I, Mammal: The Story of What Makes Us Mammals

Liam Drew's first book, I, Mammal: The Story of What Makes Us Mammals, is an infectiously enthusiastic introduction to mammalian biology. Drew takes the reader along on an idiosyncratic survey of the various attributes and unusual physical features--live birth and the scrotum, for example--that, taken together, help to define why mammals are mammals. Far from a dry list of mammalian characteristics, I, Mammal looks to Drew's personal life, especially his experience of fatherhood, to show how all of our lives are shaped by these distinctive features.

Helpfully, Drew also possesses abundant wit and a sly sense of humor. On the question of why mammals developed scrotums, Drew writes: "It's like a bank deciding against a vault and keeping its money in a tent on the pavement." That Drew then goes on to debate the merits of the long-popular and somewhat technical "cooling hypothesis" is emblematic of the author's approach. Drew is an entertaining writer that never gives short shrift to his complex subject matter.

Behind Drew's occasional silliness lies a serious, awe-filled appreciation for unlikely products of evolution, especially the platypus. The author's delight in sharing bizarre facts about humans and our evolutionary cousins is tempered by his insistence that "what we define as individual traits are always bound together, and it is within these bonds that a meaningful notion of mammalianness can be found." I, Mammal positions human beings within a vast, incredible family tree. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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