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?

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

I don’t often think about mushrooms or what they do underground, but they fascinate me every time I see one, whether it’s in a forest or a supermarket. Their forms are otherworldly and they’re neither animal nor plant.

When I stumbled onto Sheldrake’s book, I didn’t even think; I just bought it. And I’m very glad I did – Sheldrake is a biologist who studies fungi and writes like a poet. This is one of those books that widens your horizons and makes you consider the world afresh. I came away thrilled and energised.   

Occasionally, a book seems to massively widen your comprehension of the world, and this one does that with every chapter.

An exploration of the mycelial entanglement under our feet that shapes life, breath, our thoughts, and our future. Every change of perspective and scale is astounding; I’ll never look at a mushroom, or anything in the woods that it converses with, in the same way again.

I read only a handful of nonfiction titles every year, and I’m so glad I made space in my reading schedule for this quite awe-inspiring one.

Sheldrake’s writing is so inviting and compelling, and what he has to share about the world of fungi is absolutely fascinating. I already knew more about fungi than the average person, yet I still gasped in surprise several times while reading, and I constantly regaled my partner with newly learned fungi facts.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in fungi, I think you’ll find plenty here to wonder at. 

Who would have thought fungi could be so fascinating and clever?

In this very easy to read but informative book, Sheldrake explores the intricate and symbiotic world of fungi and their invisible connections with plants and animals. From mycelium networks that connect plants underground to the potential of fungi in medicine, psychedelics, biotechnology, the book uncovers the hidden and remarkable abilities of fungi.

Sheldrake challenges our perception of fungi as mere decomposers or organic matter and reveals their immense impact on our planet. For my taste, Entangled Life does occasionally stray into wishy-washy mystical magic mushroom ramblings but Sheldrake’s engaging…

From Johnjoe's list on the big ideas that changed our world.

While studying wildlife, I often slept on a polythene sheet on the floor of a tropical rainforest. In the velvet blackness, I would look down on the tracery of glowing fungal threads everywhere in the leaf litter of the forest floor. In my memory they blend with night flights over human cities: bright trunk roads and byways among the packed ranks of houses, all in a wide and sparkling network. And so it is with the fungal kingdom described here. A vast aspect of life on Earth is revealed that is almost entirely invisible to the naked eye, yet makes…

From Julian's list on building peace with nature.

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…

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