great idea for a book that fell a bit flat. For instance, one scientists takes rats off a street in Baltimore and then presents them with various bits of garbage to see which they prefer; Sullivan remarks that once the rats are in the garbage bags on his alley, he has no idea what they are doing and can only watch the bag ripple with their movements.

Jul 24, Kena rated it really liked it Recommends it for: those who watch for rats along the tracks. As someone who is fascinated by the unlooked for causalities that affect human history and development, I liked reading about the parallel histories of humans and rats in NYC.

While the overall tone was truly more of an ode to the rat, I was able to glean more about my new home and new epidemiologically relevant As someone who is fascinated by the unlooked for causalities that affect human history and development, I liked reading about the parallel histories of humans and rats in NYC. While the overall tone was truly more of an ode to the rat, I was able to glean more about my new home and new epidemiologically relevant books to add to my to reading list not to mention a bunch of neat random facts to add to my trove.

Aug 01, Mary rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Rodent Lovers. Do you love rats? If so, then this book about city warriors with sharp teeth and quick wits is for you. Full of strange, wonderful and disgusting urban tales of rat life in the alleys, drainpipes and bathtubs of NYC. From another Goodreads reviewer: "I've always thought that they are completely misunderstood, but after reading this, I became a huge fan of rats; not merely a sympathizer but an all-out enthusiast! They're so cool! He explores where they live, their eating habits, their sex life ve Do you love rats? He explores where they live, their eating habits, their sex life very active , and presents them as a reflection of human activity in the city.

Jun 17, Suzanne rated it really liked it. I have two pet rats that I play with and watch endlessly, so I guess I could really identify with the author. They're such cunning, wily little guys. They were"rescued" from a feeder pet store for snake food. Although mine are the so-called "fancy" rats, one is brown and the other is black and look much more like common sewer rats. Nice, easy read and not too scienc I have two pet rats that I play with and watch endlessly, so I guess I could really identify with the author.

Nice, easy read and not too science-y- almost more of an autobiography with rat info thrown in. View 2 comments. Aug 19, DeAnna Knippling rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction. A writer fascinated by both natural history and human history spends a year observing New York alley rats, combining observations about the rats, sifting through the natural history of rats and the hunting thereof, and sifting backward through the history of the alley through the history of Europeans in America.

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This was less logical and more fun than I anticipated. The author talks about "his" rats, then jumps around to some other subject, often only tangentially connected to the supposed subje A writer fascinated by both natural history and human history spends a year observing New York alley rats, combining observations about the rats, sifting through the natural history of rats and the hunting thereof, and sifting backward through the history of the alley through the history of Europeans in America. The author talks about "his" rats, then jumps around to some other subject, often only tangentially connected to the supposed subject material.

If you're looking for a solid book about rats, maybe this isn't it. But if you're open to a cross-discipline study of history only loosely centered on rats, this is the book for you. Dec 26, Carolyn rated it it was ok. But I would have really loved to read some information from a real expert. I think reading the Wikipedia page would have covered more, to be honest. Rats by Robert Sullivan is a fascinating study of rats and their cohabitation with humans. One particularly interesting section was on rats and plague, which, as you may know, is spread to humans by the rat flea.

Apparently the Japanese were the first to experiment with the use of plague as a biological weapon during WWII under the direction of General Shiro Ishii. He discovered that the best was to infect a city with plague was to fill clay bombs with infected fleas. An attack was successfully Rats by Robert Sullivan is a fascinating study of rats and their cohabitation with humans.

An attack was successfully conducted against the Chinese city ofChangde.


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A clue that the outbreak was caused by humans rather than rats was that the rats began dying of plague weeks after the humans, a reverse of the normal situation. General Ishii also practiced vivisection on live humans. He was never tried for war crimes, apparently having made a deal with the Americans who got copies of his notes and papers which formed the basis for the early American attempts at creating biological weapons. He retired a respected medical man. The United States began experimenting with biological weapons in the early fifties and tested their weapon distribution methods on unsuspecting Americans.

In one case, Navy planes sprayed the eastern Virginia coat with microbes similar to Anthrax but "thought to be harmless," and as late as , soldiers dressed in civilian clothes dropped light bulbs filled with the microbes on the tracks in New York subways in order to measure how the microbes dispersed -- all without the knowledge of the public or Congress.

Much like its subject, Sullivan's Rats refuses to be boxed into a single category, preferring to dart back and forth between microhistory, natural history, and personal essay in a charmingly discursive loop. Sullivan's investigations into New York's least-loved inhabitants is part curiosity an investigation into an Audubon painting of rats uncovers the artist's rat-hunting habits and spurs the author's own quest and part opportunity when in NYC Still, Rats is full of fascinating trivia and historical anecdote rat fighting!

Japanese bioweapons! Sullivan isn't a naturalist, and readers looking for a deep exploration of the biology and habits of rodentia should take a hard pass on Rats , which they would likely find frustratingly incomplete. As a tourguide, however, Sullivan excels, leading the reader through the maze of New York's neighborhoods and introducing their rodent inhabitants, contextualizing each with small bits of history.

Should you choose to take the author's bait, Rats offers an entertaining look at ourselves and our rodent neighbors. Jun 30, KT rated it it was ok. I'm tried, but just couldn't seem to get into this one. It didn't hold my attention like I thought it would. I skipped around, and didn't really go back to the parts I skipped over.

Even if it means going subterranean into a filthy underground tunnel system in gotham city Sep 30, Lesley rated it really liked it Recommends it for: new yorkers. You will never look at alley dumpsters the same way again. Mar 17, Noah Goats rated it it was amazing. Rats inhabit a world that is essentially the Upside Down from Stranger Things. They build their homes where we build ours, creating a dark and twisted mirror of our urban landscapes. They eat our same food, but mostly in a putrefying form. They build nests with materials we recognize, plastics and paper, but in their world these things are shredded and filthy.

Their world is rife with poison, disease, and sometimes even cannibalism. And where their world rubs up against ours, things turn violent Rats inhabit a world that is essentially the Upside Down from Stranger Things. And where their world rubs up against ours, things turn violent. We have been waging war against rats for the whole of human history, but in his fascinating book Robert Sullivan focuses on one particularly bloody battleground: New York City. He tells us about his own personal observations of rats he came night after night to watch the rats in one particularly rodent riddled alley but also tells of many other epic events in history of rats, from the black death to the big garbage strike of And all of it is interesting.

Absolutely enjoyed reading this book. A slow read though Jun 24, Natalie CuriousReader rated it liked it. He spends a year studying one particular alley's rat population, speaks with rat experts of all kinds - people who have studied the species, and people who work to 'control' it; searches through writing on rats and their connection to things like the plague. While this book is labeled as natural history, I personally feel it's better called a history - of big city life in general, as well as a history of New York City in particular. If you're interested in the city, you might find more to love and engage with in 'Rats' than I did.

Robert Sullivan writes in a chatty, casual voice which makes for a rather easily digested nonfiction read. In between more serious discussion on plague, increasing rat populations and rat problems as linked with bad housing situation, there's a humorous tone in Sullivan's honest reaction to the species, rats' likeness to humans, or even the interesting facts of rats themselves. The first fifty pages or so are mostly focused on rats as a normal natural history - their food, living, reproduction, and factors that have shaped how we view them.

While I wouldn't say this part is less important than the first, I felt the book was too heavily focused on this latter discussion for my taste. I felt there was a missed opportunity of an examination of human's responsibility in the whole rat situation and really - adding a critical discussion of the garbage disposal in big cities like New York would've made this book better, and in my opinion, more valuable. Sullivan repeatedly touches on the garbage problem without really going into any depth, while there's chapter after chapter of the control of rats through poison, traps, etc.

I had a few quibbles too with the way Sullivan writes, which basically bottles down to: too much extra information that bears no real importance to the main topic at hand. It's things like giving background information on a rat expert - where he went to school, what his family structure was like, or what kind of clothes an exterminator was wearing. If these details were directly linked to points in the book that would've been a different matter, for example if the clothes were of a specific kind to - let's say, camouflage when trapping a rat - that would've been fine.

At least I couldn't see these kind of details' relevance to the book as a whole, and I found it mostly muddled the many interesting facts it actually did contain. It seemed mostly like such details were given as a tribute to each person who has been valuable within the area of rats studies and work - and while I can understand how an author would want to pay tribute to important actors within the area of study, it doesn't do much for the reader.

On the whole this was a fun and interesting book with rats at its center but is also in many ways a history of New York City. If that sounds like something you're interested in, it might be worth checking out. Oct 12, Kid rated it it was ok.

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Rats is a bald "book proposal" project that never transcends the limitations of its genetics. We can imagine Sullivan telling his agent that he wants to spend a year watching rats in NYC while jotting down his thoughts and experiences. The agent sells the project with a phone call to Bloomsbury or something. Sullivan clearly approaches the project as a one year job - which is fine - we all gotta eat.

But this could have been an incredible journey into an unknown and fascinating secret world - in Rats is a bald "book proposal" project that never transcends the limitations of its genetics. But this could have been an incredible journey into an unknown and fascinating secret world - instead it's a dude who doesn't know shit about rats when he starts the project and at the end, knows a little more about rats and has managed to bore us with the story of how he acquired his limited knowledge.

He even includes a chapter straight from his journal and then pads the tale with contemporary history from the time that the rattus norvegicus was introduced to the New World. I guess maybe in NYC - though I'm not convinced that anyone really knows. So it's kind of a crock. I think the book succeeds on the thin film of its premise - i. He approaches a subject of which many of us have a morbid curiosity without rigor and without much of a point. He barely attempts to relieve us of our deep ignorance about the animal and chooses to hang brain with exterminators instead of scientists, who all tend to say the same shit about the rat.

Like - OK - rats are smart. They have respect for them. Yes we're like rats. Quite poetic and pat in its way but super cheap. The "rat race"? Have you ever heard of it? Oh shit. This book is overRATed.


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THAT was cheap of me but I bought this book so go to hell. Aug 09, Abigail rated it it was ok Shelves: not-a-big-fan , animal , non-fiction. I was disappointed in this book. If you're looking for a book about rats, this isn't it. In fact it's a little bit, what's the word It's the story of a forgotten back alley in New York City, the story of a forgotten battle at the beginning of the American Revolution, the story of a forgotten organizer for better housing, a history of pest control and a look at the pest control industry and a nature treatise that is less about nature and more about flowery language and quotes by I was disappointed in this book.

It's the story of a forgotten back alley in New York City, the story of a forgotten battle at the beginning of the American Revolution, the story of a forgotten organizer for better housing, a history of pest control and a look at the pest control industry and a nature treatise that is less about nature and more about flowery language and quotes by Emerson and Thoreau. The author spends a lot of time bragging At least it felt that way to me about spending a year observing rats in an alley, but honestly most of the book isn't really about his observations.

It's about everyone else's and the way that rats have abstractly influenced things. The scientist in me got excited when the early chapters mention rat kings, and how there can be masses of rats whose tails are tangled together. I was like "wow I want to know more about this. Not even the chapter titled "Rat King" mentions it. The most interesting sections didn't happen until toward the end of the book.

The latter was particularly interesting because that's not something people really think about. But other than that, meh. I think this book had potential and maybe a certain type of person would find this interesting, but for me, it was mostly fluff. I didn't learn very much from reading this book and I felt like it focused less on rats and more on other things. Perhaps I should check out the book the author mentions by the "rat expert. Nov 10, Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly rated it liked it. There are rats in my apartment.

I see them all the time, both night and day. While working with my computer, they would climb in the nearby pile of books. Sometimes a big one would pass right in front of me at my table, perhaps unaware that I'm just there right in front of him. So I read this book.

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It's not so much about rats, however, than about people who had been, or are, involved with rats. And since rats are known carriers of diseases, plagues were also discussed. Rats, the book said, have , There are rats in my apartment. Rats, the book said, have , the fear of the new.

Robert Sullivan, In The Alleys With 'Rats' | WBUR News

So what I did when I bought a rat trap [the kind that imprisons a rat uninjured:] was to place it first in one corner for many days, often putting food outside of it. The trick is to remove its newness to the rat. After that, I set it up, put freshly cooked peanuts inside and, bingo, got a very large black rat. Method of execution: pour boiling water upon the shrieking creature while trapped inside the cage. Rats' most favorite garbage food according to the book[the first one being the most favorite:]: scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, cooked corn kernels, cooked potatoes, cooked oatmeal, cooked sweet potatoes, white bread, raw corn on the cob, raw beef with bones, raw sweet potatoes, raw beef without bones, corned beef hash, fried chicken, bananas, cooked carrots.

Of course, the book discussed rats in New York. So these are New York garbage food. Here in my place, the rats loved peanuts and peanut butter [cheese too! Two times already, rats were trapped inside a pail half-filled with water. I left them to drown. Do you know they can last for more than two days swimming in the pail before finally drowning? The book did not mention this, so it got only 3 stars from me. Nov 25, Alana Trejo rated it it was amazing.

This book is fascinating and surprisingly moving. Basically rats live where people live and eat what people eat, crossing almost all socioeconomic barriers except for, strangely, Montana. Even after so much chaos and violence at the site of ground zero a lot of rats managed to survive. Also moving This book is fascinating and surprisingly moving. Also moving were the stories of the exterminators that volunteered to go to ground zero to combat the exploding rat population. Is it weird that I'm rooting for and against the rats? This book details the journey of the Norway rat in America as well as the fight against it.

I highly recommend this book. Feb 01, Alisa rated it liked it Shelves: microhistory , ipad. Rodents roam in the underbelly of cities all over the world, and in this peculiar little book the author sets out to examine rodent life in perhaps one of the most prolific rat infested cities in America: New York. Out of morbid curiosity and the need for some inexpensive escapist airplane reading material, I decided to give this book a try. Face it, rats are disgusting disease ridden vermin so I recognize reading about them can evoke repulsion, fear, and disgust. But rather than focus exclusive Rodents roam in the underbelly of cities all over the world, and in this peculiar little book the author sets out to examine rodent life in perhaps one of the most prolific rat infested cities in America: New York.

But rather than focus exclusively on the urban rat life, the author weaves in stories of politics, architecture, labor unions, obscure historical figures, everyday people, and of course rodent control professionals. It turned out to be an interesting and fun diversion from the usual. An entertaining book - gives interesting details about the history of New York, and a study of urban rats' behaviour. Although the title is Rats, Sullivan is using them as a basis for a wider picture of New York and other parts of America , its history and its inhabitants.

I already know a bit about domestic rats, and like them, so wasn't as surprised or disturbed as other people might be, and have probably taken a different view of Sullivan's findings from his studies and experiments. While An entertaining book - gives interesting details about the history of New York, and a study of urban rats' behaviour. While easy to read, I found this book badly written in some places, with facile descriptions of people and their conversations. The author also can't stop describing two of his friends as a poet and an artist which got right on my nerves.

May 08, Ben rated it liked it. Not for the squeamish, this one. Sullivan stakes out a New York City alley and observes its rats, interspersing his own anecdotal take on the critters with perspectives from rat scientists Robert Sullivan. Robert Sullivan turns the lowly rat into the star of this most perversely intriguing, remarkable, and unexpectedly elegant New York Times bestseller.

Love them or loathe them, rats are here to stay-they are city dwellers as much as or more than we are, surviving on the effluvia of our society. In Rats , the critically acclaimed bestseller, Robert Sullivan spends a year investigating a rat-infested alley just a few blocks away from Wall Street.