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Good Reads  Mammals  Insectivores to Ungulates  Rodents

Stowaway The Disreputable Exploits of the Rat

By: Joe Shute(Author), Liz Collins(Illustrator)
272 pages, b/w illustrations
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  • Stowaway ISBN: 9781399402507 Hardback Apr 2024 In stock
Price: £18.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles
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About this book

*We will have a very limited number of signed bookplates for this edition, available while stocks last

A cultural and social history of the rat, examining how one creature achieved total world domination and has inspired such love and loathing.

Rats represent the worst of us – or at least, that's what we tell ourselves. They are rapacious, over-sexed, pestilent and, on occasion, cannibalistic. But, as with all 'vermin', rats are in fact a mirror species, reflecting back to us our worst excesses. They are also a creature to which we owe a lot. Arguably no other animal has done more for the advance of human medicine than the rat.

In Stowaway, Joe Shute unpicks this complex relationship between human and rat, documenting the arrival of the brown rat in the West during the expansion of global trade and how it has pushed our black rat species to the brink. Joe charts its course through history – from diaries kept by soldiers in the trenches, to present day where an estimated 10 million rats are believed to live in Britain alone.

As well as tracking rats in the wild and meeting experts to help unpick rat intelligence and social structures, Joe attempts to overcome his own aversion to these often reviled rodents – even adopting two pet rats to better understand them.

Stowaway is a tale of rat catchers, crumbling buildings and back alleys, taking the reader into a part of the natural world they normally hurry past. It is also a story of the human condition, asking why we deem some animals acceptable and condemn others to the shadows.


Chapter 1. Devil's Lapdog
Chapter 2. Rat Tails
Chapter 3. Tunnels
Chapter 4. Ratopolis
Chapter 5. Heroes and Villains
Chapter 6. Quarry
Chapter 7. Prey
Chapter 8. Borders
Chapter 9. Fancy
Chapter 10. Rat Island
Chapter 11. Burrows

Further Reading

Customer Reviews


Joe Shute is an author and journalist with a passion for the natural world. He writes features for The Daily Telegraph and is the newspaper’s long-standing Saturday ‘Weather Watch’ columnist. He is currently a post-graduate researcher funded by the Leverhulme Unit for the Design of Cities of the Future (LUDeC) at Manchester Metropolitan University. Joe previously worked as a trainee journalist on the Halifax Evening Courier and the Yorkshire Post as its crime correspondent. His other books include Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons and A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven. He lives in Sheffield with his wife (and rats).

By: Joe Shute(Author), Liz Collins(Illustrator)
272 pages, b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"An intelligent and enlightening book [...] Here is a new take on rats, acknowledging the shudder, the revulsion, but enlightening us, asking us to think again. Rats, like it or not, are our neighbours. We need to learn about them, how they live and how to live with them. Read this book and you will never look at a rat the same way again. They are complex like us, intelligent like us. Read this book and you'll shudder no more when you see a rat. That's what I'm telling myself anyway."
– Michael Morpurgo

"Rats are far from the dirty vermin that we all love to deride; indeed, they are acutely intelligent and thoroughly fascinating. Joe Shute eloquently puts us right about the world's most common rodent and throws in some great facts and theories too."
– David Lindo

"Stowaway is not another natural history in the vein of the otter or the barn owl . [Shute's] real aim is to show us that, ultimately, the history of rats is a history of ourselves."
– Adam Weymouth, The Sunday Times

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