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What are you reading now, Ms Lafuente?

In our series "What are you reading right now?" MDC employees* give you book recommendations. Dana Lafuente is head of staff development at MDC. For our reading tip, she has chosen several books and reveals why mushrooms inspire her.

I don't read murder mysteries, and I usually have several books on the go at once – in different places. That's the case at the moment. A good friend gave me the book "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens. It's an ode to a particular natural landscape, the marshlands – "a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky". A story that's made for the big screen, about what people do to one another, the healing power of nature and, ultimately, a murder mystery!

Dana Lafuente

The second book is about fungi. I've already read, glanced at, and in some cases studied, a lot of books about fungi: identification guides, books about mushroom addiction, about magic mushrooms, novels in which fungi play a not insignificant role – but I've never come across a book like this one by young scientist Merlin Sheldrake before. This was a gift too, from a thoughtful friend. "Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures." You don't see them, only their fruiting bodies here and there. Yet they are there all the time, and long before the Internet they were building their 'wood wide web'. Especially in the 1950s, Max Delbrück was inspired by their intelligence and sensitivity, particularly of Phycomyces blakesleeanus, the shrinking violet of fungi: it doesn't like light, it doesn't like wind and it avoids adjacent objects.

Most of all, I'm fascinated by the ability of fungi to cooperate. If organisms without brains can succeeded in connecting perception to action, why is it so hard for us humans? That brings me to two other recommendations: "Die Selbstgerechten. Mein Gegenprogramm – für Gemeinsinn und Zusammenhalt" by Sahra Wagenknecht and "The Offended Generation" by Caroline Fourest. Although neither author probably knows much about fungi, they plead for things that fungi are good at: cooperation, value creation, efficiency and balance achieved by working together rather than individual distress and the fragmentation of society into ever smaller groups. Both books are a plea for networked solidarity and symbiotic growth – for togetherness and emphasis on what we have in common, what connects us rather than what divides us. It's a long-term success strategy – as the kingdom of fungi (criminally neglected in science) proves.