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Entangled Life — Merlin Sheldrake

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

Pages: 368



Scientist Sheldrake debuts with a revelatory look at fungi that proves their relevance to humans goes far beyond their uses in cooking. While fungi lack brains, they can process and share complicated information about food and the habitability of environments quickly and over great distances, influencing the “speed and direction of growth,” in ways not yet understood, prompting Sheldrake to ask, “Can we think of their behavior as intelligent?” By discussing how fungi come together with algae to form lichens, Sheldrake touches on another question, that of “where one organism stops and another begins” in symbiotic relationships. Elsewhere, he explains how fungi were essential for the original colonization of land by plants, as they effectively served as roots for the first rootless arrivals. Meanwhile, anthropologists have postulated that, via the fermentation process, fungi may have sparked one of humankind’s key transitions: “from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists.” Looking to the future, Sheldrake discusses developing uses of fungi in shipping, construction, and environmental remediation materials. In bringing all these diverse threads together, Sheldrake delivers a thoroughly enjoyable paean to a wholly different kingdom of life. Agent: Jessica Woollard, David Higham Assoc. (May)


Publishers Weekly

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

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