An engaging and thrilling tour of the new frontiers in mycology – from ecology to fermentation to medicine – introducing the reader to the fascinating characters involved in the fungal Renaissance.
Fungi are fundamental to life. As decomposers, they are critical to the formation and sustenance of soils and ecosystems. As endlessly innovative chemists, they devise and secrete enzymes that can break down a vast variety of materials, mitigate bacterial and viral infections, and interact – for better or worse – with the bodies and brains of animals that consume their fruiting bodies, commonly called mushrooms.
Given their ubiquity and utility, it's no surprise that humans have deep cultural connections to fungi and mushrooms, even while they have remained both understudied by institutional science and misunderstood by the general populace. But an emerging mycological vanguard is reaching maturity, exploring and advocating for fungi's capacity to remediate contaminated landscapes and waterways, provide food and medicine, and demonstrate how humans might live in equitable and sustainable accord with nature and one another. This diverse cadre of growers, independent researchers, ecologists, entrepreneurs, and amateur enthusiasts is also scrambling to seize on rising demand for speciality mushrooms in culinary and medicinal markets, advance burgeoning fields of 'applied mycology,' and centre conversations about social justice and sustainability.
In In Search of Mycotopia, Doug Bierend introduces readers to an incredible and oft-overlooked kingdom of life and the potential it holds for our future, by way of the weird and wonderful communities of citizen scientists and microbe devotees working on the fungal frontier. Together they form a picture of the modern mycological movement, which sees these organisms as teachers, partners, and sources of wisdom that offer ways and means for creating a better world.
Doug Bierend is a freelance journalist writing about science and technology, food, and education, and the various ways they point to a more equitable and sustainable world. His byline appears in Wired, The Atlantic, Vice, Motherboard, The Counter, Outside Magazine, Civil Eats, and numerous other publications.
"Mushrooms are having a moment. [A] natural sequel for the many readers who enjoyed Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Life."
– Library Journal
"Bierend writes with sensual verve and specificity, enthusiasm, and humor [...] [He] introduces us to the staggering variety of mushrooms, their mystery, their funk, and the way they captivate our imaginations."
– The Boston Globe
"Comprehensive and enthusiastic [...] This fascinating, informative look into a unique subculture and the fungi at its center is a real treat."
– Publishers Weekly
"If you enjoyed Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Life [...] I highly recommend this book [...] In the vein of Louis Theroux, Bierend journeys deep in the wonderfully strange subculture of the mushroom-mad."
– Idler magazine
"As well as gaining new respect for fungi, readers will master new vocabulary on the order of frass, saprophytic, and microrrhizal. It sounds perhaps bizarre now, but humanity's future may depend on slime molds."
"In Search of Mycotopia is for mycophiles everywhere, from old hands to young enthusiasts, profiling in lively prose the kooky, brilliant, and inspiring folks who are changing the way we understand fungi, nature, and ourselves."
– Eugenia Bone, author of Mycophilia and Microbia
"In Search of Mycotopia is as wondrous and hopeful as its awe-inspiring subject. Doug Bierend deftly extends the mycelial threads of his curiosity into the many communities that congregate around fungi, from academic researchers to hipster entrepreneurs to Indigenous groups engaged in cultural mycoremediation. The resultant book is a masterpiece of intersectional fungal anthropology that will send you running for the mushroom stand at your nearest farmers market – and may even inspire you to venture forth on some forest forays yourself."
Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager
"Fungi are nature's alchemists, the circulatory and nervous system of the forest ecosystem, and the providers of nutrition, healing, remediation, and spiritual awakening. In this compelling book, Doug Bierend awakens the myco-nerd in each of us, uplifts the stories of queer, Black, and young citizen scientists, and challenges us to ameliorate our fungal illiteracy. Bierend convinces us that the healing of our planet requires that we remember the fringe and oft-forgotten fungal kingdom."
– Leah Penniman, cofounder of Soul Fire Farm, author of Farming While Black
"What if our world were connected by unseen strands, by dynamic webs of life that maintain nature as we know it, a largely hidden substrate capable of healing us, feeding us, teaching us, churning death into life, sustaining the soil, plants, and animals? Well, it is, actually. Amiable, brilliant, and endlessly curious, Doug Bierend is the perfect guide to both the marvelous realm of fungi and to the radical human subcultures that have sprung up to celebrate it – citizen mycologists, cultivators, and activists from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the Pacific Northwest. In Search of Mycotopia is a fascinating, humble, and hopeful book, a glimpse at a cosmos of which we are not the center; in which everything is interconnected, and life humbly, quietly persists."
– Ben Ehrenreich, author of Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time
"There's a fungus among us, and it's all good. As Doug Bierend's engaging journey through mycoculture reveals, it's time to make like a mushroom, join the club, and grow a distributed, curious, and sustainably prosperous world together – from the bottom up."
– Douglas Rushkoff, host and author of Team Human
"Doug Bierend's book is a vivid trip past the flora and fauna of this world and into the reigning kingdom of Fungi. The most mind-altering forays take readers far beyond psychedelic 'shroomer culture, which turns out to be one in a collection of subversive subcultures of enthusiasts, scientists, and citizen scientists from all walks of life. Written by a playful and candid storyteller, In Search of Mycotopia vindicates the mushroom, the literal and symbolic fabric that tightly binds together all life."
– Caren Cooper, author of Citizen Science
"In Search of Mycotopia is a must-read! Leaving no stone unturned, Bierend covers everything from cultivation to psychedelic studies, providing insight into how critical fungi are toward healing the planet and its inhabitants, and ultimately encouraging readers to become a part of the community. Nothing is impossible if you bring mushrooms into your life, and reading this book is a great way to begin your journey."
– Tradd Cotter, author of Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
"With a fresh and welcoming voice, Doug Bierend takes us on a journey through the far-reaching branches of the modern mycocultural movement. As his search for mycological knowledge expands across the pages, so do we also find ourselves enmeshed in the underground world of citizen scientists, DIY mushroom growers, and landscape healers. Bierend presents voices that are rarely heard elsewhere, and rarer still is his holistic approach to such a diverse and dynamic community. This book offers a rich glimpse into a rapidly growing culture, as well as inspiring insights on the many ways that you can get involved in the future of fungi. A much-needed compass for the ever-evolving landscape of mycology, and a vivid portrait of fungi and the humans who work with them, In Search of Mycotopia is a must-read for anyone wanting to join in the fungi fun."
– Peter McCoy, author of Radical Mycology
"Bierend writes with sensual verve and specificity, enthusiasm, and humor [...] [He] introduces us to the staggering variety of mushrooms, their mystery, their funk, and the way they captivate our imaginations, as well as to the array of characters involved in this 'mycological renaissance.'"
– The Boston Globe
"Bierend offers an engaging and entertaining introduction to the broad field of mycology, demonstrating how fungi epitomize the concept of ecological relations. [He] proves his skill as a science journalist through interviews and experiences shared with mushroom experts and citizen scientists [...] Bierend's budding enthusiasm and passion for everything related to fungi makes the text fun to read. Bierend introduces surprising edge topics that serve as jumping off points for deeper thought. This would make an excellent introduction to mycology for undergraduate students and all readers interested in learning more about an important kingdom uniquely positioned within the empire of life."