Monday, February 20, 2012

Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores, my review

After enjoying Mushroom so much, I thought I'd check out another one of Dr. Nicholas Money's offerings, Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: a Natural History of Toxic Mold (2004, Oxford Univ. Press). This book focuses on the mold Stachybotrys, which has been correlated with some severe health problems.  I wonder if just including the name of this genus will increase my spam-commenting? 

He focuses on Stachybotrys and discusses the strange intersection of the fungus and humanity. Physicians and lawyers delve into mycology.  This part, I must confess, held little pleasure for me.  I was hoping for more of the insightful pop-mycology (if such a thing exists) that I read about in Mushroom.  I was hoping for more about the common molds that surround us in our daily lives, and I enjoyed the last chapter best of all (about dry rot fungi, Serpula and Meruliporia), not only because of the more interesting (to me) biology of these fungi, but also because of the smirk-inducing humor.

I've gotten to see a fair amount of buzz around Mushroom, as Dr. Money presses the flesh in support of it.  Some of my Facebook friends posted about the interview, which resonated mostly around the finding of a sporocarp of Schizophyllum commune in the back of a patient's throat.  Yes, that is disgusting, but unlikely to happen to those in decent health and good hygiene.

In summary, I don't have much to say about Carpet Monsters.  I would hazard most of the audience for this book is comprised of people with a vested interest in sick-buildings and Stachybotrys (Here I expect a bump in spam commenting) rather than a fellow mycologist like myself.  And for those who pick it up with that purpose, you will find the book to be well-researched, and not overly technical (though a basic understanding of biology is always helpful).  If you are interested in getting your beak wet with fungi in general,  I would start with Mushroom.  Though again, I haven't read Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard or Triumph of the Fungi yet.  One of those will probably be next.