ENTANGLED LIFE: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures  by Merlin Sheldrake

ENTANGLED LIFE: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

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"Dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing . . . a remarkable work by a remarkable writer, which succeeds in springing life into strangeness again."--Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland

 

When we think of fungi, we likely 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 supports and sustains nearly all living systems. Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave.

In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. Sheldrake's vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range 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 are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life's processes. 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.

"Living at the border between life and non-life, fungi use diverse cocktails of potent enzymes and acids to disassemble some of the most stubborn substances on the planet, turning rock into soil and wood into compost, allowing plants to grow. Fungi not only help create soil, they send out networks of tubes that enmesh roots and link plants together in the "Wood Wide Web." Fungi also drive many long-standing human fascinations: from yeasts that cause bread to rise and orchestrate the fermentation of sugar into alcohol; to psychedelic fungi; to the mold that produces penicillin and revolutionized modern medicine. And we can partner with fungi to heal the damage we've done to the planet. Fungi are already being used to make sustainable building materials and wearable leather, but they can do so much more. Fungi can digest many stubborn and toxic pollutants from crude oil to human-made polyurethane plastics and the explosive TNT. They can grow food from renewable sources: edible mushrooms can be grown on anything from plant waste to cigarette butts. And some fungi's antiviral compounds might be able to ease the colony collapse of bees. Merlin Sheldrake's revelatory introduction to this world will show us how fungi, and our relationships with them, are more astonishing than we could have imagined. Bringing to light science's latest discoveries and ingeniously parsing the varieties and behaviors of the fungi themselves, he points us toward the fundamental questions about the nature of intelligence and identity this massively diverse, little understood kingdom provokes"

Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and a writer. He received a Ph.D. in tropical ecology from the University of Cambridge for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a predoctoral research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He is a musician and keen fermenter. Entangled Life is his first book.