Entangled Life

By Merlin Sheldrake,

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

Book description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “brilliant [and] entrancing” (The Guardian) journey into the hidden lives of fungi—the great connectors of the living world—and their astonishing and intimate roles in human life, with the power to heal our bodies, expand our minds, and help us address our most urgent environmental…

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Why read it?

12 authors picked Entangled Life as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I picked this book up as research for a manuscript, and it had a profound effect on me even beyond the information I needed. It taught me that nature’s cycles are more complex than I ever imagined, and that it’s practically impossible to look at anything in an ecosystem—a biological one, or even our human social and technological ones—isolated from everything else. The interdependencies and relationships just run too deep. It’s a good reminder to remember what might be unseen. 

From Neil's list on healing your heart.

Entangled Life is purportedly about fungi and recent discoveries related to communications and exchanges among the massive mycorrhizal networks (the so-called “wood-wide web”) that exist beneath our feet. But the biology in this book quickly leads to mind-blowing existential questions about symbiotic relationships and what it means to be human. Sheldrake gifts readers with fascinating glimpses of a world that exists largely beyond our sensorial capacities yet enables nearly all of life as we know it to emerge, diverge, and converge. Living beings are constantly communicating, and sometimes communing, in ways that not only make us possible but “make questions…

Habitually overlooked, fungi are essential for the long-term survival of plants and animals. Highly valued by the hippie culture for their psychedelic properties, fungi can do far more than that. There would be no wine, beer, or whiskey without the fungi fermenting alcohol, nor would there be wheat bread. Brilliantly written by an author who did his PhD on underground fungal networks, this book is both scientifically grounded and highly entertaining, describing how to leverage the medical properties of fungi, ferment alcohol, and grow furniture and even your entire house as a big fungus.

From Peter's list on interspecies communication.

Living in the 21st century and paying any kind of attention to the natural world means to be living in some state of dread. So this book is a bit of a salve for that—it’s very engaged with climate issues but invites you into a whole other world of life and activity that is hidden from us. I found it completely absorbing, and also humbling to remember that we are just one small part of this universe—there is so much else going on around us.

From Emily's list on to alleviate dread.

Mushrooms and other fungi are more closely related to us than they are to plants. And yet they are barely known, poorly understood, and generally underappreciated. Merlin Sheldrake’s book fixes this. It will blow your mind again and again. As Sheldrake explains, fungi force us to rethink concepts of intelligence, communication, and cooperation. 

I’ve chosen to include this in a list of books about biodiversity because it shows how fundamental fungi are to all life on Earth, including our own lives—and not only not now, but also in the depths of our distant past and onwards into the future. These…

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…

I love how this book shakes up my complacency and replaces it with wonder and delight! Sheldrake lures us into the invisible world of fungi where the entire earth is an entangled web – a living matrix of support and possibility. The life-generating mycorrhizal partnerships challenge any notion of being separate and behooves us to rethink what it means to be human. Network-based life forms switch up our brain-centric thinking which claims we humans are the only intelligent beings on Earth and teaches us that cognitive processing, or what we call learning, happens in a multiplicity of ways. What is…

I became familiar with this book last year and started reading and re-reading it. My children, in and out of their universities due to the pandemic, call it, Mom’s Mushroom Book. I carry the book and re-read a bit of it here and there because I’m not a science major and it takes me a while to understand books with scientific subjects. This book about fungus and how mushrooms shaped our lives is fascinating. It gives me hope that fungus will have an impact on the continuum of our earth and its species. The book opened an optimism window in…

I knew that animals communicate with each other, and I’ve read some intriguing books about how trees seem to communicate, but – fungi? That was a completely new idea to me. This book explores topics like how fungi influence humans and animals (with some creepy stuff about insects), the ‘Wood Wide Webs’ which link fungi, bacteria, plants, and trees, and the role mycorrhizal fungi played in the development of life on earth. We’re all connected. Once you’ve read it, a woodland walk will never be the same again!

From Gillian's list on about communication.

Sheldrake is a mycologists, and mycologists are having their day. We are discovering plants of course, with talking trees and whispering grasses, but surely the mycelial underground so important in Tsing’s account of the matsutake is opening vast realms of a little-regarded kingdom of life. We know plants and animals. We know single-celled bacteria, algae, protozoa, slime-molds. We have certainly become more acquainted with viruses that we might have liked, but we are just getting to know the complex intelligence of the fungus. Neither plant nor animal, it has its own ways of thinking, solving problems, and communicating. Sheldrake’s passion…

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