Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures (Paperback)
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “brilliant [and] entrancing” (The Guardian) journey into the hidden lives of fungi—the great connectors of the living world—and their astonishing and intimate roles in human life, with the power to heal our bodies, expand our minds, and help us address our most urgent environmental problems.
“Grand and dizzying in how thoroughly it recalibrates our understanding of the natural world.”—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—Time, BBC Science Focus, The Daily Mail, Geographical, The Times, The Telegraph, New Statesman, London Evening Standard, Science Friday
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.
Winner of the Wainwright Prize, the Royal Society Science Book Prize, and the Guild of Food Writers Award • Shortlisted for the British Book Award • Longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize
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.
“Entangled Life is a special book and Merlin is, as his name suggests, a magical writer. Through his writing I feel connected to nature through a thousand invisible threads”—Russell Brand
“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)
“Dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing . . . a remarkable work by a remarkable writer, which succeeds in springing life into strangeness again.”—Robert Macfarlane, author of Underland
“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 Fast Food, Good Food
“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