There’s been a really fun book cover trend over the last few years, and it corresponds with a rise in both the cottagecore aesthetic and the rise of this as a horror theme: mushrooms. I’m a big fan of fungi, and I love when mushrooms pepper my native garden after the rain. They’re fascinating and creepy, by turns safe and poisonous, depending on what kind of ‘shroom you’re dealing with.
Mushrooms make perfect sense as a cover element, whether it’s front and center or part of the background of a bigger design. Mushrooms come in so many shapes and sizes, and they’re alien; they’re a reminder of the weird and magical right here on Earth. As you’ll see, many of the books below play with genre, whether toeing the line between memoir and something else or dancing between the world as we know it and a world with a little more magic, mystery, and intrigue.
In honor of (almost) spring and the (almost) return of mushroom season, let’s take a look at several mushroom book covers from the last few years. This won’t have every one, so of course, leave your favorite recent mushroom book covers in the comments. I’ve only included books where the mushrooms are easily identifiable on the book cover; there are some well-known and solid reads where mushrooms play a major role but do not necessarily make an appearance on the cover.
Book descriptions come from Amazon. Books span both YA and adult titles, fiction and nonfiction (minus obvious books about mushrooms, since that feels too obvious), so there’s going to likely be something intriguing here for every kind of fun guy. Note that I’ve done my best to identify the book cover designers and artists. It is still very difficult to do this without the book in hand, as few publishers give credit to their artists or designers either on their website or even when they do cover reveals.
Recent Mushroom Book Covers
Not long after Iliana Regan’s celebrated debut, Burn the Place, became the first food-related title in four decades to become a National Book Award nominee in 2019, her career as a Michelin star–winning chef took a sharp turn north. Long based in Chicago, she and her new wife, Anna, decided to create a culinary destination, the Milkweed Inn, located in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, where much of the food served to their guests would be foraged by Regan herself in the surrounding forest and nearby river. Part fresh challenge, part escape, Regan’s move to the forest was also a return to her rural roots, in an effort to deepen the intimate connection to nature and the land that she’d long expressed as a chef, but experienced most intensely growing up.
On her family’s farm in rural Indiana, Regan was the beloved youngest in a family with three much older sisters. From a very early age, her relationship with her mother and father was shaped by her childhood identification as a boy. Her father treated her like the son he never had, and together they foraged for mushrooms, berries, herbs, and other wild food in the surrounding countryside—especially her grandfather’s nearby farm, where they also fished in its pond and young Iliana explored the accumulated family treasures stored in its dusty barn. Her father would share stories of his own grandmother, Busia, who’d helped run a family inn while growing up in eastern Europe, from which she imported her own wild legends of her native forests, before settling in Gary, Indiana, and opening Jennie’s Café, a restaurant that fed generations of local steelworkers. He also shared with Iliana a steady supply of sharp knives and—as she got older—guns.
Iliana’s mother had family stories as well—not only of her own years marrying young, raising headstrong girls, and cooking at Jennie’s, but also of her father, Wayne, who spent much of his boyhood hunting with the men of his family in the frozen reaches of rural Canada. The stories from this side of Regan’s family are darker, riven with alcoholism and domestic strife too often expressed in the harm, physical and otherwise, perpetrated by men—harm men do to women and families, and harm men do to the entire landscapes they occupy.
As Regan explores the ancient landscape of Michigan’s boreal forest, her stories of the land, its creatures, and its dazzling profusion of plant and vegetable life are interspersed with her and Anna’s efforts to make a home and a business of an inn that’s suddenly, as of their first full season there in 2020, empty of guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She discovers where the wild blueberry bushes bear tiny fruit, where to gather wood sorrel, and where and when the land’s different mushroom species appear—even as surrounding parcels of land are suddenly and violently decimated by logging crews that obliterate plant life and drive away the area’s birds. Along the way she struggles not only with the threat of COVID, but also with her personal and familial legacies of addiction, violence, fear, and obsession—all while she tries to conceive a child that she and her immune-compromised wife hope to raise in their new home.
With Burn the Place, Regan announced herself as a writer whose extravagant, unconventional talents matched her abilities as a lauded chef. In Fieldwork, she digs even deeper to express the meaning and beauty we seek in the landscapes, and stories, that reveal the forces which inform, shape, and nurture our lives.
Take flight to this post-apocalyptic utopia filled with birds.
Birds roam freely around the Moon complete with fruitful trees, sophisticated fungal networks, and an enviable socialist order. The universal worm feeds all, there are no weekends, and economics is as fantastical a study as unicorn psychology. No concept of money or wealth plagues the thoughts of these free-minded birds. Instead, there are angsty teens who form bands to show off their best bird song and other youngsters who yearn to become clothing designers even though clothes are only necessary during war. (The truly honourable professions for most birds are historian and/or librarian.) These birds are free to crush on hot pelicans and live their best lives until a crash-landed human from Earth threatens to change everything.
Michael DeForge’s post-apocalyptic reality brings together the author’s quintessential deadpan humour, surrealist imagination, and undeniable socio-political insight. Appearing originally as a webcomic, Birds of Maine follows DeForge’s prolific trajectory of astounding graphic novels that reimagine and question the world as we know it. His latest comic captures the optimistic glow of utopian imagination with a late-capitalism sting of irony.
City of elegance and squalor. Of religious fervor and wanton lusts. And everywhere, on the walls of courtyards and churches, an incandescent fungus of mysterious and ominous origin. In Ambergris, a would-be suitor discovers that a sunlit street can become a killing ground in the blink of an eye. An artist receives an invitation to a beheading—and finds himself enchanted. And a patient in a mental institution is convinced that he’s made up a city called Ambergris, imagined its every last detail, and that he’s really from a place called Chicago . . .
By turns sensuous and terrifying, filled with exotica and eroticism, this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports invokes a universe within a puzzle box where you can lose—and find—yourself again.
This genre-bending debut collection of stories constructs eight eerie worlds full of desire, wisdom, and magic blooming amidst decay.
In stories that beckon and haunt, Fruiting Bodies ranges confidently from the fantastical to the gothic to the uncanny as it follows characters—mostly queer, mostly women—on the precipice of change. Echoes of timeless myth and folklore reverberate through urgent narratives of discovery, appetite, and coming-of-age in a time of crisis.
In “The Changeling,” two young cousins wait in dread for a new family member to arrive, convinced that he may be a dangerous supernatural creature. In “Endangered Animals,” Jane prepares to say goodbye to her almost-love while they road-trip across a country irrevocably altered by climate change. In “Take Only What Belongs to You,” a queer woman struggles with the personal history of an author she idolized, while in “Fiddler, Fool, Pair,” an anthropologist is drawn into a magical—and dangerous—gamble. In the title story, partners Agnes and Geb feast peacefully on the mushrooms that sprout from Agnes’s body—until an unwanted male guest disturbs their cloistered home.
Audacious, striking, and wholly original, Fruiting Bodies offers stories about knowledge in a world on the verge of collapse, knowledge that alternately empowers or devastates. Pulling beautifully, brazenly, from a variety of literary traditions, Kathryn Harlan firmly establishes herself as a thrilling new voice in fiction.
For three years, Song Yan has filled the emptiness of her Beijing apartment with the tentative notes of her young piano students. She gave up on her own career as a concert pianist many years ago, but her husband Bowen, an executive at a car company, has long rebuffed her pleas to have a child. He resists even when his mother arrives from the southwestern Chinese region of Yunnan and begins her own campaign for a grandchild. As tension in the household rises, it becomes harder for Song Yan to keep her usual placid demeanor, especially since she is troubled by dreams of a doorless room she can’t escape, populated only by a strange orange mushroom.
When a parcel of mushrooms native to her mother-in-law’s province is delivered seemingly by mistake, Song Yan sees an opportunity to bond with her, and as the packages continue to arrive every week, the women stir-fry and grill the mushrooms, adding them to soups and noodles. When a letter arrives in the mail from the sender of the mushrooms, Song Yan’s world begins to tilt further into the surreal. Summoned to an uncanny, seemingly ageless house hidden in a hutong that sits in the middle of the congested city, she finds Bai Yu, a once world-famous pianist who disappeared ten years ago.
A gorgeous and atmospheric novel of art and expression, grief and survival, memory and self-discovery, Ghost Music animates contemporary Beijing through the eyes of a lonely yet hopeful young woman and gives vivid color and texture to the promise of new beginnings.
Rowan is visiting her aunt – Winne the hedge witch – in the Welsh countryside, to get back to nature and hone her skills, as well as taking a break from her annoying sisters and enjoying some peace and quiet. However, Rowan soon comes to realise that hedges are a serious business and this isn’t quite the opportunity to rest and escape she thought it might be.
Not only that, but mysterious events around the town are causing panic in the secret magical community and cowans – non-magical folk – are starting to take notice.
Can Rowan hone her hedge craft, try to make some friends and solve the riddle of the mysterious goings-on, or is magic about to be revealed to the world … or at least Wales?
Award-winning author Kelly Robson returns with High Times in the Low Parliament, a lighthearted romp through an 18th-century London featuring flirtatious scribes, irritable fairies, and the dangers of Parliament.
Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.
As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water.
Into The Light by Mark Oshiro (3/28/23), Cover art by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor, Cover design by Lesley Worrell
KEEP YOUR SECRETS CLOSE TO HOME
It’s been one year since Manny was cast out of his family and driven into the wilderness of the American Southwest. Since then, Manny lives by self-taught rules that keep him moving—and keep him alive. Now, he’s taking a chance on a traveling situation with the Varela family, whose attractive but surly son, Carlos, seems to promise a new future.
Eli abides by the rules of his family, living in a secluded community that raised him to believe his obedience will be rewarded. But an unsettling question slowly eats away at Eli’s once unwavering faith in Reconciliation: Why can’t he remember his past?
But the reported discovery of an unidentified body in the hills of Idyllwild, California, will draw both of these young men into facing their biggest fears and confronting their own identity—and who they are allowed to be.
For fans of Courtney Summers and Tiffany D. Jackson, Into the Light is a ripped-from-the-headlines story with Oshiro’s signature mix of raw emotions and visceral prose—but with a startling twist you’ll have to read to believe.
A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction.
Vern―seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised―flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.
But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.
To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future―outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.
Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.
Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.
Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.
I am a Weyward, and wild inside.
2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.
1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.
1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.
Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
(Those are mushroom prints!)
When Jorie wakes up in the loft bed of a college boy she doesn’t recognize, she’s instantly filled with regret. What happened the night before? What led her to this place? Was it her father’s infidelity? Her mother’s seemingly weak acceptance? Her recent breakup with Ian, the boy who loved her art and supported her through the hardest time of her life?
As Jorie tries to reconstruct the events that led her to this point, free verse poems lead the reader through the current morning, as well as flashbacks to her relationships with her parents, her friends, her boyfriend, and the previous night.
With Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty and Ask Me How I Got Here, Christine Heppermann established herself as a vital voice in thought-provoking and powerful feminist writing for teens. Her poetry is surprising, wry, emotional, and searing. What Goes Up is by turns a scorchingly funny and a deeply emotional story that asks whether it’s possible to support and love someone despite the risk of being hurt. Readers of Laura Ruby, E. K. Johnston, Elana K. Arnold, and Laurie Halse Anderson will find a complicated heroine they won’t soon forget.
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.