CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Fungi: A Very Short Introduction

By Nicholas P. Money
2016, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK
ISBN-13: 9780199688784
ISBN-10: 0199688788
$11.95; 137 pages; Paperback

The variety of the mycological world is far greater than most people—even us mycophiles!—imagine. Tens of thousands of fungal species have been described and many more are known only from the abundance of their genes in soil and water. Fungi are hugely important as agents of wood decay in forests, and, as parasites, they have caused the deaths of millions of people by ravaging crops and reshaping our natural ecosystems. Fungi also perform a variety of essential functions in ecosystems—from fostering symbiotic plant growth, to decaying plants and other organic material once it dies— and are important to both agriculture and biotechnology. Their importance is now becoming greatly appreciated among scientists, though there is much still to be understood concerning their taxonomy and evolution. Fungi: A Very Short Introduction highlights the variety and extraordinary natures of fungi, revealing the remarkable facts of fungal biology and the global significance of these enchanting organisms.

If you are an advanced “amateur” mycologist (meaning, it’s not your day job), but longing for a basic mycological text to use as a source of information you can refer back to—but, find most mycological texts are geared to college courses and way more than what you need—then this little book is for YOU.

Along with Jens Petersen’s The Kingdom of Fungi, this new Short Introduction is ideal for most mycophiles. The size is such that you could take it along in your pocket, and at the very approachable price, it would be enticing to purchase several to share with your like-minded friends.

Although just over 100 pages, this book packs in a lot of great info and the author explains many challenging topics like taxonomy, fungal evolution, morphology etc., in a very easy to understand way. I really enjoy all the historical information interwoven throughout the text. Nik Money is probably the most adept author on matters of mycological history, having written standout works on the history of mycology (The Triumph of the Fungi) and the history of mycologists (Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists), plus several other excellent titles.

All the most important mycological topics are covered: What is a fungus?; Fungal diversity; Fungal genetics and life cycles; Fungal mutualisms (supportive relationships); Fungi as parasites of plants; Fungi and decomposition; Fungi in animal health and disease; Mushroom picking, mushroom cultivation, and fungal biotechnology.

This was not my first foray into the Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press, which contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. If unfamiliar you can find out more at the Press’s website. These pocketsized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Their expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi