Entangled Life - How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (2020 paperback 352 pp Random House $24)

There’s a fungal thread running through these reviews. In Entangled Life, the fungi come to the fore in a myriad of shape-changing roles - from decomposers to mind alterers, to engineers and more. Sheldrake, an English biologist, is entertaining and illuminative.

Fun fact number 1: Fungi and their ilk are problem solvers. Slime molds released into petri dishes modelled on the Greater Tokyo area came up with the most efficient connecting routes, almost identical to the Tokyo rail network. The same occurred when a researcher modelled the British landmass, marking cities with blocks of wood colonized with a fungus - which expanded along a network that reproduced existing motorways. Slime moulds were even up to the challenge of finding the shortest path to the exit in an IKEA store.

Fun fact number 2: Mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of fungi, can emerge with explosive force. There’s a tale from the English town of Basingstoke where some months after a sidewalk was paved, an unevenness developed in the surface. And soon. some of the heaviest stones were lifted out of their beds by toadstools. One of the stones weighed 83 pounds. In Potawotomi, the force is called Puhpowee, Sheldrake says, quoting Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass.

I’ll leave the last word to Sheldrake, who recently co-wrote this article about how mycorrhizal fungal networks, essential partners in our response to global warming, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. But there is hope - it will just take you and me and millions of others to stand up for the plants.