Book Reviews

When you write a book it is interesting to know what others think about it.   It's also nice to get a few words of appreciation for the pictures that sometimes took a lot more trouble to get than you first supposed.

By coincidence the two reviews I liked best were the first review that came very early in 1999 and the last review that arrived at my door only last week (although it was written some time ago) and forwarded to me from LPP.  The first review was from Kitty Griffith of the Boston Mycological Club.  It was written with wit and style and also said some very nice things about my book.  

The last review, that I received only last week, was written by Geoffrey Kibby in Bioscience.    For those who don't know, Geoffrey Kibby is a  mycologist of note and has written a number of books on Mushroom identification on both sides of the Atlantic.   He is also a talented artist.  As well, he is a practicing agaricologist so mushrooms are his field and he has forgotten  more than I'll ever know about mushroom identification.   At the moment, amongst other things,  he is the editor of the recently launched magazine "Field Mycologist" put out by the Cambridge University Press to give information and service to British and other European amateurs.   A positive review from Geoffrey Kibby's is praise indeed.

This is what Geoffrey Kibby wrote in Bioscience.

"It might be an axiom that there is no such thing as the perfect field guide, but this volume comes very close to it. It has mistakes certainly, but they are few and the clarity and general friendliness of layout, the quality of the photographs and accuracy of the text are a delight to behold. There are 875 colour photographs and 609 species illustrated. The latter are grouped either by basic fruitbody structure or - in the case of the agarics - by the spore colour. The photographs are mostly by the author (a distinguished mycologist) and are quite superb; the publishers are to be commended for the care they have taken with the colour reproduction which is some of the best that I have seen in such a guide. There are three species per page each with a brief description. It It is here that my only real complaint lies; there are no details of microscopic characters such as spore sizes. I realize that this is aimed at the amateur mycologist but it seems a shame to deprive advanced amateurs of information they need to make accurate identifications. This aside the text is concise and descriptive and moreover synonyms are given - an essential requirement of any fungal guide.

The introductory chapters for each major group are simply the best I have seen in any small field guide and again the photos are particularly clear and useful. Having studied fungi in both Europe and North America for many years, I can see some of the usual pitfalls into which American guides often fall: of placing too many European names on what are undoubtedly non European taxa. For example Amanita fulva, Macrolepiota procera and Hygrocybe punicea are not these species. Such errors are very few, however, and it is nice to see the taxonomy and nomenclature so up to date; field guides are often notoriously behind the times in such matters.

There are chapters on life cycles, identification, fungi as food, the role of fungi in the ecosystem and keys to major groups as well as genera within them; all beautifully illustrated. It must be obvious that I like this guide a lot and if you want a just one guide to North American fungi for the Northeast region and Canada then this is the one to buy. I only wish the publishers had the foresight and courage to allow the author to produce a volume twice this size and then it would have been the standard work for years to come."

G. Kibby

Thank you Geoffrey Kibby!