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In his candid new memoir, From Botswana to the Bering Sea: My Thirty Years With National Geographic (Island Press), Thomas Y. Canby describes his former employer as a “literary duckbilled platypuswarm blooded, devoid of fangs, largely successful, and also capable of laying the occasional egg.” Canby’s most memorable tales, however, involve another small animal: the rat. Even rodentophiles will find Canby’s tales creepyan Indian temple overrun with sacred rats, Filipinos who eat rats, Bombay’s systematic extermination of plague-carrying rats. “An everyday rat,” Canby writes, “can wriggle through a hole the size of a quarter, gnaw through cinder blocks and lead pipes, tread water for three days and swim half a mile, enter buildings by way of the toilet and survive being flushed, scale a sheer brick wall and, if dislodged, plummet five stories to the ground unharmed.” Hear similarly lovely tales when Canby appears at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 3651 Jefferson Davis Highway, Alexandria. Free. (703) 299-9124. (Louis Jacobson)