|The British Wildlife Collection
British Wildlife for almost a quarter of a century has published in-depth articles on all aspects of our natural history. Many of these have become the classic sources of information on the subject. As a natural extension of this, we have commissioned a series of beautifully presented books written by some of our finest writers and leading experts, whom we feel have something important and innovative to say about their chosen field. Each title has a specially commissioned jacket by award-winning artist, Carry Akroyd. We hope that this will build into an indispensable reference source on our wildlife.
|Mushrooms - The British Wildlife Collection No. 1|
|RRP: £ 24.95|
|Our price £ 22.00|
|Publication date: 26th October 2012|
|ISBN: 978-0-9564902-3-0 (hardback)|
|Format: Format 242 x 166mm|
|Extent: 272 pages|
|Illustrations: 200 colour photographs|
Mushrooms, the first volume in a major new series of books on British natural history, provides a remarkable insight into the natural and human world of fungi. Written in Marren's inimitable style, it is a refreshingly candid view of the diversity of fungi and our relationship with this intriguing group. It explores topics such as the naming of fungi, their importance in natural ecosystems, fungus forays and our ambivalent attitude to edible fungi, as well as recent efforts to record and conserve vulnerable species. Copiously illustrated with beautiful colour photographs.
A fungal autobiography
Meet the mushrooms
What's in a name?
Mushrooms on parade
What mushroom is that?
In our midst: our fungal neighbours
Earthtongues, waxcaps and hedgehogs
Scarcity and plenty
Forays amongst the funguses
The good, the bad and the crazy
Picking for the pot
* Peter Marren is one of our leading natural history writers and journalists
* Stunning series jackets by award-winning artist Carry Akroyd
* Coming in Spring 2013: Meadows by George Peterken
Publication 26th October 2012
A man may have a relationship with animals, but may a man - or a woman for that matter - have a relationship with mushrooms? Just framing the thought makes me imagine in my mind's eye a play by Samuel Beckett, perhaps entitled Fungus, where the stage is bare save for a giant, 10ft-high mushroom and a man, probably named Otto, who spends three hours squatting cross-legged and talking to it. The Theatre of The Absurd beckons. Yet maybe the idea is not as absurd as all that.
That was my thought this week, anyway, after reading a new book on our native fungi by the naturalist and author Peter Marren. I have half a shelf of books on mushrooms and toadstools, including a couple of the glossy magazine-style guides that appear in French newsagents every September, so that the wild-mushroom-mad Froggies can hoover up their cepes and their chanterelles from the autumnal woods without being fatally poisoned by the odd mistakenly-gathered death cap. And what these books are unfailingly about, all of them, is information.
They impart knowledge. They enable you to recognise species, and tell one species from another. Theirs is a mission to inform. It is by no means a mission to entertain. Yet I came away from Peter Marren's book, which is entitled with blunt simplicity Mushrooms (British Wildlife Publishing, �£24.95), better-informed than ever, but also hugely entertained.
For Marren not only has knowledge, quite staggering knowledge of the precise differences between all the British boletes and the brittlegills, all the waxcaps and the blewits - he also has enormous affection for them, for their beauty, for the odd corners in which they turn up, for their links to the landscape, and most of all for the roles they have played in human lives with their curious names (stinkhorn, candlesnuff, earthstar, dapperling) their intriguing smells (marzipan, aniseed, After Eight mints, rotting crabmeat) and their potential to be culinary delights on the one hand, and psychedelic mindbenders and killers, on the other.
His book is the first of a new series conceived by Andrew Branson, publisher of the estimable journal British Wildlife. It is No 1 in the new British Wildlife Collection, which is something of a publishing event. Mushrooms is profusely and exquisitely illustrated, and a real bonus is its vibrant dust jacket by the artist Carry Ackroyd. (She will be designing all future jackets; volumes 2 and 3 will be Meadows in 2013 and Rivers the year afterwards).
But the biggest attraction of all is Marren's writing: quirky, trenchantly observant, sometimes hilarious, full of engaging anecdotes and as far from the soulless impersonal tone of a fungi field guide as it is possible to get. Implausible as it may seem, here indeed is a man's relationship with mushrooms, in fact, his extravagant love affair with them. It is the single best book on the natural world I have read this year.
With so many books being published on mushrooms or fungi in the last few years, it was difficult to imagine and entirely new and fresh approach to the subject. However, Peter Marren, already an established writer on conservation and wildlife issues, has done just that. This publisher [British Wildlife Publishing] has long had a very high reputation for its publications, both for books and its now famous British Wildlife magazine. This book can only, if possible, enhance that reputation.
It is one of the most tactile books I have handled and reviewed for a long time and the outstanding news is that this is the first volume in a major new series of books on natural history. The unusual size and layout of the book is excellent and this is not only backed by the superb and readable text but also by the 200 colour photographs. The photos of the various species of mushrooms are outstanding and must be amongst the best I have seen. The volume's unusual size gives the opportunity for a full-page treatment which enhances the book remarkably well.
The jacket artwork is by Carry Akroyd and to her own high standards. If this approach to the future covers is repeated then they could become collector's items in their own right. I always associate Carry Akroyd�s work with the poet John Clare whom she has covered extensively in the past.
The press release says that 'Marren delves into the strange world of mushrooms.' This just about sums up the contents as it is full of interesting facts and will no doubt surprise many people studying this often under-rated and mysterious group. The list of the chapters give an insight into this, such as 'Meet the mushrooms', 'Forays amongst the funguses', 'The good, the bad and the crazy' and 'Saving mushrooms'. The last named gives an idea of the author's approach to the various species and their conservation. How welcome it was to see a well informed account of when and how the species are treated. I have longed for a lucid and accurate explanation as to whether, and in what circumstances, you can over-collect them.
When I first picked up the book I naturally expected it would follow the trend of so many in dealing mainly with identification. The author deals with identification under the chapter 'What mushroom is that?' and in the 17 pages goes into basics. It also recommends books suitable for identification and many of these are on my bookshelves.
This will have to be the book of the year for me and no doubt many other readers. I feel sorry for the other authors and publishers who will now be hard-pressed to match this book in so many ways. It will be a target for many of these in the future and will simply raise the standard too high for most publishers and authors.