From bread to booze to the very fiber of life, the world turns on fungi, and Sheldrake provides a top-notch portrait.

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ENTANGLED LIFE

HOW FUNGI MAKE OUR WORLDS, CHANGE OUR MINDS & SHAPE OUR FUTURES

A deep-running mycological inquiry from fungal biologist Sheldrake.

“Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways that we think, feel, and behave,” writes the author in this delightfully granular debut book. “Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view, and over ninety percent of their species remain undocumented.” Fungi are busy everywhere, from the bottom of the sea to the recesses of your nostrils, ranging in size from the microscopic to sprawling networks that are among the largest organisms on Earth. Sheldrake does an excellent job conveying just how essential fungi are to the processes of life—“as regenerators, recyclers, and networkers that stitch worlds together”—despite the fact that so little of their operations is fully understood. Sheldrake shows how fungal lives have made him rethink what he thought he knew about evolution, ecosystems, intelligence, and life. The author engagingly instructs on the symbiotic relationship between fungi and the roots of seed plants. “Today,” he writes, “more than ninety percent of all plant species depend on mycorrhizal fungi,” creating an “intimate partnership…complete with cooperation, conflict, and competition.” Sheldrake also explores the curious lives of truffles and lichen (“A portion of the minerals in your body is likely to have passed through a lichen at some point”), the evolutionary advantages of ingesting psilocybin mushrooms, and the idea that algae made it out of water and onto dry land only with the help of fungi. Certainly one of the most vital and fascinating aspects of fungi has to do with environmental remediation. “Human waste streams are being reimagined in terms of fungal appetites,” writes the author, who notes how mycological solutions have been deployed in the service of corralling oil spills, combating honeybees’ colony collapse disorder, and creating building materials, from sustainable, biodegradable furniture to entire buildings.

From bread to booze to the very fiber of life, the world turns on fungi, and Sheldrake provides a top-notch portrait. (b/w illustrations)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51031-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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