I’ve been looking forward to Entangled Life for quite a while, so hurrah! It’s finally here. I read it pretty quickly, and then had to put it aside and think whether it actually met my expectations. Sheldrake’s really, really keen on fungi, that much is obvious; sometimes I was less interested in his poetic hands-on eagerness to understand them close up — I wouldn’t wax lyrical about Mycobacterium tuberculosis in quite the same way, however wonderful and terrible I find it.
In the main, it’s accessible and interesting, and centres fungi completely in a way that normally doesn’t happen. There are lots of books about microbiology and few are the ones that really delve into fungi, partly for the good reason that we don’t actually understand fungi very well and have a lot to learn. There are a lot of interesting facts in this book, and some interesting speculations as well.
I just… I don’t know, I ended it feeling that Sheldrake was more interested in evangelising for fungi than anything else. The bit at the end where he says he’s going to seed a copy of the book with spores and dampen it, and then eat the mushrooms that grow… and then pulp another book to make alcohol out of it — I don’t know, it had me pulling back a lot and saying “y’what, mate?” There’s something very performative about it, and if someone were to tell me he were being mind-controlled by our secret fungal overlords, well… In fiction, that’s exactly what’s going on.
It’s odd for me that I ended the book with that strong feeling of “…dude, what?” instead of fascination with the genuinely interesting scientific titbits newly learned.