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Fun facts you didn’t even know you needed to know
 
The Bookworm Sez
Terri Schlichenmeyer
 
 “How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi: Collected Quirks of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math from Nerd Night” by Dr. Chris Balakrishnan & Matt Wasowski, illustrations by Kristen Orr, c.2024, St. Martin’s Press, $30, 320 pages

How do you do?
Howdy. Hey, there. Hello. Hi, how are you? It’s polite to greet people when you meet them for the first time, and respectful, too. Furthermore, it’s human nature to want to be liked, to find common ground and get along. Read the new book “How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi,” edited by Dr. Chris Balakrishnam & Matt Wasowski, illustrations by Kristen Orr, and you can happily be a bit of a know-it-all, too.
Twenty-one years ago, a group of nerds got together to offer one another short “presentations” on esoteric topics and eventually, “Nerd Night” grew and spread around the world. Seriously, how could a nerdy knowledge gathering like that get any better? 
Well, some of the presentations went up on YouTube. Others made it into this book.
If you’ve ever served in the deserts of Kuwait, for instance, you know that mythology about camel spiders is mostly an exaggeration. The creatures are big, but not all that big. They can’t jump super-long distances. They aren’t really even spiders. Oh, but they’ll chase you – though not for the reasons you’ve heard.
Or take, for instance, a glass of moo-juice. You’ve been taught all your life that only mammals give milk, but that’s not exactly a fact. By definition, birds, sharks, insects, even worms nourish their young with a form of “milk.”
Trap-jaw ants and stomatopods can bring a world of hurt to your body. People who have misophonia can’t tolerate the sound of your breathing; people with synesthesia might be able to taste it. There’s a reason why some letters get lost in words we pronounce correctly. NASA is working on ways to recycle astronauts’ solid waste for fuel, but you don’t have control of your bladder. A real grizzly bear inspired the California state flag. Chances are, “you will probably not survive the next mass extinction [but] spiders and gophers will.” 
And when that end finally happens to you, embalming won’t preserve you forever...
When was the last time you had pure, light-hearted, smart-aleck, gee-whiz, smack-your-forehead, geeky goodness from a book?  If it’s been awhile, you’ll want to find “How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi” now.
You won’t be sorry you did, once you dip into the facts you didn’t know you needed to know, offered to you informally here, and with a slice of sarcasm. Authors Dr. Chris Balakrishnan and Matt Wasowski break their book down into eleven basic categories, but the knowledge inside it runs from arthropods to World War Z and lots of other subjects in between. Each brief chapter comes from an expert on the topic at hand – or, at the very least, someone who had reason, for instance, to wander down a rabbit-hole of maggots, meteorites, romance-by-spreadsheet, and zombies in your laundry room.
“How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi” is perfect for fun guys and gals ages fifteen to adult. Expect to learn, expect to laugh, and expect to have your eyes opened. Get it, and say “hello” to a good read.
2/21/2024