Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

ENTANGLED LIFE: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Future by Merlin Sheldrake book review

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Books
ENTANGLED LIFE: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Future by Merlin Sheldrake book review
28 Oct
2020
by Merlin Sheldrake • Bodley Head • £15.39 (hardback)

There aren’t many science books that thank pieces of music and particular locations in their acknowledgments, but this isn’t an ordinary science book. It’s a discipline-disregarding eruption that blows the subject of mycology wide open and poses far more questions than it answers. 

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonIn these turbulent times, we’re committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Fungi are everywhere, in us and around us, providing all sorts of services, be it ‘eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicine, manipulating the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere’. Plants wouldn’t even exist if fungi hadn’t helped them out of the water around 500 million years ago, providing them with roots before they evolved their own. More than 90 per cent of plants still rely on underground mycelial networks. And yet, not even ten per cent of fungal species are documented.

Part of the problem is our limited codes of classification. Lichens, for example, have been conceived of as a partnership between fungi and algae since the 19th century, but they still confound our taxonomic system. They are named after their fungal element, disregarding the other parties involved. ‘The only names they can be given glance off the phenomenon they aim to describe,’ writes Sheldrake. And that’s just the start of the mix-up. Once thought to be a relationship between two players, new research has shown that others are involved. ‘Lichens are not so much individuals as a stabilised network of relationships.’

But we need to pay attention to fungi, says Sheldrake. Having existed for millions of years and survived numerous cataclysmic events, they know a thing or two about living on a damaged planet, and they might just help us navigate the next few centuries. 

Written by a scientific polymath, Entangled Life is a psilocybin trip in itself that reveals the world in its dirty, earthy, messy and inseparable splendour. 

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MONTHLY PRINT MAGAZINE!
Subscribe to Geographical today for just £38 a year. Our monthly print magazine is packed full of cutting-edge stories and stunning phography, perfect for anyone fascinated by the world, its landscapes, people and cultures. From climate change and the environment, to scientific developments and global health, we cover a huge range of topics that span the globe. Plus, every issue includes book recommendations, infographics, maps and more!

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

Laurence C Smith is a professor of environmental studies and…

Books

Jini Reddy is the author of the acclaimed Wanderland: A…

Books

Rana Foroohar is the author of Makers and Takers (2016) and Don't Be…

Books

A broad selection of Geographical's top books this February for your…

Books

A list of books that everyone interested in geography should…

Books

 A key category for us here at Geographical, we review…

Books

Our own category, ‘history of place’ covers all those books…

Books

We’ve delved into the archive to select our favourite travel…

Films

A new film by renowned Armenian film maker Artavazd Peleshyan…

Books

by Wade Davis • Penguin RandomHouse

Films

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour 2020 brings the water…