Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Random. May 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780525510314. $28. NAT HIST
Biologist Sheldrake’s first book is a fascinating account of how fungi have been an integral component of human existence. From penicillin to truffles to the fermentation process that gives us alcoholic beverages, fungi are ubiquitous. Sheldrake takes readers on journey drawn from his research as a biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute studying the plant voyria, which uses fungal relationships to produce energy. Through chapters on truffle hunting, psychedelics, and the necessary symbiosis between 90 percent of plant species and mycorrhizal fungi, readers will learn how entangled our lives are with fungi. Many now know of the Wood Wide Web, the network of underground mycorrhizal fungi that allow trees to share nutrients and pass information, and Sheldrake devotes a chapter to this amazing discovery as well. While fungi are not all good (think athlete’s foot and the fungal disease affecting around 90 species of amphibians), Sheldrake shows us just how vital they are to humankind.
VERDICT Sheldrake makes biology both fun and accessible. Fans of Mary Roach and Bill Bryson will appreciate this enthusiastic treatment of the fungi around us.
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