A mind-bending journey into the hidden universe of fungi, “one of those rare books that can truly change the way you see the world around you” (Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk).
“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.
Praise for Entangled Life
“Entangled Life is a gorgeous book of literary nature writing in the tradition of [Robert] Macfarlane and John Fowles, ripe with insight and erudition. . . . food for the soul.”—Eugenia Bone, Wall Street Journal
“[An] ebullient and ambitious exploration . . . This book may not be a psychedelic—and unlike Sheldrake, I haven’t dared to consume my copy (yet)—but reading it left me not just moved but altered, eager to disseminate its message of what fungi can do.”—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
About the Author
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.
“I fell in love with this book. Merlin is a scientist with the imagination of a poet and a beautiful writer. . . . This is a book that, by virtue of the power of its writing, shifts your sense of the human. . . . It will inspire a generation to enter mycology.”—Michael Pollan (Bay Area Book Festival, 2020)
“Fungi are everywhere, and Merlin Sheldrake is an ideal guide to their mysteries. He’s passionate, deeply knowledgeable, and a wonderful writer.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction
“Sheldrake’s charm and curiosity make for a book that is delightful to read but also grand and dizzying in how thoroughly it recalibrates our understanding of the natural world and the often overlooked organisms within it.”—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
“True to his name, Merlin takes us on a magical journey deep into the roots of Nature—the mycelial universe that exists under every footstep we take in life. Merlin is an expert storyteller, weaving the tale of our co-evolution with fungi into a scientific adventure. Entangled Life is a must-read for citizen scientists hoping to make a positive difference on this sacred planet we share.”—Paul Stamets, author of Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World
“Reading this book, I felt surrounded by a web of wonder. The natural world is more fantastic than any fantasy, so long as you have the means to perceive it. This book provides the means.”—Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
“This engaging book shines light on the hidden fungal connections that link plants, trees, and us. I thought I knew a lot about fungi, but I found much that was new to me, and exciting. Sheldrake is a rare scientist who is not afraid to speculate about the truly profound implications of his work. A very good read.”—Andrew Weil, author of Spontaneous Healing and Healthy Aging
“Sheldrake awakens the reader to a shapeshifting, mind-altering, animate world that not only surrounds us but intimately involves us as well. A joyful exploration of the most overlooked and enigmatic kingdom of life, and one that expanded my appreciation of what it means to be alive.”—Peter Brannen, author of The Ends of the World
“Entangled Life is an exuberant introduction to the biology, ecology, climatology, and psychopharmacology of the earth’s ‘metabolic wizards.’”—Julian Lucas, Harpers
“Nearly every page of this book contained either an observation so interesting or a turn of phrase so lovely that I was moved to slow down, stop, and reread. . . . This book rocked me into remembering that nature, especially fungal nature, is big and encompassing and creative and destructive. It reminded me that fungi are, like the Universe, sublime.”—Rob Dunn,Science magazine