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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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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 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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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 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra X on hiatus (or trying to be)

    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 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 increase in autoimmune diseases in humans, asthma, multiple sclerosis and Crone's disease. He says that this is due to our lack of biodiversity in cities where houses are kept too clean, there are too few plants and most people live their lives indoors. (The author is really big on biodiversity). He suggests that people should have plants indoors and outdoors and possibly even a cow at the back door to improve the biodiversity and strengthen their immune systems against these 'modern' diseases. But he didn't look at the rates of these diseases in places of plenty of biodiversity. I live in a 'rainforest' (scrub, post Irma, not one in a 100 trees survived), wild chickens harass me outside my kitchen door cows regularly wander in the garden and eat the flowers and leave cow pats from which sometimes, magic mushrooms grow. That's pretty biodiverse. The island has very high rates of asthma and also proportionate rates of the other autoimmune diseases. The second issue. The author is discussing water and the vast amount of life that lives in it that is not invisible to us but makes a mockery of the phrase 'pure water'. He is discussing bathing from a shower and initiates a huge project of counting the microbes (by swabs) that live in shower heads, the results of which he is going to apply to all showerheads everywhere. Until the Germans start writing to his research facility saying that they have showerheads on the ends of flexible hoses and not fixed ones (as in the US). The author says he discovers that this is true over most of Europe and that means the US showerhead microbial life results will not necessarily apply to other types of showerhead. (The author really mocks the Germans trying to get hold of him, a sour note). Connected to this is the author's discussion of people's personal cleanliness and how we are part of the Greco-Roman tradition of bathing as both a means of getting clean and kind of 'godly', pure, it being a Good Thing to bathe. This is a historical accident. If you aren't part of the Greco-Roman descendent culture you may not bathe so often or perhaps even more so. The author details just how dirty people in past times were in the UK, citing such phrases as the 'Queen took a bath once a year, "whether she needed it or not"'. Thanks to Ian Mortimer's excellent books on medieval, Tudor and Elizabethan England, I know that people cleaned themselves once or twice daily with linen, which absorbs sweat and grease and is an excellent cleaner of skin. The linen was of course laundered after use. The author did not know this. and so his conclusions about the cleanliness of people in historical periods was inaccurate. Just because you don't bathe, doesn't mean you are dirty! After that I read the chapter on cockroaches and felt duly sickened. These are horrible, useless nasty creatures. Kafka said it best in The Metamorphosis. No one wants to put up with even one, whatever size it might be, in their house, biodiversity or not!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    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 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 didn't stop grocery shopping, make me need to then sterilise everything once I brought it home. Because. You know. The cashier touched it after she touched that $5 bill of the person in front of me, and said money, who knows where it's been? Think about it; it just might have spent any number of minutes in the crack of some stripper's ass. I mean, you never know what they're going to talk about in a book about tiny things. On second thought though, I decided to read the book for 3 reasons. 1. It's also about insects, most of which fascinate me 2. I love to learn anything new and the microscopic world is something I don't know much about. 3. I figured if there are good things to be known about bacteria, etc. it would probably also be in this book and maybe, just maybe, lessen my intense fear of microbes. Well! This turned out to be the best non-fiction book I've read this year! Granted, I haven't read all that many yet this year, so let's say it's the best I've read in months. I learned something new on just about every single page. Rob Dunn talks a bit about so many different tiny things that inhabit our world, live with us and on us, and often help us. He found that there are over 200,000 species living with us and talks about several of them in this book. From bacteria to fungi and from camel crickets to German roaches, we are taken on a fascinating journey into the world of the small. As a germophobe, it was reassuring for me to learn that of the probable trillion species of bacteria on earth, there are only about 50 of them known to cause illness in human beings. Many of them are even helpful for us and the more microbes on our skin and in our homes, the healthier we usually are. Our war on "germs" and insects often create much bigger problems in the form of stronger and more resistant species. By using antibacterial soap, rather than old-fashioned regular soap and water, we are killing off the GOOD microbes, of which we WANT to have. I've heard before that we shouldn't use antibacterial soap, but never why we shouldn't. Now that I know, I'll never purchase it again. For those who hate insects, Mr. Dunn points out the many benefits of having them around, especially spiders. By trying to keep all insects out of our homes, we are left with infestations of ever-resistant bedbugs and German cockroaches. It's actually very rare for most spiders to bite human beings and many of the "bites" people think they get and are often misdiagnosed with by doctors, are not bites at all but MRSA on the skin causing an infection. In general, spiders will refrain from biting anything that is not food; it is energy-expensive for them to waste their precious venom on humans. I could go on and on and on about all of the things I learned in this book. Who knew (OK maybe you did, but I didn't) that the slime in our shower heads is actually bacteria poop??! Yeh, that's rather gross and we really don't want it in our shower heads but it's interesting to learn about. Another thing I found most interesting because roaches are one insect that really gross me out, is that there is not one documented case of a human becoming sick from microbes carried by a roach. Also, there is only one species of roach, the German cockroach, that lives with us and the only problem it causes for us (aside from grossing us out) is that many people are allergic to them. Who knew (OK, maybe you did again, you who are nerdier than I!) that there are cheese mites which aid in the process of cheese-making, and breads and other foods that are made by hand acquire different tastes, even when made with the same ingredients, because the microbes living on our skin adds to the over-all flavour? I found this book to be so exciting to read. Rob Dunn is a professor of applied ecology and carried out many experiments whilst writing this book. He is a well of information and writes in such a clear and passionate way that I now wish I was an ecologist! If you enjoy learning new things, you will not be disappointed with this book. I highly recommend it! Oh, and just in case you're wondering -- Mr. Dunn does NOT discuss the various microbes on that dollar bill which spent time in the stripper's ass. Sorry, but if you're wondering about that, you'll have to look in another book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    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 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 your house, and keep pets in the house. “Fewer than a hundred species of bacteria, viruses and protists cause nearly all of the infectious illnesses in the world.” Unfortunately, these guys also are some of the toughest microbes to get rid of. So—when we chlorinate the water, and douse our houses and bodies with antiseptics; we actually kill off the natural predators that would keep these bad microbes at bay. And who knew there were so many fungi living in our homes? Drywall is impregnated with fungi, just waiting for moisture to allow it to grow. Indeed, there is some indication that fungi hidden inside drywall might be connected to the causes of Parkinson’s. And that funny smell you notice when you turn on the air conditioning—those are fungi exhaling. Dunn cautions us about the parasite toxoplasma gondii found in cat feces. When healthy adults acquire the parasite, it can alter their personality—including being 24% more likely to result in schizophrenia. Dogs don’t get off completely though, the main cause of tapeworms is having a dog lick your face. And did you know that all of us have face mites? Yuck!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    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. 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Finally, a new pop-science book that clicked at Chap. 1! Great stories of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonie..., 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 Finally, a new pop-science book that clicked at Chap. 1! Great stories of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonie..., 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 Thomas Brock https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_... discovered Thermus aquaticus, the first extremophile bacteria that anyone figured out how to culture in the lab: grow it at temps >70 deg C (122 deg F)! Plus, T. aquaticus turned out to be the source for a high-temp polymerase to make the PCR reaction practical. This was a Really Big Thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymer... And this is just Chapters 1 & 2! Wow. This is my favorite sort of pop-science book, one written by a working scientist who is enthusiastic about what he does. I like his informal and irreverent tone. His actual work tends toward yucky stuff — gunk growing in your showerhead! Parasite mind control! Pest control by spider nests! About here, I stalled out for quite awhile. There's a definite Yuck factor in this book.... He’s good about acknowledging coworkers and student contributions, right down to undergraduate helpers. And a striking number of his fellow biologists and ecologists are women. Here's Anne Madden, https://anneamadden.wordpress.com/, who studied wasps for her Ph.D: “she would cut down live, buzzing wasp nests, which she would then drop (quickly) into a bag, and take back to her lab on her motorcycle.” Wow. Bold soul! More highlights from my notes: Be careful about trying to kill all the pests )be careful what you wish for!). Chlorinating water does kill the harmful bacteria, but (of course) what’s left are the microbes that are resistant to chlorine. Some of which themselves may cause harm. Doh. His cautionary cockroach story is eye-opening — it’s amazing (and disheartening) how quickly they evolve pesticide resistance. And lots more! “Gardening” good microbes on newborn babies’ skin to ward off a staph infection, back in the 1950s. Studying how sourdough starters work and how diverse they are — it turns out the bakers’ hands have been colonized by the microbes in their starters. And on and on. Recommended, if you can get past the squick factor. 4 stars: high marks.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    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 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 Leeuwenhoek first saw the invisible (to the naked eye) creatures that surround us through his microscope. Although we often think of these microbes as dangerous and disease bearing, that is not true in the majority of instances. There are many that are helpful to human and plant life and assist in maintaining a balance in nature. The author also touches rather too briefly the household "pests" that we can see and really do not need to kill......the tiny spiders that eat gnats for instance. But we usually make the decision to kill the spiders and take care of the gnats ourselves........and such is the cycle of life. An informative look at the world we cannot see.

  7. 4 out of 5

    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 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 through a Dutch early scientist Leeuwenhoek who made his own glass microscopes and tubes to study pepper grains in water; he explored living bacteria and protists. By way of John Snow and London's cholera, through the alleyways of tuberculosis and the slime inside shower heads. Eventually we turn up cockroaches and find that sweet baits caused a variant with a dislike for sweet tastes to evolve into the resident strain very fast, independently, in many homes. How do we know this? An unfortunate researcher spent three years... I'll let you read that for yourself. The range of scientists is astounding as we meet dung beetle experts, ant discoverers, fungi fans, termite troublers, house cleaning fanatics, prehistoric human specialists and more. The theme boils down to the fact that the more we clean our indoor environments, the more we impoverish our outdoor environments from biodiverse farm and wood, the more diseases and auto-immune conditions we risk. We need biodiversity in the microbiome. The accounts of studies comparing Amish and Hutterite children, Finnish forest cabins and Helsinki apartments, come relatively early and we spend the rest of the book absorbing reinforcements. When I was growing up it was already well known that girls with brothers, and kids with dogs, were healthier because they had broader immune systems than those without. This book won't be for everyone but it's readable, wry and packed. The references are on P263 - 307 in my ARC. As everyone is listed by first initial instead of name I was unable to count how many women were credited; but women researchers feature largely through the pages. Several photos, graphs and other illustrations are very helpful. I downloaded this e-ARC from Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    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 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 fascinating both for the results & just how ignorant it shows us to be. It's truly amazing what we don't know that we don't know. Someone should, but they don't & he explains why. He covers some of his life & starts each chapter with some great quotes, often from Darwin. Highly recommended despite the repetition because the message is great & the information wonderful. We need to work with nature, not against it as we have been. Some more details after each chapter listed below. Table of Contents Prologue: Homo indoorus - Folks in the US spend 93% of their lives indoors! I didn't believe it, but thought about it & asked around. I think it's true, especially if you consider the car 'indoors' & he makes a good case for that. These semi-controlled environments still teem with life. 1 Wonder - introduces the microscopic world through Antonie van Leeuwenhoek a pioneer in the discovery of microscopic life. Dunn does a great job showing just how cool that world is & how it inspired him to be a scientist. He also made me grind my teeth in frustration when he twice mentions us using same magnification to see the same things & then never mentions what magnification that is. Apparently it's 275x-500x & mine only goes up to 200x. Sigh. 2 The Hot Spring in the Basement - showcases remarkable finds in hot water heaters. He traces the unexpected presence of one family of bacteria & uses it to educate on reading DNA. Very well done & in a perfect place since this is important throughout the book. 3 Seeing in the Dark - describes how his experiment to list all the life in a house came about & the experiment itself. Huge undertaking with incredible results. The diversity of species & where they naturally occur is well shown. I’ll return often in this book to the question of just what happens when we try to get rid of all of the biodiversity in our houses. Boy, does he ever. It's a good lesson, but terribly repetitious. 4 Absence as a Disease - He starts out describing the cholera epidemic in 1850s London (described in tedious detail in The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World) & how it eventually changed our reaction to bacteria - Kill them all! Bad idea & it may well be responsible for the increase in Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, allergies, and even multiple sclerosis today. We're not exposed to enough different bacteria (of any sort, not just pathogens) early enough so our immune systems over react. It's a good hypothesis, but tough to pin down experimentally. 5 Bathing in a Stream of Life - is also discussed in more detail in I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, but Dunn does a good enough job in his limited space. He also made me aware of a possible personal issue - mycobacterim of the non-TB type that could be causing me issues. 6 The Problem with Abundance - black mold is a huge problem in houses. Where does it come from? He has a pretty good, if ugly, answer. Even the ISS isn't devoid of fungus & it can't be, but it is an ecosystem out of balance. 7 The Farsighted Ecologist - Ecologists are professionally far sighted; they see species in remote locales more clearly than those closer at hand. Farsightedness sounds like a good thing, but it isn’t when it means missing what is most immediate. In New York City, for example, scientists have taken many samples of animals in the forests surrounding the city, but far fewer in the city itself. Again, we're overlooking the obvious something covered in chapter 3, but with a slightly different angle of attack. 8 What Good Is a Camel Cricket? - I loved his reference to Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs. It's a great book & illustrates how even today citizen scientists can be important. Hubbell's pets have been studied a bit more, but the map was out of whack. Why were they in some basements & not others in that sort of distribution? Oh, they weren't. The crickets were actually a Japanese species we hadn't known were even in the US! Great lesson, but we also found that they have gut bacteria that might be great for cleaning up plastics. 9 The Problem with Cockroaches Is Us - Yes, he's serious & he uses them to illustrate the incredible resilience of life. If we don't kill it all (& we rarely do in the case of pests) we create resistant strains amazingly quickly. These strains usually don't compete well with others in their environmental niche, but we help them since they are good at surviving biocides. 10 Look What the Cat Dragged In - Way too much on Toxoplasma gondii for me, but I recently read Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal about Our World--And Ourselves which discussed it & even wilder parasitic control. (Highly recommended.) 11 Gardening the Bodies of Babies - Bad staph infections that were resistant to antibiotics were often cured by seeding good staph on babies first. This is the crux of his argument for biodiversity. Good staph was well established in the niche the bad staph wanted to inhabit. The bad couldn't get a grip since the good staph fought it off. We're going to have bugs, let's make sure it's good bugs & that was almost the course of medicine back in 1960 or so, but a death & some bad turns ruined it, so we stuck with the chemical nuclear option which hasn't worked out well & is becoming more precarious all the time. A big part of that is our incredible ignorance of what is good. We only seem to study the bad. 12 The Flavor of Biodiversity - When I was a kid, Mom often got 'starters' from various farm wives around. Some wouldn't give theirs up just like they took their recipes to the grave. Others were proud to pass theirs along. I knew they were all different & Dunn describes why through an experiment in sourdough bread. A serious, multinational experiment. Wow! Really interesting. If you read it, you'll likely make your own starter. All in all, a great read & highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    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 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 litter of rainforest in Costa Rica. As an example, just a few years ago a new species of frog was discovered living in NYC – and if you know anything about biology, you know how rare it is for new vertebrate species to be discovered, much less new species in one of the most densely populated areas in the USA. Dunn is himself a scientist who has been working to correct this, by studying human homes as a type of important and widespread habitat. He's led or participated in projects looking at topics as varied as microbes adapted to live in hot water heaters, the biofilm of bacteria in shower heads (yup, sorry, every time you shower you're dosing yourself with bacteria, though possibly some of them have a serotonin-boosting effect), camel crickets in basements and the bacteria in their guts, black mold in drywall, cockroach evolution (did you know German cockroaches – the main species who bother humans – no longer have any wild populations, anywhere in the world, but only live in human habitations?), bacteria in babies' noses, and the various fungi and microbes infesting the International Space Station, mostly carried there on astronauts' skin or in their guts. But if you're feeling the urge to immediately douse yourself in bleach, don't. Dunn repeatedly makes the point that the vast majority of biodiversity around us is harmless, and cleaning it away may be doing us more damage than leaving it alone. Whether it's an uptick in rates of allergies and asthma as children are no longer exposed to potential triggers, or that the lack of predators and competitors gives the few actually dangerous pathogens (such as those cockroaches, not to mention antibiotic-resistant Staph) an advantage, all those gross-sounding but innocuous microbes around us are playing an important role. It's not a perfect book; I particularly was disappointed that Dunn spends a whole chapter on Toxoplasma gondii (the parasite that spreads through cat feces and triggers risky behavior in rats and mice, making them more likely to be eaten), since I think anyone with an interest in 'weird biology' is probably already very familiar with it. But despite that, I really enjoyed Never Home Alone, and would highly recommend to any other weird biology fans. I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Theiss

    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 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 the form of well told stories with mostly microbes as the protagonists. One of my favorite chapters tells how scientists learned slowly but surely about the role that humans and mice play in the life cycle of the toxoplasmosis bacterium, which can only reproduce inside cats. In order to reproduce, toxoplasmosis must convince it’s temporary host to be eaten by a cat. As it turns out, mice infected with this particular bacteria are hyperactive and unafraid of cats. They are attracted to the smell of cat pee. How did the bacteria learn this trick and why are infected humans more likely to engage in risky behaviors and not mind the smell of cat pee? Hint: Think about evolution and the possibility that bacteria might be very, very manipulative. Never Home Alone is a feast of engaging and surprising science stories like this one, told in such a way that a nonspecialist layperson can understand and enjoy them. It has in one week become one of my favorite science books of all time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kam Yung Soh

    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 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 pathogens. The challenge of how to do that is left an an exercise for the reader who will probably get some ideas after reading this book. Chapter One starts with the history of observations in microscopic life done by Antony van Leeuwenhoek. He uses his microscope to look at anything around him but it was when he was looking at pepper soaked water that he would become the first person to see the protist, single celled organisms. With time, he would see the smaller bacteria and make numerous other microscopic observations. But it would come to an end with his death as his observations are not followed up by others. With the discovery of some pathogens, the microscopic world in our homes would come to be seen as an enemy to be controlled, rather than an environment to be observed. Chapter Two starts at a geyser in Iceland, where one of the first cyanobacterial (bacteria that use chemicals from hot springs and geysers to live and don't depend on the sun's energy) was discovered in its hot water in the 1960s. It was while studying the bacteria that scientists get the idea of testing whether similar bacteria could be found in hot environments around the house, like the coffee maker. Indeed, it was eventually found to be living in hot water heater. Since then it and other kinds of bacteria that thrive only in hot environments have been found. The bacteria would then find a role in another kind of revolution: as a way to amplify and identify DNA found in the environment using the technique of PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which depends on a protein that can operate at high temperatures that came from the bacteria. PCR would become a vital technique required to discover the numerous bacteria that live in the environment that previously was not known as they could not be grown in cultures. Chapter Three covers the author's interest in discovering just what kind of living things can be found in our homes. It starts with the unexpected discovery of an invasive ant by the author near where he works. To discover how far the invasive ant has spread, he starts to recruit members of the public to collect and send in samples of ants for examination. For this comes the idea to sample bacteria in houses to see what can be found. What they discovered is that there is indeed bacteria in the house which can be grouped into bacterial usually found in the environment, those associated with food and those associated with our body. These kinds of bacteria can be found in various places in the house in different proportions and can even be found on the ISS (International Space Station). Chapter Four starts with the well known story of how cholera was found to be due to contamination of water by John Snow in London. From there started the movement to remove as much 'contamination' (or pathogens) from our water. But this would involved also the elimination of harmless bacterial and other lifeforms, which outnumber the pathogens. It is only later, with studies by ecologists, that a pattern would be seen. Places where biodiversity has been reduced (like in cities, commercial farms and monoculture plantations) are also the places where chronic inflammation (like asthma and allergies) are also the highest. It is only recently that we are discovering that the price of making our living spaces so clean is that our immune system have not been sufficiently trained to detect and eliminate pathogens, causing to to over-react and to attack our own bodies or relatively harmless organisms they come into contact with. This has been called the 'hygiene hypothesis' but might be more accurately called the 'biodiversity hypothesis' and shows that saving the environment is not just good for the environment, but also for our health. Chapter Five looks at the author's work in examining what lives in the water that comes out of our showers. In between, a brief history of human bathing is covered, showing that bathing only really caught on once clean water (from far away uncontaminated reservoirs) could be transported to cities and became a mark of wealth. And what the author shows it that water from natural uncontaminated reservoirs, full of harmless organisms, is actually the best water to use for bathing. Treated water, with less organisms, might appear cleaner, but is actually more harmful as it still contains organisms that can survive water treatment: organisms that include pathogens that, in untreated water, are kept in check by the harmless organisms. Once again, in our quest for 'clean' water, we may be causing more harm to ourselves. Chapter Six looks at the fungi that can be found in our homes. After collecting samples from many homes, the author and his team discover not only a lot of different kinds of fungi, a number of them are adapt at living in the environment that is the home, feeding on the material that makes up our home to things we commonly have in the house. One finding that might be cause to worry is the discovery that some fungi are introduced into our homes by the very material used in building our homes: drywalls. Being dry, the fungi remain inert but when the walls become wet, the fungi start to grow and then to release spores which can be the source of several fungal diseases. This is still an area of research which may affect how we build our houses to minimise such infections. Chapter Seven now looks at some of the more visible inhabitants in our houses, the arthropods (insects, spiders, mites, etc.). Initially dismissed as not worth the effort (not many were expected to be found), homes turn out to host a large number of different arthropods. As it turns out, people had not been looking hard enough in the beginning, which was why the study of arthropods in the house was initially dismissed as not worth the effort. New species have been found and also non-native species that may have been present in homes for a long time but never discovered until now. Chapter Eight looks at the question that people probably have on learning about the biodiversity present in their homes: "what are they good for?" As it turns out, they can do a lot of good. Compared to the outside world, the inside of homes are places where food can be hard to get (assuming the food we eat are well protected from insects, fungi and so on). This means that insects and other organisms in the house have to get by with whatever they can find and eat. And some of the things they eat resemble some of the environmental problems we face. The author lists several examples, like 'black liquor' (the waste product of the paper industry) which, it turns out, can be handled by the bacteria living inside camel crickets found in the home as they have to deal with similar food. Other examples cited include the antibiotic used by house flies to keep their eggs clean of fungi and even new types of yeast for brewing drinks found from wasps that visit vineyards. These kinds of discoveries may only be made by understanding what kinds of organisms can be found in the home and how they cope with living in our homes. Using that knowledge, we can then see if they can be use as a solution to the problems we are facing. Chapter Nine looks at the problem we are facing with pests in our homes. Cockroaches are one such pest and despite our best efforts to eradicate cockroaches from homes, they are still a problem. This is due to evolution: as we spray pesticides to try to kill them, all we are doing is eliminating the ones that are not immune to the pesticides. The ones who survive breed and the subsequence generation of cockroaches are immune to the pesticides being used. As the author also shows, evolution is also capable of changing what foods cockroaches prefer. Roach bait usually consists of sugar like glucose. This usually works; until it doesn't when one particular group of cockroach changes their sugar preference and begin to avoid glucose and, thus, survive the traps. The solution may lie in allowing nature to control the cockroaches by letting their natural enemies, like wasps, into our homes to hunt for cockroaches. Similar ideas are being suggested for other pests like mosquitoes and flies (using spiders). We may need to overcome our aversion to allowing them into our homes but it may be a more effective way than losing the war against them with pesticides. Chapter Ten looks at the pets we have in our homes, like cats and dogs, and the host of creatures that bring into our homes with them on their fur or inside them. The chapter takes a close look at one parasite that has gained notoriety: Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite of cats that lives part of its life cycle in rats and, by being in our homes, humans. Research has shown that the parasite alters the behaviour of rats to make them more active and to stop avoiding the smell of cats. What is less certain is whether the parasite is also altering the behaviour of infected humans to make them more risk taking. The parasite has also been suggested as being one reason for causing schizophrenia. Research on this is still on-going. Dogs too, bring in a host of animals and parasites into our homes. But whether this is a good or bad thing is not easy to settle as while pets can be a source of parasites, they may also be of benefit to us by helping to reduce allergy responses in people living in homes with pets. Chapter Eleven looks at an interesting point in the 1960s and 70s. At that time babies in hospital were being infected by a pathogenic form of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. In one hospital, a nurse was discovered to be the point of infection. Doctors studying that case made an interesting observation: only new born babies visited by the nurse were infected. Babies already a day old visited by the nurse were not. That observation, and subsequent experiments done on babies (ethics on such experiments were less strict then) would show that when babies are born, the bacteria on their mothers and in the hospitals would cover the babies. These bacteria were mostly harmless. But if they colonised the babies, then the pathogenic bacteria would not be able to compete with the other bacteria already there. Even one day was more than enough to protect the babies. That observation, and subsequent studies, would show that a healthy ecosystem of bacteria can protect people from pathogens. Sadly, this was not followed-up and the health system elected to go the path of using antibiotics to kill off pathogens (and also harmless bacteria as a side effect), leaving the people treated even more vulnerable to being infected by the pathogens which were immune to the antibiotics and did not face competition from other bacteria, now eliminated by the antibiotics. Chapter Twelve looks at what can be done to address the imbalance in the kinds of organisms in our homes and ourselves that may be affective our health. The author now looks at a study he organised to study the kinds of organisms that give our fermented food (like Korean kimchi or cheese) their particular taste and odour. They settle on studying the bacteria that is used by people worldwide in making bread. Through the study, they discover the classes of organisms that appear in the yeast and bread dough and learn something: the bacteria also appear on the hands of the bakers who work the dough in the process of making the bread. This, of course, changes the kinds of organisms that could be found on bakers and their homes. The experiment also points out one way of 'seeding' houses and people with a range of organisms that can help us to fight off pathogens by inhabiting our homes (and ourselves) and help to make us healthier.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    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 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 using plain old bar soap and only showering once or twice a week (sorry, maybe that's tmi for some people, but tldr: a little dirt is good for you, and showerheads are kinda scary!). Another thing is, I'm now assuming toxoplasmosis in every slightly risky behavior I hear about or witness or engage in. Cats, man! If you are a germophobe or are super icked out by bugs, this may not be the book for you. On the other hand, maybe it will give you a different perspective on those things? But somehow I feel it's more likely to be completely horrifying and keep you awake at night wondering what's crawling around on you, so, you know. Read at your own risk.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    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 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 showerheads and its association with the nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infections, and the study of the stachybotrys chartarum (black mold) in the manufactured drywall are worth to know. The author says that the use of disinfectants (chlorine and chloramine) increases the possibility of mycobacteria in shower heads. The evolution of multi-pesticide-resistant cockroaches is shocking, but, the good news is since these creatures are fine-tuned to the life in our homes, when we are gone, they will be gone too. My favorite chapter is chapter 6 - seeing nature outside the lens of "usefulness" in human consumption. The author is a big advocate of biodiversity, even in our home. He argues that we should employ natural predators (such as certain types of spiders and wasps), instead of pesticide, to control pests (such as cockroaches). A mind-altering parasite, toxoplasma gondii, found in cat faeces, when invades the brain, may cause personality changes associated with risk-taking in animals and in humans. This has successfully unpersuaded me of getting a cat. The author mentioned in a single sentence that fungi degrade plastic. Without any explanation, the claim is very misleading. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did make his own microscope. His unique microscopes enabled him to make discoveries, unlike what the author claimed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    April

    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 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 cockroaches (although if I see one I'll still kill it with fire). It made me look at the dust on my windowsill differently, affirmed my distaste for doggy face kisses, and has me reconsidering ever getting another cat (hello, Toxoplasma gondii). The most interesting part for me was the discussions about bacteria. I've seen a lot of articles and books lately talking about how some bacteria is beneficial to our bodies. This book convinced me that in 100 years our war against all forms of bacteria will be seen as backwards as bloodletting. By removing as many species from our homes as possible, we've created a space where beneficial bacteria, insects, and more cannot survive, opening us up to invasions of pathogens and disease. I think the increased interest in probiotics is only the beginning of what we are learning about helpful microorganisms. Dunn introduces readers to entire ecosystems that live within a few dozen feet of us at all times. It's complex and one of the many hidden mysteries to discover about the world. I didn't think that reading about bugs and germs could fill me with such wonder.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    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 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 wonder. The book is filled with fascinating history, scientific studies and stories that will change the way you look at your water, your pets, even your sourdough bread. I found myself highlighting so much to share with others. My favorite books are the ones where I end up telling my husband, friends and older kids all about them again and again in the kitchen, in the car, while chatting at the park and at the dinner table. This is one of those books. Well written and intensely interesting, it also has some pretty important messages that everyone needs to hear. Highly recommended. I read a digital ARC of this book for the purpose of review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cav

    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 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, but the book could have done with a re-working. Typical of science books written by scientists. They're not story-tellers, after all... 3 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark Nenadov

    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 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 advantages to having biodiversity in our homes?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul moved to LibraryThing

    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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    J.S.

    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 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 think our homes may be, they're actually full of life. From the spiders and silverfish, bedbugs and crickets to the fungi, bacteria, and viruses, every surface of our homes (and ourselves, for that matter) is teeming with life. And that's not a bad thing! Interestingly, however, we assume that scientists know exactly what's there... and nothing could be further from the truth. Our home environments are largely unstudied - after all, even the scientists would rather head off to some exotic locale to study the flora and fauna than look at the life that's actually living inside their showerhead. But that life, whether microscopic or simply small, is influenced by ourselves and our habits, whether or not we have pets and what kinds, the plants we garden outside our windows and whether or not we open those windows, those things can affect our health and even the bread we bake inside our homes. What I’ve taken away from our work, so far, with the arthropods in homes is that when you see a species in your home, you should study it. You should pay attention. Don’t assume someone else has already figured everything out. Take pictures. Make drawings. Pull out your hand lens and a notebook and record what you see. Then, if you see something interesting, do what Leeuwenhoek would have done: use the tools you have to figure out what it is and what it might be doing. Then send a letter to a scientist. The tools for identifying the species in your home are better than they have ever been; so too the ways of connecting what you have found with scientists. Antony van Leeuwenhoek, one man, working alone, discovered new species and phenomena virtually every day. Imagine what we could all do working together. We don’t even know the simplest things... Rob Dunn has written a very interesting and wide-ranging account of what he's found inside homes. Initially I expected it to talk a lot about insects (there's plenty about bugs), but it also covers the microbiome (microscopic life such as bacteria, protists, viruses, fungi, etc.), which can be very influential towards our health - and not just bad health and the pathogens. With our fear of germs and the chemicals we've come up with the fight mysterious bacteria, we more often than not eliminate a lot of largely beneficial microbes and "select" for those who can live in the harsh environment we create and make us sick. But the book doesn't stop at the microbiome but goes on to how our pets can affect our health (cats can be problematic but dogs come out looking beneficial) and our water and even sourdough starters. It's a book that in some ways seems all over the place, and yet deals with our health in ways I didn't expect. It reminded me a lot of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life but with a sharper focus on humans and our homes - and it's very easy to read and quite often funny. Definitely an interesting read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    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 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 a "floating, leaping, crawling circus of thousands of species," perhaps as many as 200,000 altogether. Many of their discoveries were previously unknown to science. Dunn and his team sampled and analyzed such areas around the house as shower heads, door frames, refrigerators, hot water heaters, cellars, toilets, pillowcases, and the list goes on and on. Some of the findings are rather disgusting and occasionally alarming but always fascinating. The bottom-line finding of their research is that most of our fellow travelers and cohabitators are either benign or actually beneficial to us in some way. Only a few are actually harmful. The problem is that we have become so paranoid about making our living spaces as pristine as possible, using pesticides and antimicrobials and sealing off our homes from the outdoors, that we have upset the balance between the good guys and the bad guys. In fact, we have tipped the scales in favor of some of the bad guys. The microbes that live with us are able to evolve incredibly fast. They adjust to live in ecological niches which we can hardly even imagine and thus they are able to survive our chemical assaults against them and to evolve their way out of every trap we set for them. That is how we get pesticide-resistant German cockroaches and bedbugs as well as antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The research team's findings regarding our indoor biosphere is much the same as ecologists' findings about the larger environment: Biodiversity rocks! The richer the diversity of life in our houses the better. A diverse biosphere keeps things in balance; the benign, the beneficial, and the detrimental fill their appropriate niches and an equlibrium is achieved. One interesting hypothesis arising from the team's research concerns the relationship between a degraded and less diverse biosphere and the incidence of certain inflammation-associated diseases such as Crohn's disease, asthma, allergies, etc. They found a correlation between areas where the biosphere had been interfered with (i.e., excessively cleaned) and a higher incidence of those diseases. They had not set out to prove any such link, but their findings were highly suggestive. All of which led me to wonder about environmental factors related to some other diseases that are rampant in our modern society - things like autism, e.g. There's a lot to digest here and Dunn makes it all perfectly palatable. His writing has a kind of folksiness quality to it. He keeps it all on a level that would seem to be easily understandable for the average reader. He's writing for the general public, not for his fellow scientists, after all, and his goal is to proselytize for the preservation of biodiversity, not only in our larger world but also in those smaller spaces where we live our daily lives. I did have one quibble with his book. In listing critters that share our houses with us, he kept referring to things like cockroaches, mosquitoes, silverfish, bedbugs, and spiders, and he repeatedly referred to them all as insects. I was quite offended on behalf of our friends and allies, the spiders. Since reading this book, I have noticed one effect it has had on my behavior: I now wash my hands more often and more assiduously than before!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sondra Brooks

    I bet you didn't know you have hundreds and possibly thousands of...um...bugs 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 I bet you didn't know you have hundreds and possibly thousands of...um...bugs 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 and critters. Problem solved! I love science, probably more than most, but found much of the experimental data to drone on a bit too much. Why was there such concentration on the camel cricket? Does the reader really need to know that much about a cricket? Good thing there was a great deal of info on the German cockroach, and I was pleased to learn that they're not quite as filthy as we've been taught. And, studies show they even get lonely. Who knew? So be a little kinder to them, won't you? I know I will from now on. Perhaps I will speak gently to them before my husband does them in. Or grant them a final meal, at least. Anyone who cooks will be fascinated to learn of the varying tastes the resident bacteria on our hands adds to the food we prepare. It may really be true that food really DOES taste better when someone else makes it. A bit too "sciencey" in places, but the subject matter overall and the author's sense of humor make for an enlightening read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    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 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 a lot of books out there. However, there were some parts that were and that I enjoyed. The chapters I most enjoyed were: the introductory chapter on Leeuwenhoek's journey with the microscope. This scientist has been explored frequently, but I liked the author's take. Also, his chapters on the utility of supposed 'pest' animals and how much of the science surrounding them remains undiscovered. Although the author never REALLY gets into it, it does make you shake your head at the troubles of funding unique studies in academia. Also, a running theme is that there's a lot of living things in your house, so... accept that? While this book does tread a lot of familiar ground, the author does have some unique elements to his writing, introduces you to some new topics or puts an interesting twist on them, and you'll enjoy his writing style and easily digestible chapters.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    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 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 encounter in our homes, be it most kinds of bacteria or certain bugs, are actually very helpful to us and we need to keep as much biodiversity as possible in our lives. They kill off or compete with the few pathogens that harm us. I said the words “wow, that is incredible” in my mind too many times to count while reading this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    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 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 whatever indoor spaces we inhabit.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Peggy McCoy

    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! 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!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Celine

    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. 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ninetailedkat

    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 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 and how the many species we co-exist with have evolved to do so in some cases. The book spans many interesting facts regarding how we have potentially "over sterilized" our houses and in fact need to wild them up. The author points out many instances where health problems have gotten worse overtime since we have moved into cities and gone upwards vs. having exposure to yards/farms/woods and the many species therein. It explores pathogens and beneficial species alike, the influence of insects/pets etc. and many other interesting aspects of keeping bacteria/viruses/insects in a healthy balance to prevent disease both on our persons as well as our homes. Educational and fun if you like this kind of stuff like I do!!!! Hope someone else out there enjoys this as much as I did.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna Abney Miller

    Outstanding.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    Just an absolutely enjoyable introduction, not simple by any means, of all the little things around us and inside us and our homes and pets and yards. I learned a lot about pathogens but also the helpful little creatures that enhance our health. Biodiversity is a value. I will now be more protective of insects. So glad to have read this book? Now, on to fungi.

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