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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

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  343 ratings  ·  82 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 mot
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Basic Books
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  343 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Petra Eggs
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
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
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 did
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
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
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 studies 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? Think about that...

OK, so modern domestic microbiology dates to the late 2oth C, when Thomas Brock https://en.
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
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, science
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
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
NEVER HOME ALONE. (2018). Rob Dunn. ***1/2.
The author has grabbed his chance to explore his house and its unintended occupants. His day job is as a professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University, along with a position at the Natural History Museum at the University of Copenhagen. He has written before, and demonstrates his skill through this book. We all live in houses that are also inhabited by a variety of other species. Some are bad for you, while others are good for you. Mos
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
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
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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!
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is perfect for anyone high school age on up who have an interest in weird biology. Everything from Toxoplasma gondii which we already all try to ignore to the many, many little critters that we can't see and I'm all skeeved out by now. The microbes that live in hot water heaters and shower heads are particularly worrisome to me. I also enjoyed the chapter on the International Space Station. It is so exciting how most of the microbes caught a ride up there in the astronauts gut. You kno ...more
Jenni Link
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is second only to The Hidden Life of Trees as the most eye-opening and inspiring popular science book I've read in the last five years. Not only is the average person completely oblivious to the wide variety of insects, arachnids, and microorganisms sharing our homes; it turns out that the scientific community is, too. Very little study has been done of indoor ecology, even though the average citizen of a developed nation now spends 93% of his or her time indoors. If you are interested in k ...more
Leonard Kim
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Listened to audiobook. There are parts that positively soar with the joy and excitement of scientific curiosity and discovery. Rob Dunn should write a children's book. This one already is almost one, especially in those parts where he addresses the reader, telling them about some fascinating, unanswered question and encouraging them to be the one to answer it someday. I'm thinking of buying this for my 10-year-old.
Paul Brandwein
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an entertaining, informative book about the biodiversity inside our homes. I really enjoyed reading about the research as well as the discoveries about all the creatures that live with, on, and inside us.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just confirmation that we will never have a non- human animal living in our house!
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is good. I can’t say if the science is good, because I know nothing, but it’s really interesting to read about all the things living with us. I think of the little creatures in my water all the time now.
NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

Never Home Alone explores the variety of life that shares our living spaces with us, from microbes and fungi, to insects and other arthropods; as well as the ways in which those lifeforms are evolving. This is a well written, popular science book that shows us that the ecosystems in our homes are more diverse than we may suspect, and that most of our co-inhabitants are beneficial o
James (JD) Dittes
In a series of related essays, Dunn looks at all aspects of life within the home. He has fashioned for himself a very clever area of expertise where--instead of exploring the ends of the earth for new species--he has found abundant life to study in his back hard and in his basement!

Dunn takes the readers from the slime inside the shower spigot (where he realizes that water-treatment may be killing the wrong (i.e. good) kinds of bacteria and failing to remove all the pathogens) to the bugs and re
Maureen Forys
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Five stars because I love a non-fiction book that completely changes my perspective on a topic and destroys the common wisdom I accepted as fact for years and years! This book explores all the tiny things that live in/on/with humans as we've become a primarily indoor species. All the insects, parasites, and critters who thrive in the same environments we do.

Here are some things I will take with me forever:
-Biodiversity helps humans thrive. The more species and organisms we have access and exposu
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is about all the bugs and bacteria that live in your house that you don't even know are there. Despite how off-putting that sounds, it's really not about that and didn't give me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies at all... it's about how we have excised biodiversity from our modern lives with bug killer, weed killer, and antibiotics--and how we are worse off because of it. How many more people have allergies than in past decades? Could it have something to do with our overly-sterile ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
So many shelves because this book covers that many topics. I picked it up because I have a house, and I know there are crickets, spiders, etc. in it and I thought this would be a quick and entertaining read. What do house centipedes eat? Where do they live (well, in my basement with forays up into the bathroom). Etc. It turned out quite different.

Not all animals and whatnots that live in a house are covered (just as well because there are so many species of bacteria, mold, etc.) Dunn instead loo
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
Never Home Alone by biologist Rob Dunn is about all the life forms in our homes and how we interact with them. Mostly we try to kill them because we think they’re bad. The pathogens ARE nasty, and by eradicating them we have saved many lives - but now we’ve gone too far.

Some of the issues Dunn explores have penetrated my consciousness over the years, like how our sanitized indoor lifestyles deprive us of the biodiversity our bodies need to operate efficiently, leading to allergies, asthma, and c
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I was taking biology in university our crew would often sit next to the English majors in the cafeteria. When we started talking about the moulds or parasites we had learned about our table mates would look queasy and leave their lunches unfinished. This book brought back those fond memories.

Another in a line of books that examines the world around us and within us, Never Home Alone is more in-depth in its approach. As a practicing scientist Dunn's approach is less an retelling of other pe
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soooooo good! Whole worlds have opened up to me and they exist in my house. These worlds are: in the showerhead (hitting me with a shot of serotonin in the morning), on my dog (helping my children not get allergies or asthma & bringing greater biodiversity into the house), amongst the home's arthropods eating pathogen-spreading flies, and on my face (where the dust eating mites get that dust eating on). I loved this book's chatty but scientific explanations. I also loved how the author gave ...more
Heather Hawk
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loving it. I couldn't wait to review it, even while I'm only 70% through it. If you liked Jared Diamond but craved better story-telling, this is for you. I love that there is so much history as well as ongoing science portrayed in a very compelling story-telling manner, and the first-person narrative makes it very easy to relate to. Full disclosure, I am a scientist well-versed in molecular, microscopic, and biogeographical techniques, but I appreciated that the intended audience was not a scien ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
My basic understanding of microbes is that exposure to them at least outside enhances the immune system. I didn't appreciate that this also occurs within one's house. I've always been loathe to kill spiders and usually tenderly scoop them up tossing them outside gently covered with toilet paper so they can run away, probably right back into the house. Ron Dunn's book supports my theory: don't kill spiders! They're your friend, won't bite and generally mind their own business which is cleaning yo ...more
Christina Dudley
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Even though I had to skim by the end because the book was due back, this was a funny and informative and even inspiring book about all the little species we share our homes with. Bacteria, fungi, insects. Hundreds and even thousands of species, a few of them harmful under the right circumstances, but the others still somewhat mysterious. After reading this book, I feel nervous about the drywall in the garage that got wet (drywall that gets wet is perfect for the flourishing of fungus spores alre ...more
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