The book examines fungus from a variety of perspectives, including decomposition, fermentation, nutrient distribution, psilocybin production, the evolutionary role fungi play in plants, and how humans interact with them. It illustrates its argument with music and philosophy, and it introduces readers to a number of key strands of mycology research. It’s also a personal narrative of Sheldrake’s fungus encounters.
Sheldrake is a mycorrhizal fungi expert who earned a PhD in tropical ecology from the University of Cambridge for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama, where he was a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute predoctoral research fellow, and his research focuses on fungal biology and the history of Amazonian ethnobotany. He is the son of biologist Rupert Sheldrake and novelist and therapist Jill Purce, as well as the brother of musician Cosmo Sheldrake.
The book received mostly positive feedback after its release. The book was described as a “ebullient and ambitious examination” of mushrooms by Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times, who added, “reading it left me not just moved but altered, ready to propagate its message of what fungi can do.”