Entangled Life

by Merlin Sheldrake | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 9780525510321 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 1/28/2023
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, January 28, 2023
I got this softcover at a local Barnes and Noble. Subtitled "how fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures," it sounds intriguing! [Not least because of the new HBO series "The Last of Us," which posits a fungus-based zombie plague.]

Later: The book does not, as it happens, mention the TV show The Last of Us - though it does mention the videogame, along with the novel The Girl with All the Gifts, as examples of pop-culture featuring fungi - but I enjoyed it despite the absence of a fungal apocalypse {wry grin}. The author (whose author-photo at the end of the book reminded me of Neil Gaiman) really loves fungus, finding its many varieties quite (and deservedly) fascinating, and this comes through on every page. He's spent a lot of time trying to follow the fine filaments of fungi that are associated with tree roots, or searching for truffles and pondering how they evolved to send out such a powerful and iconic fragrance as a way of propagating themselves - even harvesting shaggy ink cap mushrooms to make ink, with which he drew the illustrations throughout the book!

There are so many fascinating aspects of fungi here. There are the ways in which some types can effectively solve mazes by sending out multiple hyphae at the same time - and, when one reaches a dead end, can retract and refocus on the still-viable routes, resulting in impressively-quick solutions. The symbiosis between fungi and so many living things, often a vital relationship - many plants would not survive, or at least fail to thrive, without a healthy community of the right types of fungi. [Amusingly - or frustratingly, perhaps - there are good fungi and bad ones; orchid-growers may battle against some fungi that attack the flowers, but the orchids require fungal interaction at the start of their lives.]

I learned that lichens - which I have seen often on the rocky surfaces in the Rocky Mountains as well as on old stone walls in New England - are composite organisms in which algae or bacteria coexist with fungus. And the way lichens can - very slowly - weaken and break down the surface of stone means that they may be instrumental in forming the first soil in otherwise barren areas.

I'd already read about the "zombie ant" syndrome, in which the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis effectively invades the body of carpenter ants, taking them over and forcing very specific behavior on them, leading to the ant's becoming a combination food-source and propagation mechanism. Complete "puppeteer" control of a very different living organism - that's power for you, and scary as all get-out, yet oddly fascinating as well.

And there's so much more! By the time I finished the book it was studded with marks for the bits I wanted to cite - too many to be practical, as you can tell by how long this entry is already. But it's just so good! Pop-culture references mixed in to history, and botany, and medicine, and psychoactive drugs from ergot to magic mushrooms... And let's not forget the yeasts, which have been vital components of human food preparation and beer-brewing throughout recorded history - though there are non-friendly yeasts as well.

In the photo section - which the sensitive may wish to skip, as it includes some of those zombified ants - I found a picture of the eerie, pale "ghost pipes," pure white plants that grow without photosynthesis thanks to (surprise!) symbiotic fungi. I've seen those plants in the woodlands near me, and appreciated them all the more for learning how they manage to survive.

I'll wrap up with a note from the author from the start of the book: "My exploration of the fungal world has made me reexamine much of what I knew. Evolution, ecosystems, individuality, intelligence, life - none are quite what I thought they were. My hope is that this book loosens some of your certainties, as fungi have loosened mine." It's certainly done that for me...

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, February 4, 2023

Released 7 mos ago (2/4/2023 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I'm adding this to the Biographies of Things bookbox. (The bookbox journal includes my selections and replacements.) Hope someone enjoys it!

** Released for the 2023 Great Backyard Bird Count challenge, for the "merlin" and embedded "drake" in the author's name; see the Audubon site for info on the GBBC. **

Journal Entry 3 by winghaahaahaa98wing at Biographies of Things, A Bookbox -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Released 7 mos ago (2/7/2023 UTC) at Biographies of Things, A Bookbox -- Controlled Releases


Found in the current Biographies of Things bookbox; returning back into the box.

Journal Entry 4 by Chicvolley99 at Denver, Colorado USA on Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Received in the Biographies of Things Bookbox.

My dad hates mushrooms.

Journal Entry 5 by Chicvolley99 at Denver, Colorado USA on Sunday, April 23, 2023

Released 5 mos ago (4/23/2023 UTC) at Denver, Colorado USA


Released in the Biographies of Things Bookbox.

Please enjoy!

Journal Entry 6 by debnance at Alvin, Texas USA on Monday, May 1, 2023

I pulled this from the Biographies of Things bookbox today. I hope to read it or pass it along soon.

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