The best books that take you on a journey into the fantastic world of fungi

Who am I?

My first favorite food was a mushroom and as a budding young chef, my first dish, made at 6, was a terrible take on mushrooms on toast points made with Wonder Bread, margarine, and a sad can of mushrooms. My father pretended to eat it. For his sake, I’m glad he didn’t. Things have improved for me since then and I turned my passion for mushrooms into a lifelong love of cooking them which led to my book Shroom, a cookbook for both mushroom lovers and avowed fungiphobes. Mushrooms have distinct culinary personalities and the diversity in edible mushrooms is as vast as that between a salinic, ocean-kissed oyster and a smoky, meaty grilled ribeye. 

I wrote...

Shroom: Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms

By Becky Selengut,

Book cover of Shroom: Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms

What is my book about?

In a voice that's informed, but friendly and down-to-earth, Chef Becky Selengut's Shroom is a book for anyone looking to add mushrooms to their diet, find new ways to use mushrooms as part of a diet trending towards less meat, or diversify their repertoire with mushroom-accented recipes inspired from Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisines, among others. Recipes include Maitake Tikka Masala, King Trumpet and Tomato Sandwiches with Spicy Mayo, and Hedgehog Mushrooms and Cheddar Grits with Fried eggs and Tabasco Honey. Written in a humorous voice, Becky Selengut guides the home cook through 15 species-specific chapters on mushroom cookery with the same levity and expertise she brought to the topic of sustainable seafood in her IACP-nominated 2011 book Good Fish

The books I picked & why

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All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms

By David Arora,

Book cover of All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms

Why this book?

For starters, what’s not to like with a poetic title and a quirky, nerdy, tux-beclad mushroom expert on the front holding a trumpet (the horn, not the mushroom) and a mushroom haul? David Aurora is the mushroom god’s mushroom god and has cheerfully guided thousands if not millions of fungiphiles on their forest quests in search of both edible and nonedible mushrooms. His larger book Mushrooms Demystified is truly the bible, but this smaller Western guide which easily fits in a back pocket is the one I’ve carried with me for years. It’s where I cut my teeth when I first ventured out as a new forager, but it’s continued to guide me as I learn new mushrooms to add to my basket. Color photos, key features, notes on where to find the mushroom, and notes on edibility are listed for each type of mushroom in the book such as: Chanterelles, Amanita, Agaricus, and Morels (plus many more). A handy key is located on the jacket flaps and plenty of his humor and vivid storytelling dot the pages like the white spots on a fly agaric. 

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

By Merlin Sheldrake,

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

Why this book?

Entangled Life reads less like a natural history book and more like an ode to fungi by an astonished, bedazzled lover. For mushroom nerds like myself, known to wax poetic at the dinner table about how mushrooms have more in common genetically with animals than plants, I immediately felt that I had made a new friend while lost in the pages of his book. Dr. Sheldrake, a young scientist from Cambridge, travels the globe to stroke, sniff, taste, and gaze at the mind-blowing diversity of mushrooms, fungi, slime molds, and yeasts. Moving beyond intoxicating truffles and tripping psychedelics, Sheldrake introduces us to a fungus larger than some towns, a maze-navigating slime mold, and a mycelium network that inspired a Star Trek series. Brilliant in their adaptations, parasitism, and symbiosis, fungi may well be the meaning of life on Earth, or at least that is how it feels while reading this engaging book.

The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America

By Langdon Cook,

Book cover of The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America

Why this book?

Full disclosure, the author Langdon Cook is a friend of mine based out of Seattle where I live and we’ve foraged together, taught classes together, and made a spectacularly crappy batch of blackberry wine together but that’s not why I’m recommending his excellent book The Mushroom Hunters. Langdon takes the reader on a rollicking ride to places we didn’t at first think we wanted to go and then leaves us wanting more when he moves on. He skillfully teases apart the myths versus facts behind historical turf wars and gun violence in matsutake patches in one chapter and shadows Doug, a self-described redneck, throughout the book as he traverses the changing demographics of pickers and buyers, now firmly in the hands of many in the Southeast Asian community. The characters that frame his book, the pickers, buyers, and chefs that occupy the universe of wild and foraged foods are unforgettable personalities and he doesn’t neglect to document another key character in writing about mushrooms and that is the landscape of forest, orchard, and restaurant that enables the work of the mushroom hunters to exist. 

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

By Paul Stamets,

Book cover of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Why this book?

I had the opportunity to hear Paul Stamets speak at SOMA, a sleep-away camp for mushroom nerds in Northern California. Believe me when I say, it was as if the Beatles had descended when he stepped onstage. Short of screaming and the tearing off of t-shirts, the crowd hung on his every word, not a soul blinking or talking for fear of missing something. The word “visionary” is often used to describe Stamets, and I would add “architect”, for he maps out for the world in Mycelium Running how mushrooms can help save our planet. I used to think he wielded his immense knowledge of the environmental powers of mushrooms like a hammer always seeing a nail, but with time I’ve learned that people are considered visionaries when the majority of people aren’t listening to the truth even when it’s put right in front of them. Paul Stamets 1: World 0.

A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms

By Philippe Emanuelli, Frédéric Raevens (photographer),

Book cover of A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms

Why this book?

Sometimes you just need a coffee table sort of book and though it is paperback, Frédéric Raevens photography in this book is worth the purchase alone. When I’m buying cookbooks I make sure to buy cookbooks written by chefs from other countries as it offers a lovely diversity of ingredients, techniques, and approaches. Emanuelli lives in Brussels and I found their perspective refreshing. The first fifth of the book is full-page mushroom porn in the best possible way. You could stop right there, but there’s so much more; recipes such as Glazed pork belly with truffled honey and Caramelized Belgian endive with black trumpet mushrooms, and Porcini and Chestnut soup. When I decided to write a mushroom cookbook, I was so pleased that my book stayed away from many of the others on the market by simply adding butter and cream to every recipe and calling it good. And then I found this book. The more the merrier I say! And so I befriended my mushroom cookbook nemesis and now call it my dear, old friend.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fungus, mushrooms, and the American West?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fungus, mushrooms, and the American West.

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