In Search of Mycotopia: Citizen Science, Fungi Fanatics, and the Untapped Potential of Mushrooms

Chelsea Green. Mar. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781603589796. $24.95. NAT HIST
In this debut, journalist Bierend covers a lot of ground meeting many on mycology’s leading edge: growers, entrepreneurs, amateur and professional scientists, and enthusiasts. The author travels from the National History Museum of Utah to London’s Kew Gardens and beyond in order to meet people who are drawn to fungi. His reporting also takes him from small mushroom-growing operations (often begun in home kitchens or basements) to mycological fairs and annual gatherings. Readers may be disappointed to find no illustrations inside; even so, the author’s sharp ear for dialogue imbues his word portraits with vivid detail. Bierend looks ahead, but also behind, as he traces the long history of mycology’s reliance on contributions from citizen scientists. Along the way, readers will learn about some fantastic fungi, find out how they are cultivated, and witness some of the innovative applications under development. Interestingly, Bierend concludes that the “most promising power of fungi lies in their apparent power to bring people together.”
VERDICT Mushrooms are having a moment. In Search of Mycotopia could be a natural sequel for the many readers who enjoyed Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life.
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