Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants sounds like just the book for building anticipation on the the journey.
Surprisingly funny and compulsively readable, Rats is an unlikely account of a year spent in a garbage-strewn alley in lower Manhattan. Robert Sullivan - intrepid journalist, curious writer, fearful urban dweller - sets off to contemplate New York City and its lesser-known byways by observing the lowly rat. He discovers a world almost nobody knows. Sullivan spends the year with a notebook and night-vision goggles, hunting for fabled ratkings, trapping a rat of his own, and trying (and failing) to conquer his own fear of rats. He meets the exterminators, garbage men, and civic activists who play their part in the centuries-old war between human city-dweller and wild city rat. He travels to a bizarre Midwestern conference on rats that brings together the leading experts on rat history, behaviour and control (did you know that one pair of rats has the potential for 15,000 descendants in a year? that rats' teeth are harder than steel?) And he reveals the many ways rats' lives mirror those of humans. Sullivan's unusual and absorbing book earns a place alongside the classics of travel writing.