A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS

ON MUSHROOMS AND MOURNING

In this debut memoir, an anthropologist recounts how mycology eased her out of mourning.

Long’s husband, Eiolf, collapsed suddenly at his office and died at age 54. A “paler, stupider, ashen” version of herself, the Norway-based author took a beginner’s course on mushrooms at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo. Finding voluptuous, golden chanterelles and flavor-bomb morels gave her a sense of joy—“for me there is no doubt that my discovery of the realm of fungi steadily nudged me out of the tunnel of grief”—and she trained to become a “mushroom inspector.” In Norway, certified mushroom inspectors, who must learn 150 species, review foragers’ hauls (for free!) to ensure no one inadvertently makes a deadly error, like mistaking a destroying angel for a tasty meadow mushroom. Long focuses on many aspects of various fungi—beauty, oddity, edibility, toxicity, hallucinogenic properties, potential as antidepressants—and less on mourning. The two subjects don’t always mesh well, though the author makes interesting observations about loss—e.g., “the map of my friends and acquaintances was redrawn after Eiolf’s death.” She brings an anthropologist’s perspective to the book, considering various cultures’ differing views—the clouded agaric smells “perfumed” to Norwegians and skunky to Americans, for example, and Norwegian mycologists really don’t like talking about magic mushrooms, which isn’t the case in the States—and she unearths endless fodder to liven up cocktail conversation: “Members of the fungi kingdom are more closely akin to those of the animal kingdom and, consequently, to Homo sapiens, than to the plant kingdom!” The book is more a collection of edifying tales and facts than smooth narrative, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. Learning about glow-in-the-dark jack-o’-lanterns, puffballs that “smoke” when you smash them, or toothy hedgehog mushrooms never gets old. Anyone with an interest in the natural world will delight in Long’s sharp-eyed descriptions (and Viskari's line drawings) of fungi and her therapeutic rambles through Norwegian woods.

A wonder-inducing dive into the unique kingdom of fungi.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984801-03-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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