I, Mammal: The Story Of What Makes Us Mammals
On certain days, if I find myself in a particularly charitable mood, I feel a twinge of pity for physicists. Not because of the vacuum catastrophe or because of all that beautiful, mind-numbing maths, but because any physicist would struggle, no matter how quirky their metaphors or confectionery-shaped their universes, to write a book about their subject as quotable, heartfelt and frequently fun as Liam Drew's I, Mammal.
Starting from the premise that a kick to the balls appears unjustifiably painful, Drew stays true to his muse and devotes a large portion of this book to the natural history of scrotums; more specifically, why it might be that such a sensitive piece of apparatus would be stored externally. From there, he proceeds around the mammalian body, taking in the mammaries that gave us our name, various types of internal plumbing, our general hairiness and the wondrous inner ear, illustrating each with clarity, humour and anecdotes.
Beyond the facts you'll want to regurgitate, the fascinating comparison of birds, reptiles and mammals, and the true star of the show – the platypus – the real success Drew has with this book is the way he demonstrates how the fleshy uncertainty of evolutionary theory plays out when looking at complex organisms, the double and triple interpretations of traits and appendages held simultaneously until more data is found, the inch-by-inch tread of biology, endlessly readjusting and looking again.
I know I am just one of many who are forever fascinated by the incredible diversity and ingenuity of the natural world, but I challenge anyone to read this book and not think such fascination, no matter how widespread, is wholly merited.