Fungi can appear anywhere, from desert dunes to frozen tundra, and create anew from rotting matter. They can invade bodies and thoughts; they can live between our toes or between our floorboards; they are unwelcome intruders or vastly expensive treats; they are symbols of both death and eternal life. But despite their familiar presence, there's still much we don't know about these secretive life forms.
In this illuminating book, Aliya Whiteley delves into everything from cellular makeup to the fascinating ways fungi interact with their surroundings and other species, as well as the many varied roles they've played in our own civilization. The vast potential of these understudied organisms is still untapped; though long used as a source of food and medicine, they could also hold the key to a variety of scientific advances, from agriculture to environmental innovations.
The Secret Life of Fungi is a glimpse into their incredible, surprising and dark world: a lyrical tour through the eruption, growth and decay under our feet, overhead, and even inside us.
Aliya Whiteley grew up in North Devon and developed an early passion for walking and observing nature. Today she writes about the natural world for Mental Floss and in her fiction, which has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award, among others. Whiteley’s novella, The Beauty, depicted a future world in which a fungus interacts with humanity and creates a new form of life, leading readers all over the world to send her photographs and articles relating to mushrooms. Her new novel, Greensmith (May 2020), deals with seed banks and viruses, and the current global threat to diversity.
She was formerly the Deputy Editor of Explore – a magazine that tackles one subject in depth per issue, such as dinosaurs, the solar system or indeed plant-life. She walks through the woods and fields around her home in West Sussex every day, taking inspiration from the hidden worlds around her.
"Accessible, inviting and revelatory [...] Aliya Whiteley animates the hidden world of fungi in prose as rich and beautiful as the strange organisms she turns her attention to."
– Alice Tarbuck, author of A Spell in the Wild