Some time ago, I favorably reviewed another book in the Smithsonian Natural World series—Lichens, by William Purvis—and this addition to the series by Roy Watling is another gem. Informative but concise, accessible, and beautifully illustrated.
For those who aren’t acquainted with Roy Watling, he is more or less the British analog of Orson Miller or the late Harry Thiers—a prolific professional mycologist who always seems to find time to interact with amateurs and the lay public and inspire them to learn more about fungi. Roy’s ability to impart knowledge in a way that is easily understood is evident in this general introduction to many aspects of mycology, centered around the mushroom fungi.
The book consists of seven chapters—How important are fungi?; What is a fungus?; The larger fungi; When and where?; Collecting and studying fungi; Fungi and humans; and Conservation—followed by a glossary, index, and lists of information sources, both electronic and printed. The chapter titles accurately convey the contents. Much of the information has a strong ecological flavor to it, reflecting Roy’s interest in understanding what the fungi are doing in the places where they live. This, and his British perspective, on conservation for instance, lend a refreshingly different tone to the book for those of us in North America. The photographs and other illustrations supporting the text are all first-rate—I am particularly fond of the shot of an earthstar in action.
No sense going on and on. This is simply a great little book—either for your library or coffee table, or perhaps as a gift for a friend or youngster to start them learning about our most interesting group of organisms.
— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in The Mycophile 47:1, 2006