For so many reasons, mushrooms are a major topic of conversation right now — in health and wellness circles, in the medical world, on the culinary scene, and even in the debate about the future of our planet as it continues experience the effects of global warming. Still, the Western world is only just discovering how fascinating the fungus kingdom can be. These five books about mushrooms delve into the different ways mushrooms shape and support life on Earth — in ways you’ve never imagined.
Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake
Imagine you’re the mushroom. That’s how biologist and author Merlin Sheldrake’s unlikely international bestseller Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures kicks off, with the scientist and lifelong mycophile attempting to imagine himself as part the fungal world. Sheldrake uses his vast professional and personal experience with mushrooms to create colorful and captivating prose about how they support life on Earth — from humankind’s mental and physical health to the reduction of agricultural waste. Bonus: the audiobook version of Entangled Life is read by Sheldrake himself, who has a voice that’s absolutely made for the job.
The Way Through the Woods, Litt Woon Long
Litt Woon Long’s meditation on mushrooms and mourning is the perfect read for anyone who has ever sought solace in nature. Her book was born of an effort to process her grief over the loss of her husband, an event that prompted her to enroll in a foraging class. In learning about the lifecycle of the mushroom — its versatility and its resiliency — Long was able to come to terms with her loss and to see the mushroom kingdom as an example of the ways we’re meant to adapt and transform over the course of our lives.
Mycelium Running, Paul Stamets
From the superstar of the mycology world (the man even has a Star Trek character named after him) comes this mushroom-centric exploration of bioremediation. Stamets recounts his mycoremediation experiments, including the use of mushroom mycelia to fend off everything from insect infestations to smallpox infections. Stamets may operate at the highest levels in his field but his writing is engaging and digestible and aimed at readers outside the scientific or academic world.
The Rebel’s Apothecary, Jenny Sansouci
Wellness coach Jenny Sansouci first dove into the science behind plant-based medicine when her father was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. Sansouci was searching for ways to alleviate the symptoms and side-effects of the treatment and found them in mushrooms and cannabis. In The Rebel’s Apothecary, she distills her research for readers in search of relief from pain, insomnia, lack of appetite, and anxiety, providing recipes, dosing instructions, and other essential tips on how to use these medicines safely and effectively.
How To Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan
This 2018 book topped the New York Times bestseller list thanks to Pollan’s groundbreaking work in examining some of the science behind the therapeutic use of psychedelics to treat mental health issues. Pollan begins by recounting the history of psychedelic medicines including the post-1960s government crackdown that barred people from accessing treatment and halted scientific inquiry on the topic. Returning to the present day, Pollan delves into why psychedelics are once again on the radar of mental health professionals and the promising results they offer to pharmaceutical-resistant conditions like depression and PTSD. Read it before the four-part Netflix documentary series comes out, due later this year.