A list of the attributes that define a mammal is a ragbag of things - fur, live birth, three bones in the middle ear, a brain whose two halves are robustly joined together... But this curious collection of features contain the roots of all the biology that makes us what we are: monkeys with massive brains who parent extensively, enjoy sport and think lots. Which is to say, what makes us mammals makes us human. Without mammary glands we might not be such dedicated parents, without those middle ear bones there would be no Bach.
90 per cent science, 10 per cent memoir, I, Mammal is a book about a life lived as a mammal. It examines each trait that defines a mammal and each section provides a plotted evolutionary history of the trait in question, how scientists came to understand it and how it varies across mammals. Entwined among these themes are personal notes on the author's experience of living with such traits.
By considering these traits one at a time, a picture builds of what a mammal is. The story is part triumphalism - a tale of how, once the dinosaurs were out the way, mammals came to dominate this planet - and part appreciation, a gentle reflection on how each of us is the fortunate product of the unpredictable turns of biological history.