The Best Books About Fungi You Likely Haven’t Read

Written by Maxwell Martinson
Updated: April 8, 2023
© iStock.com/nickkurzenko

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Key Points

  • There are many different types of books about fungi available. These include identification guides, guides to growing mushrooms, and enyclopedias.
  • When choosing a book about fungi, first consider what you want from it — such as whether you simply want to identify fungi or mushrooms, or whether you wish to expand your knowledge and understanding of it.
  • We’ve reviewed a selection of the best books about fungi as well as identified the pros and cons of each.

The world of fungi is an increasingly popular and interesting subject. As research moves forward, it becomes clear that fungi are intelligent, complex, and crucial aspects of the natural world.

In one famous example, fungal slime was used to create the most efficient route network for Tokyo’s rail system. Another popular factoid is that the world’s largest living organism is actually the fungi Armillaria ostoyae in the western United States.

In any case, fungi are fascinating to many people. If you’re one of those interested “fungis” (fun-guys), take a look at our list of fascinating books on the subject that you haven’t read. Let’s get started!

  1. Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility
    • 256 pages.
    • Uses layman’s terms to get points across as clearly as possible.
    • It explores the science of symbiotic fungi.
    Check Amazon
  2. Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America
    • 384 pages.
    • Both an introduction to mycology and a reference for the experienced collector.
    • A handy guide to the world of mushrooms and fungi.
    Check Amazon
  3. Mushroom Cultivation
    • 149 pages.
    • A guide to growing your own mushrooms at home.
    • Offers a comprehensive overview of the cultivation process.
    Check Amazon
  4. Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet
    • 184 pages.
    • 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards winner.
    • The book companion to the documentary of the same name by Louie Schwartzberg.
    Check Amazon
  5. The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi: Exploring the Microscopic World in Our Forests, Homes, and Bodies
    • 296 pages.
    • Written by mycologist Keith Seifert.
    • A look into the positives and negatives of fungi.
    Check Amazon
  6. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures
    • 368 pages.
    • A New York Times Bestseller
    • Winner of The Royal Society Science Book Prize, the Wainright Prize, and the Guild of Food Writers Award.
    Check Amazon

A-Z Animals Top Picks for Books About Fungi

1. Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips

This book is about the relationship between plants and fungi. Microfungi are present on a vast majority of the roots of the earth’s plants. These unsung heroes do a great deal to support the ecosystems we so enjoy. This 256-page exploration into a deeply complex topic uses layman’s terms to get the points across as clearly as possible. So, if you’re not a biologist, you don’t need to worry. It’s digestible, fascinating, and focuses on shedding light on the vast importance that fungi have in our daily lives.

However, although this book largely explains things in an easy-to-understand manner, it does still use some complex terms which the author tends to assume that the reader can already understand.

Pros and Cons of Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips

ProsCons
This book is an explanation of the relationship between plants and fungi.It still uses some complex terms that the author assumes the reader can understand.
It uses layman’s terms to get the points across as clearly as possible.
It explains how fungi are important to our daily lives.
Mycorrhizal Planet: How Symbiotic Fungi Work with Roots to Support Plant Health and Build Soil Fertility
  • 256 pages.
  • Uses layman’s terms to get points across as clearly as possible.
  • It explores the science of symbiotic fungi.
Check Amazon

2. Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America is a reference book for anyone looking to forage, identify, or appreciate the mushrooms in their backyard (if they live in North America). As many of us know, mushrooms can be extremely dangerous to touch and consume. Some mushrooms are excellent nutritional sources, and others can put us into unique frames of mind if we eat them. In any case, it’s important to know the type of fungi you’re dealing with. That’s why it’s always useful to have a reference guide, and this is a great one.

Available in paperback and hardcover versions, this 384-page book will give you exact descriptions and facts about 1,000 different species alongside quality color images of all fungi you’re likely to encounter in North America. Unfortunately, this book is a pocket version of the original edition and some reviewers have commented that the text and the pictures are quite small.

Pros and Cons of Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips

ProsCons
This book is a reference guide to 1,000 different species of fungi.The pictures and the text are quite small.
It is ideal for anyone who wants to forage mushrooms in North America.
It gives an exact description of each species alongside helpful facts.
It features full-color images.
There are paperback and hardcover editions available.
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America
  • 384 pages.
  • Both an introduction to mycology and a reference for the experienced collector.
  • A handy guide to the world of mushrooms and fungi.
Check Amazon

3. Mushroom Cultivation by Richard Bray

In most cases, people would be alarmed if they found fungi growing in their homes. Most people also have tons of fungi growing all around their homes, but it’s unnoticeable in most situations. In any case, you can embrace the presence of fungi in your life by growing them yourself! Use Mushroom Cultivation to safely select, grow, and enjoy mushrooms that you grew on your own.

Growing your own mushrooms is a great way to supplement your diet in healthy ways. It’s also a fascinating process whereby you can watch the growth process of fungi in a controlled environment. This book is aimed at beginners and provides a helpful guide to anyone wanting to grow their own mushrooms. It helps you choose the perfect type and provides a guide to growing and harvesting them. It explains the pros and cons of different growing methods and identifies common problems and how to avoid them.

This guide is 149 pages long and available in Kindle, hardcover, and paperback forms. Unfortunately, this book does not provide an exhaustive list of mushroom types, and the pictures are in black and white rather than color.

Pros and Cons of Mushroom Cultivation by Richard Bray

ProsCons
This book is a beginners guide to growing mushrooms.It does not provide an exhaustive list of mushroom types.
It helps readers choose the perfect type of mushroom to grow.The pictures are in black and white rather than full-color.
It provides a step-by-step guide to growing and harvesting mushrooms.
It explains the pros and cons of different growing methods.
This book identifies common problems and how to avoid them.
Mushroom Cultivation
  • 149 pages.
  • A guide to growing your own mushrooms at home.
  • Offers a comprehensive overview of the cultivation process.
Check Amazon

4. Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet by Louis Schwartzberg and Eugenia Bone

Fantastic Fungi is the companion book to Louie Schwartzberg’s monumental documentary of the same name. It provides a visual journey into the world of fungi and explains how it can positively influence our lives. The journey is led by Paul Stamets, one of the world’s most famous fungi enthusiasts and researchers. He is joined by dozens of other experts in the field who illuminate the potential that humanity has to use fungi to solve many of the earth’s current crises.

The book is 184 pages long, available in hardcover and kindle, and is equipped with an arsenal of breathtaking photos.

Pros and Cons of Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet by Louis Schwartzberg and Eugenia Bone

ProsCons
This book is a companion piece to a documentary of the same name.None
It provides a journey into the world of fungi.
It explains how fungi can positively influence our lives.
It features stunning photographs.
Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness, and Save the Planet
  • 184 pages.
  • 2020 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards winner.
  • The book companion to the documentary of the same name by Louie Schwartzberg.
Check Amazon

5. The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi: Exploring the Microscopic World in Our Forests, Homes, and Bodies by Keith Seifert (Author) and Rob Dunn (Foreword)

The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi is an exploration of the career of mycologist Keith Seifert. Forests, farms, foods, families, and other familiar things are all deeply impacted by fungi, he argues, and it’s hard to dispute his claims. Fungi have driven world-altering medical discoveries (such as penicillin), have a positive influence on bodily health, work to create many of the world’s favorite foods, and much more. This book also offers a a fascinating look into fungi’s negative side, such as looking into the million-plus deaths caused by fungal infections each year.

The book is 296 pages and comes in Kindle and audio, and hardcover formats.

Pros and Cons of The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi: Exploring the Microscopic World in Our Forests, Homes, and Bodies by Keith Seifert (Author) and Rob Dunn (Foreword)

ProsCons
This book explores the career of mycologist Keith Seifert.None
It explains the positive ways that fungi have helped our lives.
It also provides a fascinating insight into the negative aspects of fungi.
The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi: Exploring the Microscopic World in Our Forests, Homes, and Bodies
  • 296 pages.
  • Written by mycologist Keith Seifert.
  • A look into the positives and negatives of fungi.
Check Amazon

6. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

This book takes you on a journey into the world of fungi. Fungi serve as connectors in the living world, and they have remarkable roles that impact human life. Although mushrooms and fungi are often used synonymously, mushrooms are just fruiting bodies and fungi ultimately make up the interconnected web that lives just out of sight. It’s like the trees and the roots that delve deep into the soil and mushrooms are like the apples that grow on those trees.

In this book, Merlin Sheldrake, a young biologist, gives you a different perspective. You get the fungal point of view. Sheldrake’s approach touches on everything from yeast to psychedelics. He touches on the fungi that link plants together in intricate networks and those that span over several miles underground. After reading this book, you might question human evolution and intelligence. Fungi are surprisingly precise and the author examines their roles as key players in most of life‘s processes. The goal is to change your mind, understand how fungi can heal your body, and explore deeper to prevent environmental disasters.

This book is a New York Times Bestseller and is available in Kindle, audio, hardcover, and paperback formats.

However, it should be noted that this book does use a lot of scientific terms and explanations which may be confusing to some people.

Pros and Cons of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

ProsCons
This book is a New York Times bestseller.It uses a lot of scientific terms and explanations.
It touches on everything from yeast to psychedelics.
It takes you on a journey into the world of fungi.
It is available in Kindle, audio, hardcover, and paperback versions.
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures
  • 368 pages.
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Winner of The Royal Society Science Book Prize, the Wainright Prize, and the Guild of Food Writers Award.
Check Amazon

Which Book on Fungi Should You Choose?

The best fit for you ultimately depends on the direction you want to take your interest in fungi. If you’re looking to forage mushrooms and identify wild fungi, you should invest in Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America — a practical guide to mushrooms is never a bad idea, particularly if you plan on eating them. If you’re growing mushrooms or plan on cultivating them in any way then Mushroom Cultivation is the way to go.

Beyond that, all of the remaining books on our list are deep dives into particular ideas about fungi. Each one of them is bound to pique your interest. If the masses are any indication of what will be easiest to digest and enjoy, then go with Entangled Life unless you have a specific interest in one of the other books. That way, you can spark your love for fungi, then take what you’ve learned to help you understand the other books on our list!

About the Author

Hi! I'm Max and I'm a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I've been freelancing for more than five years and love the freedom and variety that this profession offers. Animals are also a big part of my life, and a lot of my time is dedicated to playing with my cat, Herbie.

The Best Books About Fungi You Likely Haven’t Read FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are the most common forms of fungi?

The best-known forms of fungus are molds, yeasts, and mushrooms. These are the types that show up most often in everyday life, although there are many more types of fungi existing on earth.

What are fungi, specifically?

The technical definition of fungi is any spore-producing organism that feeds upon organic matter. Further, some definitions of fungi describe these organisms as “plant-like organisms which do not produce chlorophyll for energy.”

What is a mushroom?

The visible mushroom is the part of some fungi that emerge from the ground to release spores and reproduce. While it’s easy to think of the mushroom as the entire organism, much of the actual fungi exists underground as well.

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