What We Are Reading Today: Fungipedia by Lawrence Millman

What We Are Reading Today: Fungipedia by Lawrence Millman
Updated 25 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Fungipedia by Lawrence Millman

What We Are Reading Today: Fungipedia by Lawrence Millman

Fungipedia presents a delightful A–Z treasury of mushroom lore. With more than 180 entries — on topics as varied as Alice in Wonderland, chestnut blight, medicinal mushrooms, poisonings, Santa Claus, and waxy caps — this collection will transport both general readers and specialists into the remarkable universe of fungi.

Combining ecological, ethnographic, historical, and contemporary knowledge, author and mycologist Lawrence Millman discusses how mushrooms are much more closely related to humans than to plants, how they engage in sex, how insects farm them, and how certain species happily dine on leftover radiation, cockroach antennae, and dung.  

He explores the lives of individuals like African American scientist George Washington Carver, who specialized in crop diseases caused by fungi; Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit, who was prevented from becoming a professional mycologist because she was a woman; and Gordon Wasson, a J. P. Morgan vice-president who almost single-handedly introduced the world to magic mushrooms. 


‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine
Updated 12 April 2021

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

CHICAGO: A fantastical novel that took the Turkish literary world by storm, Kemal Varol’s “Wuf” is a love story narrated by a canine. Translated into English by Dayla Rogers, the novel takes place in the 1990s amid a war between the southerners and northerners. Mikasa, the main character and a young street pup, learns about life and how to survive between the big city and the mountain town where he attempts to find shelter, food, friends and love. His journey will transform him into a legend and an enigma.

With a politically charged backdrop of the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the state, Varol layers his surrealist novel with humor, tragedy, friendship and the horrors of war that befall places, people, animals and the natural landscape. He keeps a politically realistic and emotional novel accessible to everyone, according to Rogers in the translator’s statement, as she points out that Varol “manages to capture multiple perspectives in the conflict thanks to myriad characters who straddle social divides.” Varol creates his main character as a bridge to opposing worlds, and in doing so allows for the story to reach eyes, ears and hearts on all sides of the conflict.

Readers first meet Mikasa at a shelter along a mountain road. He arrives half alive, wounded and bloody, and sleeps for seven days as his fellow kennel-mates speculate about who he is. They are in the middle of a war, as is evident by the army trucks and soldiers that pass on the road day and night. There are rumors among the dogs about what is going on in a world that they are kept from, but Mikasa fills in the gaps as he recalls his life, the war, the destruction and hardship, and Melsa, his love.

Varol’s novel references real political events that inundated the country in the 1990s. In Mikasa, a dog who has been forced to survive his entire life without his family and as a minesweeper during the conflict, Varol captures the devastation of war and the comradery between creatures when fighting for life. Through the eyes of his canines, Varol writes about life that surrounds war, those who want to fight, those who do not want to fight, and those who are caught in the middle.


What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley
Updated 12 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict — and how they break free.

The concept of high conflict is portrayed in a well-researched and relatable manner.  Ripley “is an eloquent writer and her organization of ideas and stories is brilliant,” a critic commented in goodreads.com.

Yascha Mounk said in a review for The New York Times: “In High Conflict, Ripley tells the harrowing tales of people who got drawn into fights that consume their lives and make them capable of committing terrible injustices, from a gang leader on the South Side of Chicago to a guerrilla fighter in the Colombian jungle.” 

Mounk added: But with a scrupulous eye for scientific evidence that is rare in a book this entertaining, Ripley also explains how it is possible for hardened combatants to leave behind the conflicts that once defined the core of their identity.”

Conflict, Ripley argues, can be productive. 

“It is often good for people who disagree to state their differences and advocate for their own interests,” said the review.


What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander

What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander
Updated 11 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander

What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander

The Hospital by Brian Alexander is an eye opening account of America’s healthcare system as it plays out in a community hospital in Bryan, Ohio.

“It brings to life the fact that America’s healthcare system is in trouble and until we begin to address the root causes of this healthcare crisis, things will never change. Alexander gave a face to this issue by introducing us to people who are struggling right now,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

Alexander “has given us an unflinching, uncomfortable look at our healthcare system and challenges us to face the obvious: So many people in our country suffer from poor health and the role that we allow poverty to play in that neglect is costly,” said the review.

“The narratives of the Bryan residents and patients that are woven throughout the text are heartfelt and often tragic. Some die, some suffer needlessly, some recover. But it always seems to come down to systemic poverty,” the review added. 

“This is an excellent account of what it takes to keep a smaller hospital in business.”


What We Are Reading Today: Second Nature

What We Are Reading Today: Second Nature
Updated 10 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Second Nature

What We Are Reading Today: Second Nature

Author: Nathaniel Rich

Humans have irrevocably altered nature, warns New York Times Magazine writer-at-large Nathaniel Rich (Losing Earth) in this vividly reported survey — Second Nature.
The challenge now, he writes, is to harness those changes and conserve the parts of nature that are “beautiful and free and sacred, those that we want to carry with us into the future.”
Frightening but with an undercurrent of humor, Rich’s study is packed with moving insight.
Rich presents humanity’s war against nature in vivid detail, with nature nearly defeated. “It was a costly victory, however,” he writes. “The prize was civilizational collapse.”
Dahr Jamail said in a review for The New York Times: “Flowing and deeply researched prose paints scene after scene of the ubiquitous entropy that is gaining momentum.”
From Odds Against Tomorrow to Losing Earth to the film Dark Waters (adapted from the first chapter of this book), Rich’s stories “have come to define the way we think of contemporary ecological narrative,” said a review in goodreads.com.
“In Second Nature, ordinary people make desperate efforts to preserve their humanity in a world that seems increasingly alien.”


What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul
Updated 09 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

What We Are Reading Today: A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul

A World on the Wing is a fascinating read, full of facts, maps and statistics about migratory birds and the effect that human-caused climate change is having on their various habitats around the world.
It’s a long book, but it’s packed with information and truly globe-trotting.
“Drawing on his own extensive fieldwork, in A World on the Wing Weidensaul unveils with dazzling prose the miracle of nature taking place over our heads,” said a review in goodreads.com.
Author Scott Weidensaul “tasks himself with communicating to both the knowing birder and the layman the epic scale of what’s happening in our skies every year, the whys and hows, while offering rays of hope through the gloomy storm clouds,” said Christian Cooper in a review for The New York Times.
“The success of A World on the Wing in navigating that challenge rivals the astonishing feats of the birds he chronicles,” said Cooper.
“A World on the Wing finds some of its most moving moments early on, when he charts the development of his own interest in birds.”