Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures (Hardcover)
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
“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
“I was completely unprepared for Sheldrake’s book. It rolled me over like a tsunami, leaving the landscape rearranged but all the more beautiful.”—Nicholas Humphrey, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the London School of Economics and author of A History of the Mind and Soul Dust
“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
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.
“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
“Fungi are fascinating! Elegant life strategies meet with delicate omnipresence, driving global ecosystems. Sheldrake’s book informs and offers new concepts. Looking through Sheldrake’s lens, fungal biology integrates with art, philosophy, and human society. His voice is real and personal. His book educates and entertains.”—Uta Paszkowski, professor of plant molecular genetics, University of Cambridge
“It is impossible to put this book down. Entangled Life provides a window into the mind-boggling biology and fascinating cultures surrounding fungal life. Sheldrake asks us to consider a life-form that is radically alien to ours, yet vibrant and lively underfoot.”—Hans Ulrich Obrist, author of The Interview Project
“Entangled Life is a revelation. It is a radical, hopeful, and important book. I couldn’t put it down. With elegance, wit, and clarity, Sheldrake engages us in the hidden world of fungi, a miraculous web of connections, interactions, and communication that changes the way we need to look at life, the planet, and ourselves.”—Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
“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
“[A] delightfully granular debut . . . From bread to booze to the very fiber of life, the world turns on fungus, and Sheldrake provides a top-notch portrait.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)