Reviews of Fungi Reference Books

There are some fantastic more general books that provide great insight into the amazing world of fungi beyond their reproductive structures. Below are some short reviews of three that I highly recommend to anyone looking to dive deeper into the science and wider uses of fungi beyond food. These are not Mushroom Identification Guides (though they will help you to find and understand mushrooms), but explorations of the deeper complexity and connections of fungi in general.

Related pages: 


Entangled Life

Merlin Sheldrake

Penguin Books, £20 – Website

Merlin inoculated a copy of his book with oyster mycelium, then ate the resulting mushrooms, thereby “eating his words”!

Released in 2020, this book takes a deep dive into the wider magic, science and entanglements of fungi. It is a riveting and compulsive read for anyone with an enquiring mind – whether they are new to the world of fungi or experienced mycologists. Its an easy-to-read journey through the history of our understanding of the fungal kingdom, from its terra-forming days right up to the latest scientific breakthroughs and its possibilities for cleaning up human mess  (via many other entanglements, including its psychedelic properties).

This book picks up the baton from Mycelium Running (see below for a review), making the often daunting subject of mycology relevant, exciting and full of optimistic possibilities. For more experienced mycophiles it will join the dots and add detail and new layers to your understanding of fungi – it did for me anyway! For anyone new to the world of fungi,  it will quite likely blow your mind!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough: it entertains, teaches, provokes, and, like all great books, will change the way you see world.


Mycelium Running – How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Paul Stamets

Originally published 2005, £20

This is the book that paved the way for a wider appreciation of of fungi beyond mushrooms as curiosities and food. Written as a manual for the mycological rescue of the planet, its myco-evangelical author is one of the leading lights of the surging interest in fungi as medicine for humans and mycorrhizal-remediators of our planet.

With a short but powerful chapter near the start on the magic and power of mycelium, the book soon becomes a practical manual for growing a wide range of mushrooms and using fungi to help remediate damaged ecosystems. This is fascinating and inspiring stuff, even if you don’t see yourself cultivating fungi.

As a committed forager, with only so much patience for cultivation (even of mushrooms!), i’ve tended to focus more on its inspiring messages than its practical guidance. Its certainly not a foraging guide, but it is most definitely a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the full range of mycological possibilities out there.

If you don’t buy it, you should most definitely watch Paul Stamets’ wonderful Ted Talk.


Radical Mycology – A Treatise on Seeing and Working with Fungi

Peter McCoy £45

A huge, sprawling book covering every aspect of fungi, from the deep science to the everyday. A masterwork through which the complex, entwining nature of it subject grows out of the pages to create networked vision of how fungi fit in our world, and make our world fit.

“Interwoven with short essays on the lessons of the fungi, Radial Mycology begins with chapters that explore the uniqueness of fungal biology, the critical ecological roles of micro and macro fungi, how to accurately identify mushrooms and mycorrhizal fungi, the importance of lichens as medicines and indicators of environmental quality, and the profound influences that fungi have held on the evolution of all life and human cultures. With this foundation laid, the reader is then equipped to work with the fungi directly. Techniques for making potent fungal medicines, growing fermenting fungi for food, and cheaply cultivating mushrooms using recycled tools (and yet still achieving lab-quality results) are explored in-depth. Subsequent chapters grow far beyond the limits of other books on mushrooms. Detailed information on the principles and practices of natural mushroom farming—largely influenced by the design system of permaculture—is presented along with extensive information on cultivating mycorrhizal fungi and the science of mycoremediation, the application of fungi to mitigate pollution in the environment and in our homes. The book ends with deeper insights into the social effects that fungi present from the reflection of mycelial networks in the design of whole societies to a rigorous examination of the history of psychoactive fungi”. – Good Reads

Its unlikely that anyone will read all of this book (certainly not in one sitting!), but it is an important reference book to have on your shelf if you are interested in the wider world of fungi. Like Mycelium Running, it manifests as a practical guide to growing and using fungi in a multitude of ways. It also beautifully promulgates a do-it-yourself attitude to mycology – dissembling rigid academic norms and rebuilding them as networked citizen science in a way that any self respecting fungi would deeply approve of!

Buy it, or get a gang together to share it, and spark your own local (radical) fungal network!


If you have any top fungi reads, please share them in the comments section below. 🙂

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