Nicholas P. Money is an Anglo-American gentleman of letters and professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is an expert on fungal growth and reproduction. Nicholas has authored a number of popular science books that celebrate the diversity of the microbial world.
THE SELFISH APE: HUMAN NATURE AND OUR PATH TO EXTINCTION (2019): Weaving together stories of science and sociology, The Selfish Ape offers a refreshing response to common fantasies about the ascent of humanity. Rather than imagining modern humans as a species with godlike powers, or Homo deus, Nicholas P. Money recasts us as Homo narcissus—paragons of self-absorption. This exhilarating story offers an immense sweep of modern biology, leading readers from earth’s unexceptional location in the cosmos to the story of our microbial origins and the innerworkings of the human body. It explores human genetics, reproduction, brain function, and aging, creating an enlightened view of man as a brilliantly inventive, yet self-destructive animal.
The Selfish Ape is a book about human biology, the intertwined characteristics of our greatness and failure, and the way that we have plundered the biosphere. Written in a highly accessible style, it is a perfect read for those interested in science, human history, sociology, and the environment.
RISE OF YEAST: HOW THE SUGAR FUNGUS SHAPED CIVILIZATION (2018): The great Victorian biologist Thomas Huxley once wrote, “I know of no familiar substance forming part of our every-day knowledge and experience, the examination of which, with a little care, tends to open up such very considerable issues as does yeast.” Huxley was right. Beneath the very foundations of human civilization lies yeast—also known as the sugar fungus. Yeast is responsible for fermenting our alcohol and providing us with bread—the very staples of life. Moreover, it has proven instrumental in helping cell biologists and geneticists understand how living things work, manufacturing life-saving drugs, and producing biofuels that could help save the planet from global warming.
In The Rise of Yeast, Nicholas P. Money argues that we cannot ascribe too much importance to yeast, and that its discovery and controlled use profoundly altered human history. Humans knew what yeast did long before they knew what it was. It was not until Louis Pasteur’s experiments in the 1860s that scientists even acknowledged its classification as a fungus. A compelling blend of science, history, and sociology The Rise of Yeast explores the rich, strange, and utterly symbiotic relationship between people and yeast, a stunning and immensely readable account that takes us back to the roots of human history.
THE MYCOLOGIST (2017): This is the fictional diary of Professor Bartholomew Leach (1823-1913), who taught at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Leach formulated his theory of Creation by Natural Perfection in the late 1850s, but discovered, to his great disappointment, that he had been trumped by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. In southwestern Ohio, Leach became known for his rejection of biblical teachings on creation and was vilified by many in his community. History is kinder to his memory. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, it is clear that Professor Leach was viewed as a living saint by the escaped slaves whose passages he lubricated with such selfless heroism.
MUSHROOMS: A NATURAL AND CULTURAL HISTORY (2017): In this book, Nicholas P. Money tells the utterly fascinating story of mushrooms and the ways we have interacted with these fungi throughout history. Whether they have populated the landscapes of fairytales, lent splendid umami to our dishes, or steered us into deep hallucinations, mushrooms have affected humanity from the earliest beginnings of our species.
As Money explains, mushrooms are not self-contained organisms like animals and plants. Rather, they are the fruiting bodies of large colonies of mycelial threads that spread underground and permeate rotting vegetation. Because these colonies decompose organic matter, they are of extraordinary ecological value and have a huge effect on the health of the environment. From sustaining plant growth and spinning the carbon cycle to causing hay fever and affecting the weather, mushrooms affect just about everything we do. Money tells the stories of the eccentric pioneers of mycology, delights in culinary powerhouses like porcini and morels, and considers the value of medicinal mushrooms. This book takes us on a tour of the cultural and scientific importance of mushrooms, from the enchanted forests of folklore to the role of these fungi in sustaining life on earth.