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Never Home Alone
Cover of Never Home Alone
Never Home Alone
From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live
by Rob Dunn
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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.
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.
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About the Author-
  • Rob Dunn is a professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and in the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. He is also the author of five books. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 20, 2018
    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.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2018
    A paean to biodiversity by a biologist who sees salvation in cultivating life's infinite variety.Dunn (Applied Ecology/North Carolina State Univ.; Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future, 2017, etc.) reports on an impressively wide variety of fascinating creatures all over the world. For example, your hot water heater is home to the same thermal-loving bacteria found in hot springs. That cricket in the basement lives a meager existence, mostly eating dead stuff. The showerhead in your bathroom is a perfect biofilm sheltering bacteria not killed by chlorination. The learning quotient is high in this fact-filled text, but there are also opportunities for learning more, since, as the author notes, specialists tend to study exotic bugs in faraway places, ignoring what is literally underfoot. Who knew that those camel crickets in the basement have gut bacteria that could devour industrial waste? Dunn estimates that there are 250,0000 species that live with us, and most are benign or beneficial. Yet we often choose to kill them, with pesticides for the cockroaches, fleas, flies, and mosquitoes, and antibiotics for disease pathogens, resulting in resistance as well as much collateral damage to other life. Our zeal for sanitation has led to an increase in allergies and asthma, manifested by an overreactive immune response known as the hygiene hypothesis, for which Dunn presents good evidence. The author also discusses pets; whatever the cat dragged in might alter readers' behavior toward their feline friends. For a change of pace, Dunn provides a chapter on the fermenting bacteria and yeasts that give us beer, wine, and foods like kimchi and sourdough bread. The surprise is that long-time preparers of these foods impart unique flavor to the products because their hands acquire some of the same fermenting species not normally found on skin.Of course we must chlorinate our water, wash our hands, get vaccinated, and so on, Dunn argues persuasively and entertainingly. But we also need to relax and cultivate biodiversity for the good of all life on Earth.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2018

    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, LLC Used with permission.

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