The chemistry of fungi

The chemistry of fungi

James R Hanson

Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing 2008 | 240pp | ?60.00 (HB)ISBN 9780854041367

Reviewed by Ray C F Jones 


As a long-serving academic with an interest in natural products and biosynthesis, I found this a fascinating book to read, bringing together a range of topics around the theme of the chemistry of fungi.

There is something historical, something about growing fungi, and chapters on the major categories of natural products, describing the compounds and key properties, majoring on biosynthesis. The groups of compounds featured include the expected polyketides, terpenoids, metabolites of amino acids, and so on. Fungal pigments, mycotoxins, a look at the chemistry of fungal disease and fungi as reagents complete this somewhat eclectic set of materials.

The information provided is selective and illuminating, and the author’s style makes for easy reading. That’s the plus side - on the less positive side, this is a book that dips into the area - with not too much detail on any one thing, be it structure, properties, biosynthesis, etc. The author has clearly decided that wide-ranging coverage was his target rather than depth. So beyond natural product nuts like this reviewer, it isn’t quite clear to me who is the audience for this book.

There are suggestions for further reading in a bibliography at the end of the book, so the reader does have a place to go for detail on anything they’ve found in the main text.

Overall I think this book will be highly interesting for a fairly limited range of readers whilst not really being essential reading, however those who do pick it up will find lots of bits of interesting chemistry and certainly across a wide range of compound types and different properties. There is not to my knowledge any other book that collects this content in one place, so maybe that is the key role of this 200-page volume.