Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: "The Mushroom Hunters," "Anything Goes"

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Sohrab Ahmari of The Wall Street Journal reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

Chances are most foodies have coveted some of the fresh morels at Whole Foods or savored the risotto al porcini at their favorite downtown joint.

But how do all those tasty mushrooms end up on a plate and at the market?

That's the question Langdon Cook explores in "The Mushroom Hunters," an investigation of the lives of pickers and buyers and other fungi obsessives. 

Readers meet a young man who drives 100,000 miles each year around the Pacific Northwest. He buys the mushrooms that the pickers, mostly Southeast Asian families, forage, and then rushes them by plane, raft and helicopter to the country's best chefs.

He’s just the tip of this new "wild west." Along the way, readers learn that the world's largest single organism is a 2,000-acre mushroom in Oregon, that mushrooms were used to clean up the site of the Chernobyl accident and that fungi are biologically closer to humans than plants.

Mr. Cook is himself a fungus-fanatic, and his eye for detail and lyrical prose make "Mushroom Hunters" a delight.

Veteran entertainment writer Ethan Mordden explores a very different American obsession - musical theater - with enthusiasm and flair in "Anything Goes."

The book presents a comprehensive history of the genre, from the story behind the iconic poster art for "My Fair Lady" to analyses of violence, love and patriotism in the works of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim to a persuasive case for why the much-derided pop musicals of the 1970s were actually good.

"Anything Goes" has it all. It's appreciation for an all-American genre from one who, as Mr. Mordden says, "was there for a good deal of it."

For more Wall Street Journal book reviews, visit opinionjournal.com.

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