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The entangled life of fungi

August 9, 2020

Your Book Shelf

Quick. What do you know about fungi?

Here’s what I think I know. Without fungi there would be no puffy bread or alcoholic beverages. No shiitake, morels or truffles. No ringworm on your arm or green stuff growing under your toenails. Way too many dead animals lying undecomposed on the ground. No white-nosed disease in bats. No American Chestnut Blight or Dutch Elm Disease. No penicillin. No LSD-25. No Salem witch trials. No dry rot in your house. All the orchids and all the trees in all the forests in the world would have a very difficult time getting enough nutrients from the soil. No zombie ants forced to climb trees where their heads then explode. No yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and most cheese. No Vegemite or Marmite. Nothing for pigs or dogs to do in the forests of France, Spain and Italy. Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.

If your knowledge of fungi is as limited as mine, here’s a book for you.
[Chuck Almdale]

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

Random House | Merlin Sheldrake | May 12, 2020 | 368 pages
From the author’s website:

When we think of fungi, we probably think of mushrooms. But mushrooms are only fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that support and sustain nearly all living systems. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.

Sheldrake’s mind-bending journey into this hidden world ranges from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that sprawl for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the ‘Wood Wide Web’, to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms – and our relationships with them – are changing our understanding of how life works.

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