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Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
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Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,732 ratings  ·  343 reviews
A natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements

Even when the floors are sparkling clean and the house seems silent, our domestic domain is wild beyond imagination. In Never Home Alone, biologist Rob Dunn introduces us to the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes, from the Egyptian meal mo
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Basic Books
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  1,732 ratings  ·  343 reviews

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Start your review of Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
Petra X
Why am I giving 3 stars to a book I'm dnf'ing? The book is well-written and much of it is interesting, but I don't know how reliable the author's research and conclusions are. So far, I've come across two inaccuracies, one of which the author points out himself. Since my knowledge of this area is very limited I don't want to end up thinking that what I learn from this book might not be correct.

The first problem. The author cites research on the disappearance of certain butterfly species with the
Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Viruses You GIF - Viruses You Will GIFs

At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book. A germ-o-phobe reading a book about all those creepy, crawly, microscopic things covering just about every surface on earth? Ugh, no. No way, no how. A book like this would be sure to give me nightmares and make me even more terrified to touch every doorknob, ink pen, faucet, groceries in the store that I'd starve for being too afraid to pick up and take home. Well, OK, that's going a bit too far but maybe reading this book would, even if I di
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dunn is fascinated by the organisms that live in our homes and there are a LOT of them—roughly 200,000 species. Dunn is a professor of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and also works at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. He initially undertook this study of indoor organisms with the idea that he could help to make our homes healthier. The BIG takeaway from the book is that humans benefit from biodiversity—leave your windows open, don’t kill all of the spiders that get in yo ...more
Peter Tillman
Finally, a new pop-science book that clicked at Chap. 1! Great stories of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the pioneer in this stuff back in the 17th C. He continued his pioneering studies of microbiology for some 50 years, of his 90-year life span! But the really striking thing about his work is, that nobody else followed up on "microbiology around the house" until, um, about now? 350 years on? Wow.

Modern-era domestic microbiology dates to the late 2oth C, when
Tom Quinn
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Quirky trivia tidbits intersewn with a quaint narrative, delivered with an ecologist's enthusiasm. I liked it!

3 stars. Fair airplane reading for armchair biologists.
Jill Hutchinson
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medicine, non-fiction
There is no need to call the Orkin Man or rush around spraying Lysol on everything in your house, including yourself. You can't escape the 20,000 plus microbes that are living all around you and all over you, so this is not a book for the reader who is afraid of the creepy crawlers.

This is an interesting study of the microscopic life that covers the earth, although I must admit I found it a bit slow in places. The author traces the history of microbiology since the pioneering scientist Anton van
Clare O'Beara
I'm rating this highly for sheer quantity of content and number of researchers. Be aware though, that the book doesn't so much discuss household pests as microscopic life. Mice - yes, but mainly to analyse their parasites and likelihood of being eaten by cats. In an astounding correlation, the blood of people who took more risks, was found to have more likelihood of antibodies to the parasite that causes mouse brains to become hyperactive and not afraid of cats.

To get there, we have come throug
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of excellent info & a great overriding theme damaged by repetition, especially toward the end. Dunn asserts that our chemical cleanliness is a mirage & exactly the wrong way to live. We can't get rid of all other life forms & don't want to. By a huge margin, most animal life is beneficial or neutral toward us, so we are killing far more of it & breeding those which are better at surviving our cleaning efforts - much of it is harmful.

He describes some experiments & findings that are fascina
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A nonfiction book about the various things that live in human houses, from bacteria and fungi on up. You would assume – certainly I assumed – that we already know what lives in our houses; that surely the creatures we come into contact with every day have been thoroughly studied. Dunn points out that, actually, every scientist has assumed the same thing since shortly after the invention of the microscope, and thus we know less about our daily companions than we do about what's hiding in the leaf ...more
Elizabeth Theiss Smith
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, nonfiction
When my kids were young, we had a beloved and much-thumbed book called The Secret House. It was a lot of electron microscope photos of the rather appalling creatures that live on our carpets, in our refrigerators, beds, and dark corners. If you’ve ever seen a dust mite enlarged and up close, you know exactly what I mean. Rob Dunn has written a fascinating, entertaining, and yeah, at moments almost scary account of the microbes that inhabit our homes. This is science writing at its very best in t ...more
May 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
4.5 to 5 stars. Fascinating. After reading this book, I'm now opening windows more, and searching the house with a magnifier, eyeing little moths and the ants that are scouting our kitchen counter. And where did our Daddy-Long-Legs go -- our constant companions and pets that used to hang out in the bathroom? I'll have to bring a few in from the garage.

Maybe I'll even get off the couch and read a book outside among the flowers and grass. A big step for this troglodyte!

Thanks, Rob, for expanding
Kam Yung Soh
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, nature
A fascinating book on the bacteria, fungus, arthropods, etc. that inhabit our homes and also on us. At first glance, this might look bad and your first though is how to get rid of them. But as the author shows, this is the wrong reaction. Instead, most of those inhabitants are usually harmless and are actually helpful to us as they inhabit living spaces and help deny that space to the few pathogens that could harm us. In short, having them in our homes can lead to a healthy home with few pathoge ...more
I took a quiz once that said I am 77% gross, but maybe that's actually a good thing?

I found this book suuuuper interesting, and now I want to plant a ton of things in the back yard, leave the windows open all the time, and start making sourdough. We'll see how far I actually get with any of these items, but in any case, this book definitely left me with a lot of curiosity about the microscopic (and not-so-microscopic) life surrounding me at all times.

It also made me feel pretty dang good about
Camelia Rose
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, science
This book is about the creatures living inside our homes--from microbes, fungi, insects, to pets and what pets bring into our home. Some topics I have read before, such as the hygiene hypothesis, our losing battle of killing bacteria with antibiotics, and the recently revived treatment of using probiotics to prevent bacteria infection.

A lot of topics are new to me. For example, why the International Space Station smells like rotten apple and armpit? Both the study of mycobacteria in the showerh
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this on audio. I got about 80% of the way through, then had to return it to the library so I read it in two parts.

What I expected from this book: To learn about the different critters that live in domestic settings. Maybe get more comfortable with sharing my space with some daddy longlegs.

What I got from this book: I learned interesting facts about mammals and insects that live in our homes. It greatly reduced my fear of black widow spiders and developed a grudging respect for co
Alicia Bayer
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books that I've read in years, which is really surprising as it's about all the bugs, bacteria and creepy crawlies that we live with in our homes. It's an utterly fascinating book not just about all the life that lives around us, but how vitally important most of it is to our health -- how we're screwing up our immune systems and creating problems by trying to kill everything.

Dunn is a passionate scientist and the kind of writer who pulls you into his enthusiasm and w
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology, science, ethology
This was an OK book. Good thing it was not longer... It had somewhat jumbled formatting; the author goes off on many tangents here.
The book was also not what I expected. I was expecting a book detailing the many small creatures that live in your home. Instead, it is more a detailed discussion of the microscopic; lots of talk of various bacteria, and fungi.
I felt that the book lacked a coherent thesis, point, and/or direction. It is just a collection of various writings.
Some interesting info here
I found this book really frustrating. I have a problem with nonfiction books that claim to be about one thing but actually aren't, and that's the case with this one. It claims to "introduce us to the nearly 200,000 species living with us in our own homes", but it doesn't do that, not nearly. It is actually a collection of accounts about scientist-author Dunn's research on a limited handful of species, some (but not all) of which happen to live in our houses. It's basically his greatest hits of h ...more
Mark Nenadov
Dec 17, 2019 added it
Shelves: wildlife
A fascinating look at the 200,000 or so species that live on you and in your home. I am not in a position to evaluate the research, but it is definitely amusing and pretty in-depth. The author is definitely most interested in microscopic life and spends very little time on larger vertebrates, mostly only mentioning them in the context of the parasites they have. There is also a significant discussion of early microscopy. One fascinating subject which the author toys with: Are there any advantage ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not what I expected (a catalog of insects living in our houses), concentrating more on the science and discovery of life around and on us. This will not give you nightmares, if anything the opposite, maybe make you ease up on the scrubbing. Bless these researchers doing this amazing work.
Aug 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-misc
In Costa Rica, it is a safe assumption that what you see beneath a leaf has rarely or even never been studied and that anything you might notice about its biology is new to science. For the species in homes, it increasingly appears that the same is true too. With one difference. Many thousands of scientists, and millions of people more generally, are likely to have seen the species you see in your house. They have just failed to pay much attention.

No matter how quiet or clean or lifeless we thin
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, science
The full title of this book is quite a mouthful: Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live. That's a tall order that the title promises to fulfill but Rob Dunn manages to do it.

The aim of his book is to explore the biosphere that comprises all the critters that live on and in our bodies and that share our houses with us. After years of sampling and cataloging this biosphere, he and his colleagues found what he describes as
Sondra Brooks
Aug 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I bet you didn't know you have hundreds and possibly thousands living in your home. Good thing having such diversity in your living quarters is actually good for you! Apparently, the more we try to kill, sweep away, clean, and poison all those critters, the more of a disservice we do ourselves. I, for one, am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon and leave more germs, bugs, and dust in my home. Hey, I do anyway, and it's great for your immune system to expose yourself to dirt a ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rob Dunn writes with a lot of passion about the little critters that live in your household. He very much enjoys his work as a scientist and this is clear in his writing. The chapters are short and the content is just fine for the layperson to understand.

This book's main theme (which seems to appear in multiple books) is that biodiversity is good and healthy, and a lack of it is detrimental in ways we don't entirely understand. Okay, so that's actually not a very novel theme if you look through
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the most interesting book I’ve ever read. Ever! I hope folks can get over the “ick” factor and read this. It has fascinating stories that has lit my desire to delve more into science. The author has a relaxed and humorous way of telling us about amazing discoveries he and others have found when studying what is right under our noses! Little did I know that what is inside our homes is still the
undiscovered frontier of science!

After reading, we fully understand how most of what we encoun
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home, nonfiction, science
While largely a summary of his and his colleagues’ research from NC State University, this is an interesting book that inspires deeper appreciation for the many species we live alongside. (In particular, I now have a sincere sense of gratitude for the many spiders in my home and shall further swear off the practice of killing any I see. If you’re creeped out by bugs in your house, preserve your spiders! They are your best defense.) Dunn urges us to encourage greater biodiversity in our homes and ...more
Peggy McCoy
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved watching Rob Dunn's mind work as I went through this book. The sheer amount and diversity of living things in our homes was breathtaking.
Each chapter was a powerful argument for preserving biodiversity in our lives.
I loved that the bakers hand microbes were unique and matched those in their starters.
All of the research done in this book sounded like so much fun to plan and do, I'd like to be one of his citizen samplers!
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not allowed to tell Shawn anything about what I learned in this book, and if that isn't review enough then I'm not sure what else to tell you. Recommended for: the bravely curious. ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but I wanted more about spiders, and anything about house centipedes. Also now I want to make sourdough and find out what my hand and house microbes taste like.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book took awhile to finish partly because I misplaced it but also because it is non-fiction and somewhat scientific in nature so therefore by nature reads more slowly. That being said don't let my description scare you off - it isn't so scientific that lay people won't understand it, in fact that is the point of the book to be read by lay people to better understand their immediate home environments. This is a fascinating look into the micro and macroscopic flora and fauna of our own homes ...more
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Robert Dunn is a biologist, writer and professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University.

He has written several books and his science essays have appeared at magazines such as BBC Wildlife Magazine, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic and others. He has become known for efforts to involve the public as citizen scientists.

Dunn's writings h

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