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  • Entangled Life

  • How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures
  • By: Merlin Sheldrake
  • Narrated by: Merlin Sheldrake
  • Length: 9 hrs and 32 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (1,517 ratings)

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Summary

There is a lifeform so strange and wondrous that it forces us to rethink how life works....

Neither plant nor animal, it is found throughout the earth, the air and our bodies. It can be microscopic, yet also accounts for the largest organisms ever recorded, living for millennia and weighing tens of thousands of tonnes. Its ability to digest rock enabled the first life on land, it can survive unprotected in space and it thrives amidst nuclear radiation. 

In this captivating adventure, Merlin Sheldrake explores the spectacular and neglected world of fungi: endlessly surprising organisms that sustain nearly all living systems. They can solve problems without a brain, stretching traditional definitions of ‘intelligence’, and can manipulate animal behaviour with devastating precision.  

In giving us bread, alcohol and life-saving medicines, fungi have shaped human history, and their psychedelic properties, which have influenced societies since antiquity, have recently been shown to alleviate a number of mental illnesses. The ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in break-through technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems. Yet they live their lives largely out of sight, and more than 90 percent of their species remain undocumented. 

Entangled Life is a mind-altering journey into this hidden kingdom of life and shows that fungi are key to understanding the planet on which we live and the ways we think, feel and behave. The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them.

©2020 Merlin Sheldrake (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"A dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing book. Sentence after sentence stopped me short. I ended it wonderstruck at the fungal world. A remarkable work by a remarkable writer." (Robert MacFarlane, author of Underland)

What listeners say about Entangled Life

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Willingly entangled

One of the most fascinating, inspiring and thought-provoking books I have ever read/listened to. It strongly reminded me of Robert Macfarlane’s nature writing, which is one of the highest recommendations I can give it, as well as Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind. Sheldrake’s voice is a sheer pleasure to listen to - hard to believe that he’s not a trained and seasoned voice actor - and his deep passion and enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. The references to continental philosophy and the connections to Terence McKenna and Paul Stamets were an unexpected bonus.

17 people found this helpful

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Interesting but disconnected and wishy, washy

More of a philosophical/personal description of the nuances of hallucinogens rather than a comprehensive popular science of fungi and their applications for human problems.

Also quite disconnected. One chapter about truffels suddenly jumps into one about lichens with never really an underlying argument or direction.

9 people found this helpful

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Really struggled to make it through

I'm honestly surprised I didn't enjoy this as I have a keen interest both in wild mushroom foraging and psychedelics, but the narrator seems to drone on endlessly in this half-stoned dreamy way and by the time I finished the book I felt like my head would implode if I heard another "everything's connected man, it's all a network" or "everything's a mushroom if you think about it". A cool and interesting topic but repetitive and desperately in need of some pruning.

8 people found this helpful

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Multi levelled enjoyment

I really loved this book from beginning to end. I remarks early on that Merlins mind seems a bit like mycelium. I love the way he explores funghi from so many angles. His narration is fabulous

7 people found this helpful

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beautiful book and very well read

Absolutely stunning book. I was spellbound, the narrative is beautiful and has captivated my mind and heart.

6 people found this helpful

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Holistic Science at its Best

“Entangled Life” is like the very best of Richard Dawkins in its vivid portrayal of the fascinating complexity of organisms, in this case fungi. What marks this book out as something more however, is Sheldrake’s holistic focus on the networks of interdependence, communication and manipulation actively mediated by fungi - one manifestation being the “Wood Wide Web”.

Historically humans are deeply entangled too, from the hunting of truffles, to the brewing of alcoholic drinks, to the shamanic use of psilocybin mushrooms. Fungi now may literally save the world! Their mycelia can be grown to replace plastics, wood, concrete, leather - almost any material, from waste products, as well as consuming pollutants such as oil, or toxic chemicals, even radioactive nuclides. They can combat pathogenic viruses and bacteria too, such as those killing the bees. Their usefulness is hugely under-appreciated.

The biology is nicely interspersed with biographical descriptions, such as his stay with Terence McKenna, and conversations with Paul Stamets, as well as the sensory delights of immersion in a hot Japanese bath of fermenting wood shavings, diving into mouldering leaf piles, sniffing the ground for truffles or thrusting your face into clusters of flowers.

Read by the author, there was something almost musical or poetic about this book, yet the science is flawless. It held for me both an intellectual fascination as well as being a imaginative sensory experience.

5 people found this helpful

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Dull

There's a fascinating book to be written about the influence of fungi on our world and our lives.

This isn't it.

Sheldrake seems to believe his personal encounters with fungi are at least as interesting as his subject. So we get one of those first person, journalistic style narratives in which several interesting facts are scattered between rather dull anecdotes.

This problem is compounded in the audiobook by Sheldrake's flat and ponderous delivery. I've found increasing the playback speed to 1.2 makes it almost bearable.

UPDATE - Not bearable enough. I bailed at chapter 4 and returned it.

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating!

Nature has all the answers. We have to steer our children to study sciences and save our planet. Merlin’s book should be on the science curriculum in all schools

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Fascinating and engaging

Book about fungi which leads to questioning own identity, perception of the world and fundaments of understanding and acquiring knowledge. Narration by the author makes it more engaging.

1 person found this helpful

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a wonder

thank you for the exploration into the mysterious world of fungi, I felt humbled and thrilled by the possibilities

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jenny
  • 28-05-21

Mesmerising

Merlin Sheldrake’s understated narration at first seems less than stimulating, but as the fascinating details of the mycological world that surrounds, permeates, supports and connects us all are revealed in ever greater complexity, it becomes mesmerising. His rhythm and descriptive artistry make this an unexpected pleasure to listen to. I was entranced, and will recommend it to everyone. It represents a revolutionary paradigm shift in the way we perceive relationships in the natural world, with implications which reach far into all aspects of our world view.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-08-22

Makes me sleepy

I appreciate the book being read by the author, but his voice makes me so sleepy. I hadn’t experienced something like this. I cannot focus on what he is saying, I just want to sleep. If I listed during the day, it deprives me of energy, if at night I fall asleep.

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  • adnil
  • 22-05-22

Absolutely great!

Thank you Merlin Sheldrake for a fascinating and thoroughly inspiring story. I recommend to all and hope for more inspiration soon from Mr Sheldrake. Chapeau!

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  • GDJ BEZUIDENHOUT
  • 26-04-22

A Bigger picture of the unseen.

Amazing journey into the world and live of micro organisms. It is so easy to live in ignorance. I enjoyed it very much.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-01-22

Easily a second listen

Absolutely captivating, well narrated by author, unveiling a magical connected world essential to all living and dead organisms.

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  • BARBARA mANNING
  • 21-12-21

Beautifully written and read

Merlin Sheldrake gives me hope for the future. His seeing the world as a gift is uplifting

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  • Lisa
  • 19-12-21

Fascinating and captivating

I already had a keen interest in fungi when I started listening to this book but now my interest (or obsession) has increased even more.
Narration was just right, content was superb and the volume of interesting snippets, stories, reflections and scientific research kept my attention throughout. This is one I would listen to again.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-11-21

One of the best books ever!

Merlin Sheldrake has a surprisingly philysophical way of describing the the topics in his book. He dares to speculate about scientifical findings and questions but he does it in a very nuanced way. He uses personal stories to explain his work and way of thinking, which made listening to the audiobook a pleasure.
I have listened to the audiobook twice and am now planning on reading it too.

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  • Petur Karl
  • 17-10-21

A wonderful book

I highly reccomend this book, truely inspiring.
Jam packed with information, facts and also ideas.

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  • Pavel Kada
  • 07-10-21

Very insightful

Although the narrator sounds bit intoxicated, the content is great and definitely shifted my perception of the myco subject. Many thanks for that!