Book, Entangled Life, surrounded by fungi and moss

Merlin Sheldrake’s smash hit bestseller revealed the hidden lives of fungi, transforming our understanding of these often overlooked organisms as well as the world around us.

The books on this list are all united by the same promise: they provide a window into other mind-boggling realities, from the sensory experiences of animals to the microscopic building blocks of all living things.

An Immense World by Ed Yong (30 June)

What if we could sense electromagnetic fields? See ultraviolet rays? Find our way with echolocation? These may sound like superpowers to us, but for many animals these talents are just a fact of everyday existence.

In his new book, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Ed Yong leads us on a tour through the hidden realms of animal senses. As well as containing enough incredible animal facts to shake a tentacle at, the book highlights pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries that remain unsolved.

At a time of rapid biodiversity loss, An Immense World urges us to recognise the value of these other lives, and to consider what their unique experiences can tell us.

The Secret Network of Nature by Peter Wohlleben (2018)

Author Peter Wohlleben is a former employee of the Forestry Commission and now runs an environmentally friendly woodland in Germany, working towards the return of primeval forests. This impressive ecological career has allowed him to become intimately aware of the connections between natural forces. You may have heard of the ‘butterfly effect’ in chaos theory – the idea that the smallest change can have enormous consequences – but this really is true in the natural world.

From trees that influence the planet’s rotation to wild boar populations controlled by earthworms, nature’s delicate systems are driven by a web of hidden interactions between living and non-living things. The Secret Network of Nature invites us into this web, revealing how different animals, plants, rivers, rocks and weather systems cooperate, and what’s at stake when these delicate systems become unbalanced.

The Social Instinct by Nichola Raihani (2021)

We think of cooperation as one of our defining traits as a species. It’s the evolutionary behaviour that causes us to live in families, to build towns and cities, to create public service infrastructures that enable us to support the vulnerable members of society. It’s also the behaviour that causes us to experience paranoia, to be jealous and to cheat.

However, humans aren’t unique in possessing this trait: from the pied babblers of the Kalahari to the cleaner fish of the Great Barrier Reef, some of the other most successful animal species are also known for their mutually supportive social interactions.

In The Social Instinct, Nichola Raihani delves into the science of cooperation, in an exhilarating, far-reaching and thought-provoking journey through all life on Earth. The question of ‘Why cooperate?’ has never been more pressing following years of living through a pandemic, and this book provides invaluable insight into the answer.

Unearthed by Claire Ratinon (2022)

If Entangled Life inspired you to step out into nature and forage for mushrooms, Claire Ratinon’s Unearthed will have you growing your own food in no time.

Ratinon’s love of gardening started with a chance encounter with a rooftop farm in New York City, followed them to London as they left their job in TV documentary production, and evolved into a career growing organic vegetables for the likes of Ottolenghi. Unearthed is a beautifully told memoir about this passion, taking us through Ratinon’s first year in East Sussex as they establish the first vegetable patch of their own, growing the food of their parents’ native Mauritius in English soil.

But it’s also a memoir about land and belonging, about connection to nature and who feels ‘allowed’ to claim the English countryside as their own. Ratinon has long been an advocate of making the countryside accessible to everyone, and Unearthed is a call for us all to reflect on the complex relationships we have with the land.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall (2016)

Sixty-six million years ago, a ten-mile-wide object from outer space collided with Earth, in an impact that annihilated the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet. World-renowned physicist Lisa Randall asks: Was this a random catastrophe? Or is it evidence of something more – the interconnectedness of the universe itself?

A thrilling, genre-busting work of science writing, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs explores the theory that a plane of dark matter influences the events of our galaxy. This cosmic interconnection could be the cause of gravitational disturbances that result in increased Earth impacts, such as the one that wiped out dinosaur life on Earth, and much more besides.

Professor Brian Box called the book a ‘bold intellectual synthesis from one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists, blending cosmology, astronomy, particle physics and the history of life on Earth to suggest the existence of an entirely new force of nature’.

Silent Earth by Dave Goulson (2021)

What would happen if insect life disappeared from the planet? The loss of insectivorous birds and fish, with a staggering knock-on effect on the food chain; the potential extinction of 75 per cent of all agricultural food crops that rely on pollination; deteriorating soil quality; slower decay processes – it’s not an overstatement to call it an ‘apocalypse’. Insects are essential for life as we know it. But this isn’t a hypothetical scenario from science fiction: our insect populations are already in a shockingly rapid decline.

In Silent Earth, Sunday Times bestselling author and preeminent bumblebee expert Dave Goulson delivers a rousing manifesto for change. Drawing on groundbreaking research and a lifetime of study, Goulson reveals how insect activities are a vital part of a delicate ecosystem, and argues for intervention at every level. We must take the steps to protect our six-legged friends now, before the catastrophic consequences of their decline are inevitable.

The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee (3 November)

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Song of the Cell turns a microscopic lens on the fundamental units of life.

Beginning with the first observations of cells in the late 1600s by English polymath Robert Hooke and Dutch cloth merchant Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, which reframed the human body as a cellular ecosystem, our approach to medicine was entirely transformed. Many illnesses can now be understood as the abnormal functioning of cells – a hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer’s, dementia, AIDS, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, even COVID pneumonia – and with this understanding come exciting developments in cellular therapies.

Drawing on his own experience as a researcher, physician and a prolific reader, and incorporating revelatory stories of scientists, doctors and patients, Mukherjee takes us on an odyssey of scientific discovery. The Song of the Cell is written in the vivid, suspenseful prose that has earned Mukherjee plaudits in the past, including the New York Times number one bestseller spot.

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald (2020)

Animals don’t exist to teach us things, but we often learn from them all the same. Vesper Flights is a glorious collection of essays on moments when the natural world has done just this for Helen Macdonald, leaving a profound impact on the author’s view of life.

Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator and historian, best known for their lifelong love of birds. Vesper Flights continues the work of their Sunday Times bestselling memoir, H is for Hawk, by exploring how we anthropomorphise nature, connecting with it personally and politically, even as it remains indifferent to these efforts.

From reflections on Brexiteering nationalism while catching swans on the Thames, to how migraine-induced fatalism parallels our collective attitude to climate change; from the secretive flights of swifts glimpsed from high-rise buildings, to meeting a wild boar on a woodland walk, Macdonald’s unique perspective is delivered through beautiful prose. It’s no wonder that they have been described as ‘one of the best nature writers now working’ by the Telegraph.

Brainstorm by Suzanne O’Sullivan (2018)

The brain is the most complex structure in the universe, which makes neurologists the ultimate medical detectives as they puzzle out life-changing diagnoses from the tiniest of clues.

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan is one of the UK’s leading neurologists, specialising in complex epilepsy and psychogenic disorders, which makes her well-versed in this medical detective work. In Brainstorm, she guides us on the trail of clues left by her patients’ symptoms: feelings of déjà vu lead us to a damaged hippocampus; spitting and fidgeting to the right temporal lobe; fear of movement to a brain tumour; a missed heartbeat to the limbic system.

This riveting book will open your eyes to the unfathomable intricacies of the brain, and the infinite variety of human capacity and experience. ‘I loved it,’ says Sathnam Sanghera. ‘She is in my view the best science writer around – a true descendant of Oliver Sacks.’

The Overstory by Richard Powers (2018)

To round off this list, if you are looking to make a foray into fiction, The Overstory by Richard Powers is the perfect place to start.

A group of nine strangers are brought together to save our planet from catastrophe in this wondrous tree-filled novel. From an artist inheriting a century of American chestnut photographs, to an Air Force crewmember saved by a banyan after being shot out of the sky, each character is summoned by the natural world in their own way. The book received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and has been widely acclaimed by fans including Barack Obama, Ann Patchett, Jessie Burton and Barbara Kingsolver.

For anyone who enjoyed the interconnectedness that Entangled Life unveiled to us, The Overstory is sure to have you just as gripped.

  • Entangled Life

  • The smash-hit Sunday Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestseller that will transform your understanding of our planet and life itself.

    'Dazzling, vibrant, vision-changing' Robert Macfarlane

    Winner of the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2021

    Winner of the Wainwright Prize for Conservation Writing 2021

    The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster; they are metabolic masters, earth-makers and key players in most of nature's processes. In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake takes us on a mind-altering journey into their spectacular world, and reveals how these extraordinary organisms transform our understanding of our planet and life itself.

    'Gorgeous!' Margaret Atwood (on Twitter)

    'Reads like an adventure story... Wondrous' Sunday Times

    'Urgent, astounding and necessary' Helen Macdonald

    Perfect for fans of David Attenborough's The Green Planet and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

    * A Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Times, Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday, BBC Science Focus, TLS and Time Book of the Year *

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