Fly Agaric

A Compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology, & Exploration

Non-Fiction - New Age
508 Pages
Reviewed on 08/22/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

It’s not every day that I get the privilege of reviewing a book about a mushroom. Considering that it’s such a niche interest, I enjoyed reading every page. Most of us, unfortunately, remain ignorant and even fearfully stay away from these fungal wonders. Compiled and edited by Kevin M. Feeney, Fly Agaric: A Compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology, & Exploration is well-researched and multi-layered literature on an exceptional fungus known as the fly agaric (amanita muscaria), easily recognized by its snow-speckled crimson cap. It is the stuff of fairy tales, pharmacology, and psychedelics. The book does a great job of shedding light on the common misconceptions surrounding this miniature cosmopolitan species. It is divided into five parts where each addresses an informative and exciting aspect about the fly agaric. From its identification to its role in popular culture and medicine, it is high time you get to know the mushroom that belongs to everyone.

Another of the pleasures of reading Fly Agaric is that it is written with keen attention to detail. The book delivers vital information to dispel many mushroom fears, especially for those with mycophobia, and it is a volume that many will come to regard as the fly agaric manifesto. Kevin M. Feeney and his contributors have a knack for extracting the essence from what may appear to be an unfavorable subject matter at first. This five-sectioned book about a mushroom brilliantly tracks the amanita muscaria’s origins and uses, and they alone can make it compelling. Fly Agaric is a devotion to extolling the virtues of a misunderstood fungus and a determination to reveal its nobility. For students, hobbyists, botanists, pharmacologists, and even hippies, this is a book that deserves your reading time.

K.C. Finn

Fly Agaric: A Compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology & Exploration is a work of non-fiction in the new age genre. It is aimed at all ages and was penned by Kevin M. Feeney. The book is a comprehensive and definitive guide to one of the most recognizable mushroom species in the world. The work focuses on the history and folklore episodes in which the mushroom features and discusses the experiences of those who have sampled the psychoactive variants and guides to making the mushroom safe for consumption or homeopathic use. This book covers everything a person could want to know about this iconic species of mushroom and its place in world history.

As imagined by most people, the stereotypical mushroom would be red, bulbous, and with white spots. So steeped in our public consciousness is the Fly Agaric that it is the default image of a mushroom for most people. This ubiquitous perception hasn’t simply happened overnight. However, Kevin M. Feeney has done an excellent job of marshaling the many contributors to this tome to help readers understand the long journey this mushroom has taken alongside world culture. If this book were simply a history book on the depiction of the Fly Agaric in folklore, mythology, and modern media, then it would still be a comprehensive tome. But Fly Agaric is much more ambitious than that and aims to be the only book on the subject a reader will need. From a study of the psychoactive elements, a breakdown of the medicinal uses, all the way to a cookbook with instructions on how to detoxify the mushroom for dinner, I simply cannot imagine a question about this plant that Kevin M. Feeney hasn’t supplied the answer to in this book.

Jamie Michele

Fly Agaric: A Compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology, & Exploration by Kevin M. Feeney is a non-fiction biological science guide with a multi-faceted, intensive examination of arguably the most recognizable fungi in the world: Amanita muscaria. Broken down into five distinct parts, Feeney's book covers a wide-ranging host of topics that include, but are not limited to, foraging and proper identification, its prevalence and perceived use throughout history, and its role in the socio-cultural, religious, and social anthropology spheres. The book also highlights recreational, complementary, and homeopathic-pharmaceutical uses and the scientific findings on whether or not, and in which areas, it was or was not effective.

Ask me a month ago if I would sit down and read a virtual encyclopedia on mushrooms, and it's unlikely I'd answer in the affirmative. Fly Agaric caught my eye immediately, having recognized the emblematic red with white speckled cap, and Kevin Feeney lured me the rest of the way in with concise, approachable, and intriguing details with the fungi's finer points. The collaborative effort is noteworthy, and I found the chapter on the Old Norse Berserkers to be of exceptional interest. I had always assumed these fierce and terrifying warriors were simply fatalists, unafraid to fight and die because their deities were pulling strings in either direction. To read that their rage and fatalism was likely the result of the Fly Agaric was so cool. This is a fantastic reference book that I have no doubt will engage readers who are interested in its study and also those who did not think they would be.