The best fungi books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about fungus and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Entangled Life

By Merlin Sheldrake,

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

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. 

Entangled Life

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Entangled Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Between my upbringing and my personal flavors of mental health, I spent a good portion of my adult life trying to perfect myself, whether by suppressing my queerness or by going to extremes with the facets of my personality that others liked best. The last five or six years have been devoted to unpacking those thought processes, and reclaiming a life guided by kindness towards myself and others. I believe books are crucial to the introspection, expansion, and connection we all crave so much; I know they’ve been indispensable to me in rediscovering my own heart.


I wrote...

The Story of the Hundred Promises

By Neil Cochrane,

Book cover of The Story of the Hundred Promises

What is my book about?

The Story of the Hundred Promises is “a deconstructed fairy tale in which the pieces have been taken apart, examined, and put back together in surprising and healing ways.” Trans sailor Darragh Thorn has made a comfortable life for himself among people who love and accept him. Ten years after his exile from home, though, his sister asks him to reconcile with their ailing father. Determined to resolve his feelings rather than just survive them, Darragh sets off on a quest to find the one person who can heal a half-dead man: the mysterious enchanter who once gave him the magic he needed to become his true self.

Book cover of Mushrooms and Toadstools, A Study of the Activities of Fungi

Viruses and bacteria attract all the attention from microbiologists and fungi are given short shrift in most textbooks. This needs to change because fungi are bona fide microbes that grow as budding yeast cells and colonies of slender threads and spin the planet’s carbon cycle. There are plenty of popular books on fungal biology, but John Ramsbottom’s Mushrooms and Toadstools, first published in 1953, has not been bettered. It captivates the reader with a succession of marvelous stories without losing grip on the science. This book is a great place to begin a lifetime of learning about fungi.

Mushrooms and Toadstools, A Study of the Activities of Fungi

By John Ramsbottom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mushrooms and Toadstools, A Study of the Activities of Fungi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Microorganisms have bewitched me since childhood when I remember seeing floating dust particles glinting in sunbeams and wondering what they were and if they were alive. Decades later, my research has included experiments on the amazing mechanisms that shoot fungal spores into the air to form part of that dust, which is one of several odd coincidences in my life. As an educator (Miami University in Ohio) and science writer my interests in biology go beyond the fungi, but I never stray too far from my obsession with the smallest organisms. Microbes are everywhere and will outlive us by an eternity.


I wrote...

The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization

By Nicholas P. Money,

Book cover of The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization

What is my book about?

Yeast is the microscopic thing that we cannot live without. Ten thousand years ago, our ancestors abandoned bush meat and wild fruit in favor of farming animals and growing the raw materials fermented by yeast: cereals for brewing beer and raising bread, and grapes for winemaking. We domesticated wild yeast and yeast domesticated us. 

Over the millennia, our reliance on yeast has deepened. Yeast is used to produce bioethanol in industrial refineries and insulin and other life-saving medicines are manufactured by genetically modified strains of the fungus. As a model organism for research, yeast is helping us to understand how the trillions of cells in our bodies function and malfunction. This is the story of our favorite microbe.  

The Mushroom Hunters

By Langdon Cook,

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

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…

The Mushroom Hunters

By Langdon Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mushroom Hunters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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

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

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…

A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms

By Philippe Emanuelli, Frédéric Raevens (photographer),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This French buy-in is an extremely beautiful guide to buying and cooking mushrooms. More an evocative pleasure-read for mushroom lovers than a straight-up reference book for serious foragers, this book contains more than 120 uniquely French stream-of-consciousness recipes and colour photographs on every spread, with more than 200 photographs throughout.

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

Flora Curiosa

By Phil Robinson, H.G. Wells,

Book cover of Flora Curiosa: Cryptobotany, Mysterious Fungi, Sentient Trees, and Deadly Plants in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is a great gateway collection. In fact, this was one of the first anthologies of plant-related speculative stories that I read after falling in love with science-fictional plants. I jumped at it when I saw that it includes authors such as H. G. Wells and Algernon Blackwood and am glad I did. I have written about a number of the stories I met in this collection. Awesome extra: there are two other volumes in this series. 

Flora Curiosa

By Phil Robinson, H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flora Curiosa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Plants in science fiction really grew on me while I was finishing my doctorate in literature from the University of Iowa. Stumbling on fin de siècle stories about monstrous plants, I fell down the rabbit hole and was hooked; however, I started truly digging into speculative vegetation after moving to the verdant island of Kyushu, Japan to teach literature at a small liberal arts college. Soon, I was speaking and publishing widely on topics ranging from vegetal time and arboreal horror to plant-centric communication – all of which gravitate around the idea of turning the leaves of our world to try to see things in a different way. 


I wrote...

Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation

By Katherine E. Bishop (editor), David Higgins (editor), Jerry Määttä (editor)

Book cover of Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation

What is my book about?

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant life are driven, as are many threads of science-fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today.

Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures. 

Tiny Creatures

By Nicola Davies, Emily Sutton (illustrator),

Book cover of Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

I met Nicola Davies in 2015 when we accepted our Green Earth Book Awards in Washington, D.C. She writes about nature in a way that helps even young readers understand and think a little harder about their connections to it. In Tiny Creatures, Nicola tackles microbes—where they live, and how they help or hurt us. This focus on the unseen world will then help kids understand the importance of the unseen fungi internet in Can You Hear the Trees Talking and the importance of tiny phytoplankton in Planet Ocean.

Perfect for kids ages 5-8.

Tiny Creatures

By Nicola Davies, Emily Sutton (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tiny Creatures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’m a Sibert Honor author and write books for kids and teens about nature. Part biography, part science adventure, my books introduce readers to real scientists and the unexpected twists and turns of their discoveries. The more I research the more I discover hidden connections to our natural world that humble me and fill me with gratitude. I do my best to share these connections with readers in an accurate, truthful way to help them find their own “ah-ha” moments in life. I want them to say, “I can do this, too!”


I wrote...

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

By Patricia Newman, Annie Crawley (photographer),

Book cover of Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

What is my book about?

The ocean’s story is our story. To prove it, Planet Ocean takes readers of all ages to three ocean regions to witness their unique connections to each other—and to us. On the journey, we’ll meet scientists working with new technologies, Indigenous peoples tackling changes to their traditional ways of life, and kids and teens who speak for our ocean. Through these stories the effects of climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and overfishing become personal. QR code videos add an interactive storytelling dimension to show readers what happens beneath the waves when they’re not looking. By helping the ocean, we help ourselves. Planet Ocean is us.

Academy Award winning actor and environmentalist Jeff Bridges calls Planet Ocean “A must-read with your children.”

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

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:…

All That the Rain Promises and More

By David Arora,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All That the Rain Promises and More as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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

Microterrors

By Tony Hart,

Book cover of Microterrors: The Complete Guide to Bacterial, Viral and Fungal Infections that Threaten Our Health

If you can get past the sensational (fear-mongering?) title, Tony Harts' slender volume is a delight of colorful micrographs of the bacterial, viral and fungal microbes that cause human infections. His phenomenal microscopy brings the world of “germs” alive – often against the eerie landscape of our own cells and tissues. Not just a picture book, Hart provides succinct, accurate, and lay-accessible information on the spectrum of important, disease-causing microbes and the hazards they pose when they show up in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Microterrors

By Tony Hart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Microterrors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I'm enchanted by ecology – how life on Earth is both a web and a seamless continuum. In my first book, Corpse, I explored the organisms that colonize the human body after death. In Good Germs, Bad Germs, I immersed myself in our symbiotic relationship with the ever-present bacteria that live in us and on us. I’m passionate about understanding how we evolved to survive in a bacterial world and how we must take the long-term view of surviving – and thriving – in their ever-present embrace. My joy has been in exploring the world of science and translating this joy into lay-accessible stories that entertain as well as educate. 


I wrote...

Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

By Jessica Snyder Sachs,

Book cover of Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

What is my book about?

Public sanitation and antibiotics have delivered historic increases in the human life span. Unintendedly, they have also produced new health crises by disrupting the intimate, age-old balance between humans and the microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and our environment. As a result, antibiotic resistance now ranks among our deadliest medical problems. Good Germs, Bad Germs tells the story of what went terribly wrong in our war on germs. It also offers a hopeful look into a future when antibiotics will be designed and used more wisely, and beyond that, to a day when we may replace antibacterial drugs and cleansers with bacterial ones. 

The Soil and Health

By Albert Howard,

Book cover of The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture

Howard helped me to understand and appreciate the life in soil. How soil is more than an assemblage of chemical nutrients for plants, which was a predominant view when I started farming. 

He wrote: "The agriculturalist must obey Nature's rules,” which was radical in the 1940s! He started as an agricultural chemist but came to distrust synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. He valued and explains the importance of compost and mycorrhizal fungi, and coined a phrase that has become a mantra: ”Feed the soil not the plant”. I value his sincerity which shines throughout his books – they read as well now as when published, because these truths are universal.

The Soil and Health

By Albert Howard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Soil and Health as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Since 1979 the life of soil and plants, and how they link to our own lives and health, has fascinated me. In the 1980s I was a maverick because as an organic market gardener, my work was mostly seen as irrelevant to society, producing food that was expensive and for only a few people. That changed from 1988 when the BBC filmed my garden, and green consciousness developed. Since then I have gone from being zero to hero and especially with regard to soil because since 1982 I've been gardening with the no dig method. My experience allows me to direct you towards these gems, which I'm sure you will find useful and enjoyable.


I wrote...

No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Veg with Less Effort

By Charles Dowding,

Book cover of No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Veg with Less Effort

What is my book about?

Charles has brought the value of no dig to a worldwide audience. In this book, he brings you the knowledge and techniques you need for successful vegetable growing, based on his decades of experience. 

Charles’ desire is to save you time and that you succeed all the time. He advises on how to create planting plans, succeeding with succession and reducing rotation, saving seed, propagation, multisowing, spacing for all common vegetables, methods of harvesting and how they influence growth, watering both when and how much, and using covers for warmth as well as pest protection. He also describes winter gardening, growing perennial vegetables, and new ways to increase growth quickly and cheaply. 

Beatrix Potter, Scientist

By Lindsay H. Metcalf, Junyi Wu (illustrator),

Book cover of Beatrix Potter, Scientist

We all know Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated Peter Rabbit and other children’s books, but how many people are aware that young Beatrix was a groundbreaking mushroom scientist? In Beatrix Potter, Scientist, Metcalf unveils the secret scientific side of Beatrix Potter, long before her books became classics. Beatrix studied all sorts of fungi, discovering a mushroom known as the Old Man Of The Woods, but as a female she was prohibited from presenting a scientific paper to London’s Linean Society. I love one of this book’s underlying messages, that someone can be an artist AND a scientist; there’s no need to choose one or the other. There’s also a terrific author’s note and strong supporting end matter for further study.

Beatrix Potter, Scientist

By Lindsay H. Metcalf, Junyi Wu (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beatrix Potter, Scientist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

From a girl who defied death to set nearly every aviation record in a rickety bi-plane, to a team of young women who literally invented computer coding with no guidance and very little credit, to a boy who revolutionized chemistry when he used the scientific method to create the color purple from coal tar, I write books about young people who followed their dreams to accomplish amazing things. There’s no reason to wait until you grow up to become a scientist. The books I’ve chosen will inspire your young scientist to explore and invent - right now!


I wrote...

Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

By Tami Lewis Brown, Debbie Loren Dunn, Francesca Sanna (illustrator)

Book cover of Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

What is my book about?

Before William Perkins’ time, the color purple was reserved for the rich and royal. But in 1856, during his spring break from school, young William experimented on coal tar at a lab he’d set up at home. The result? The first artificial dye in a glorious shade of vivid purple! Before he knew it the whole world was clamoring for Perkin's Perfect Purple—Purple for the People. And a new field of organic chemistry had been born. 

Francesca Sanna’s illustrations, based on historic documents and color tones, practically glow off the page. The endnotes include even more science detail, photographs, a thorough bibliography, and a “colorful” science experiment to do at home. I co-wrote this text with my friend and fellow writer, Debbie Loren Dunn.

Or, view all 13 books about fungus

New book lists related to fungus

All book lists related to fungus

Bookshelves related to fungus