Category Archives: book

Upcoming Events

This fungi train keeps a-rolling…

Thursday night, October 24, I’ll be part of an all-star lineup for Seattle Lit Crawl. Other readers will include Ivan Doig, Will Self, Claire Dederer, Neal Thompson, Ellen Forney, and many more. Join me at Capitol Cider at 8pm for the “Farm to Fable” crowd, with readings by Kathleen Flinn, Joe Ray, Kurt Timmermeister, and myself. After Party at Richard Hugo House at 9pm.

This weekend, October 25-27, I’ll be in Eugene, Oregon, to speak at Lane Community College on Friday at 7pm, as part of the Cascade Mycological Society’s fall lecture series, and on Sunday I’ll be signing books at the Mt. Pisgah Mushroom Fest.

For fungi fanciers around Puget Sound, I’ll be reading and showing slides at Village Books in Bellingham on November 13 as part of the North Cascades Institute’s “Nature of Writing” series. And on November 14 I’ll be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

After that, I take a bite out of the Big Apple. More on my East Coast swing later…

Mushrooms for the People

The Mushroom HuntersMy new book The Mushroom Hunters has been on the shelves for nearly two weeks and I couldn’t be happier with the reception so far. If it inspires a few curious readers to get outside and interact with their natural environment, all the better.

The Wall Street Journal calls the book a “rollicking narrative…delivering vivid and cinematic scenes on every page,” and The Seattle Timescomparing the book to Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, Michael Pollan, and Hunter Thompson, says it both “instructs and delights” while “connect[ing] the dots between natural history, socioeconomics and cooking.” Callers jammed the lines at both my Diane Rehm Show appearance and on Wisconsin Public Radio.

But equally important to me are the testaments from readers outside the professional media outlets. Ronald Holden at the Cornichon blog writes, “As always, it’s Cook’s story-telling skill that keeps you reading,” and here’s a post from a reader from Portland that recently circulated on Facebook:

I just finished reading The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook… It’s beautifully written and has a powerful, interwoven story. He really knocked this one out of the park! More than just a book about harvesting and selling mushrooms, he takes on so many important issues such as wealth/class structures, ecology and human interaction, small business challenges, immigration, and asks profound questions about happiness and satisfaction in life.

I feel lucky to have readers like these.

***

In my next post I manage to sneak away from my desk to see why recreational mushroom hunters in the Pacific Northwest are calling this a banner year…

This Tuesday, September 10

The Mushroom HuntersFriends and readers, the publication of my new book, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, is just around the corner. Good things are brewing. Publishers Weekly calls it “intrepid and inspired,” The Daily Beast named it a “Hot Read,” and both Amazon.com and Apple picked it as one of the Top 10 Best Books of September. The Seattle Times reviewed it this past Friday, with comparison to Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, Michael Pollan, and Hunter Thompson.

Here’s a snippet from a Library Journal review that, to my mind, encapsulates my efforts:

Not simply about mushrooms, this book examines human behavior, economics, food, society, and nature. In the end, readers will have learned a great deal about U.S. economic and social structures—all while being entertained and enlightened by stories of gastronomy and mushrooms. Highly recommended.

The book goes on sale September 10. That day I’ll be a guest on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR (check for your local listing). The official book launch will be at Elliott Bay Books on Thursday, September 12, at 7pm. I plan to show slides, read a bit from the book, raffle off bags of morels, and the cafe will have some shroomy bites to eat. There might be a spacial guest in attendance as well…

After that I hit the road to visit mycological societies, mushroom festivals, and do other events through the fall and winter. I’ll be at the Wordstock Lit Fest in Portland the first weekend in October and the Breitenbush Mushroom Gathering a couple weeks later.

The confluence of food, nature, and adventure is a mother lode of literary possibility. Join me on the mushroom trail and get your copy soon!

Big Fall Books Preview

The Mushroom HuntersMy new book The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America has been included as an Editor’s Pick in Amazon’s Big Fall Books Preview. Scroll down to read editor Jon Foro’s review. He calls it “a ton of fun—equal parts adventure, natural history, and gastronomy.” Foro adds: “Naturalists (who aren’t necessarily foodies) will learn about some of the more exotic fungi and their uses on the table, while foodies (who might not be naturalists) will find the loamy details of the mushroom trail enlightening.” Loamy details. I like that!

The book is available now for pre-order and officially on sale September 10.

The Mushroom Hunters

The Mushroom Hunters

Dear Readers:
I’m pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of my new book, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America. The book goes on sale September 10—but it’s now available for pre-order at a bookstore near you, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

Some of you may have guessed what I was up to with all the mushroom-related blog posts in recent years (not to mention my rather erratic blogging record of late). The idea for The Mushroom Hunters came to me while harvesting morels in July, 2007, during an episode that’s briefly recounted in my first book, Fat of the Land. I was picking in the North Cascades of Washington State near the Canadian border, in one of the last truly wild regions of the Lower 48, home to wolves and grizzlies. A friend and I heard voices in the woods. Moments later we came face-to-face with two men, both wearing impossibly large packs filled with morels, maybe eighty pounds apiece. They stared at us and we stared at them. Nothing was said. Then, just like that, they turned on their heels and disappeared back into the timber. It was like a bigfoot sighting!

After that I was determined to infiltrate the commercial wild mushroom trade, a scrappy, mostly hidden and itinerant enterprise that follows the mushroom flushes year-round, with echoes of Wild West frontier-style capitalism and Gold Rush days gone by. I was amazed that no one had ever written a book-length account of it, and was fortunate to meet a number of pickers and buyers who allowed me into their world. Over the next few years I traveled from my home in Seattle as far north as Yukon Territory and, come winter, camped with pickers on the Lost Coast of California. I went to Oregon and British Columbia, to Michigan, Montana, Colorado, and New York City, among other places, to follow the invisible food chain from patch to plate. I got on “the mushroom trail” and embedded myself in a subculture that is, for better or worse, indelibly American.

The Mushroom Hunters is the result of thousands of hours spent with pickers, buyers, and chefs; hundreds of hours of taped interviews; and my own compulsion to weave this first-hand material into a narrative that readers can appreciate, whether or not they’ve ever tasted a wild mushroom or even taken a walk in the woods.

Here’s what early readers are saying:

“With superb detail and intrepid research, Langdon Cook leads a fascinating trek deep into the mysterious world of mushroom hunting, blending intriguing natural history and quirky characters with insight into this murky, sometimes dangerous business. Riveting stuff for food lovers.” —Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

“A beautifully written portrait of the people who collect and distribute wild mushrooms, The Mushroom Hunters is food and nature writing at its finest. Langdon Cook’s descriptions are so visceral you can smell the mushrooms, the forests, the rain on every page. The book is full of telling anecdotes about a kind of American that is ingrained in our mythology, the frontiersman. Mushroom hunters are contemporary Davy Crocketts, living off the grid, in tune with nature, embodying the independent-mindedness that characterizes America. This is a terrific book.” —Eugenia Bone, author of Mycophilia

“In these pages, you’ll meet America’s last nomads—mushroom hunters—in all their ragamuffin glory. Langdon Cook brings to life all of these individuals with the eyes, ears, and heart of a first-rate novelist. Open The Mushroom Hunters at any page, and you’ll be instantly transported to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, you may even find yourself smelling of pine needles. The book will be a revelation for anyone who wonders how those morels or chanterelles end up at their favorite restaurant.” —Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places

The Mushroom Hunters is one of those very infrequent and wonderful books that change your way of looking at something you think you don’t care about. Who knew the humble mushroom could be shot through with suspense? The way Langdon Cook writes about these delicious fungi—the excitement in the story of their capture; the flair of the telling—has me convinced I’d go pretty far out on the wire myself to get some.” —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life

The Mushroom Hunters is like the forest itself—gems are hidden throughout. Langdon Cook captures the surreal and deeply flavorful world of North America’s wild fungi, the sub-culture that seeks them, and the thrill of the treasure hunt.” —Jim Robbins, New York Times contributor and author of The Man Who Planted Trees

Pre-order The Mushroom Hunters:

The Book Has Landed!

Dear Readers: I’m pleased to announce that my book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, is now available at a bookseller near you, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and many independent bookstores across the land.

So, what can I tell you about it? The book is 15 chapters, plus an introduction, arranged according to season, with each chapter focusing on a specific group of wild foods and ending with a recipe. Regular readers of this blog might recognize a situation or two, but 99 percent of the content has not appeared here. The book examines the settings, natural history, and culinary lore in greater detail, not to mention the characters doing the foraging. And it’s funnier, I’ve been told.

Here’s what the jacket blurbs say:

“Smart, funny, and hugely knowledgeable, Langdon Cook is a walking field guide and a gifted storyteller. Fat of the Land is a welcome kick in the pants to get outside and start foraging for our suppers.” —Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table

“Langdon Cook understands that the goal of hunting and foraging is not just to eat, but to eat well. Any city-eater can grab something at a supermarket, but to feel the thrill of grappling with lingcod or plucking dubious mushrooms gives the reader maximum pleasure—and zero pain. Provided you follow Cook’s recipes to satiate your whetted appetite. As a forager with a well-trained palate, Cook knows best.” —Betty Fussell, author of My Kitchen Wars and Raising Steaks: The Life & Times of American Beef

“Langdon Cook celebrates the bounty of the land and sea through the pleasure of foraging. It’s an inspiration and a reminder that eating your local foods connects you to the land you live on.” —Maria Hines, Chef/Owner, Tilth Restaurant

“In Fat of the Land, Langdon Cook invites us to share in his enthusiastic, salubrious, wild food foraging quests. Get out of town, breathe in the fresh air, hear the quiet, exercise, feel good, connect with nature and the season—then return to the kitchen to delicious preparations of dandelion greens, squid, fiddleheads, or whatever the quarry. Lively, informative, soul-satisfying narrative.” —Jon Rowley, Contributing Editor, Gourmet

The next few months will be a whirlwind as I hit the road in promotion of the book. Check back here periodically to see what events and readings are on tap and whether I’ll be in a town near you. For Seattle and Portland area readers, here’s a quick roundup of kick-off events for early September:

Thanks for your support and I hope you enjoy the book!

Houston, we have cover art!

Here it is folks, the Fat of the Land book cover. The book won’t be published until August 30, but it feels a little bit more real now, even if the jacket only exists as pixels on a screen.

Try as we may, pretty much all of us judge books by their covers. Social scientists suggest there are evolutionary reasons for this, since making a snap judgment about a friend or foe was often a decision fraught with life-or-death consequences for our prehistoric ancestors. Like all cliches, there’s a grain of truth at the heart of the book cover trope. I know I’m guilty. One of my favorite books of the year probably wouldn’t have gotten even a cursory flip-through at the bookstore if I hadn’t decided to buy it sight unseen after reading a review.

Happily, I’m pleased with the cover. I like the type fonts and those deep blue cobblestones. The fork is a nice touch, too, and the crab—well, that was my idea. You can’t really go wrong with a crab. Crabs are cool (the ones you eat, that is).

Okay, enough of that. I’ve still got to make a few edits to the first typeset pages and get those in by tomorrow. Then it’s out of my hands forever.

P.S. You can pre-order it now.