Never home alone From microbes to millipedes, camel crickets, and honeybees, the natural history of where we live

Rob R. Dunn

Book - 2018

A natural history of the wilderness in our homes, from the microbes in our showers to the crickets in our basements.

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2nd Floor 570/Dunn Checked In
2nd Floor 570/Dunn Checked In
New York, NY : Basic Books [2018]
First edition
Physical Description
vii, 323 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Rob R. Dunn (author)
  • Prologue: Homo indoorus
  • Wonder
  • The hot spring in the basement
  • Seeing in the dark
  • Absence as a disease
  • Bathing in a stream of life
  • The problem with abundance
  • The far sighted ecologist
  • What good is a camel cricket?
  • The problem with cockroaches is us
  • Look what the cat dragged in
  • Gardening the bodies of babies
  • The flavor of biodiversity.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Ecologist Dunn scores a direct hit on the deepest fears of most readers in the opening pages of this scintillating title. While studying the life-forms found within human homes around the world, he and his fellow researchers discovered mind-boggling numbers: more than 200,000 species are living with us. The typical response to this figure is to, as Dunn writes, "go home and scrub, and then scrub some more." But his delightfully informative message is that the overwhelming number of these mostly microscopic entities are beneficial. But humans have relentlessly sought to eradicate them through the development of increasingly more powerful chemicals, efforts that have, instead, aided the creatures we do need to remove (cockroaches!) and created some significantly negative side effects for people. In one surprising chapter, Dunn reaches back in history to show how long scientists have studied in-home life and how long it has been misconstrued as dangerous. Then, in clear, concise, and often witty language, he covers the ongoing work of multiple scientists and researchers, providing dozens of examples that will be readily accessible to readers. In a time of clear-eyed assessment of the environment, Dunn is a voice of reason who should be heartily welcomed. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Dunn (North Carolina State Univ.) has written a book that is as much about the process and advancements of science as it is about the dynamic, microscopic life coexisting with us in our homes. The prologue sets the stage for the rest of the book by stressing that our health and well-being are strongly tied to other organisms living inside our homes, about which we know very little. Ultimately, Dunn aims to inspire awe from his readers rather than disgust and, although the information is somewhat unsettling at times, he generally accomplishes this aim by providing interesting contextualization and explanations for the information presented throughout. The volume's conversational tone makes it easy to read and accessible to a broad audience. Dunn's descriptions of his and other people's research experiences, along with the connections that are made between our knowledge about microbial communities and modern science, make this book an excellent fit for undergraduates. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels and general readers.--S. McCarragher, University of Tennessee at ChattanoogaShannon McCarragherUniversity of Tennessee at Chattanooga Shannon McCarragher Choice Reviews 56:08 April 2019 Copyright 2019 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Dunn (applied ecology, North Carolina State Univ.; Every Living Thing) takes readers on an entertaining tour of the biodiversity found in one of the fastest-growing biomes: indoors, identifying some 200,000-plus species that share our homes. While pathogens have been studied, many more potentially beneficial species remain virtually unknown. Dunn has looked for life-forms in basements, showerheads, drains, drywall, windowsills, light fixtures, behind toilets, and under beds. Ever curious, the author imagines the benefit of something as simple as a camel cricket to humanity and then constructs experiments to get the answers. Overseeing a study of sourdough bread baking, he concluded that each sourdough starter was slightly different and contained microbes from the hands of the baker, influencing its flavor. Dunn cautions that sterilizing everything means losing valuable life-forms. He encourages readers to become aware of the wondrous life all around us. VERDICT This book will be enjoyed by biologists but also general readers with an appreciation for nature.—Caren Nichter, Univ. of Tennessee at Martin Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Those who read this delightfully entertaining and scientifically enlightening book about the thousands of creatures who live alongside humans will never think about their homes in the same way again. As Dunn (Never Out of Season), an ecologist at North Carolina State University, demonstrates via his own fascinating research, houses abound with nonhuman life. When people shower, they're covering themselves with multiple species of bacteria. Drywall is impregnated with fungi just waiting for moisture to grow and, as Dunn says, "Their patience is great." And, of course, pets bring in additional multitudes. But, Dunn explains, the vast majority of these organisms pose no threat, and many help enormously. "Fewer than a hundred species of bacteria, viruses, and protists cause nearly all of the infectious illnesses in the world," though millions of such species exist. Indeed, Dunn plausibly argues that humans are healthier when surrounded by many other species, and are "as likely to be sick from the bacteria we don't have as from the bacteria or parasites we do." Throughout, he makes a compelling case for the value of biodiversity, while also conveying the excitement of scientific investigation, demonstrating that important discoveries can be made very close to home. (Nov.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Documents the thousands of species living in human homes and argues that obsessively sterilizing the home reshapes organisms that live with us, making some more dangerous.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A distinguished biologist presents a natural history of the wilderness in everyday homes, revealing the presence of some 200,000 species, from shower microbes to cupboard moths, including many who benefit human health. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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 moths in our cupboards and camel crickets in our basements to the lactobacillus lounging on our kitchen counters. You are not alone. Yet, as we obsess over sterilizing our homes and separating our spaces from nature, we are unwittingly cultivating an entirely new playground for evolution. These changes are reshaping the organisms that live with us -- prompting some to become more dangerous, while undermining those species that benefit our bodies or help us keep more threatening organisms at bay. No one who reads this engrossing, revelatory book will look at their homes in the same way again.