We highly recommend the National Audubon Society’s Field Guides. They’re a good size, durable, well-organized, and feature very clear photographs which – despite the artistry of the line drawings you find in many nature guides – is highly practical, especially when the subject is Mushrooms. (Audubon has 20 field guides currently in print, see here.)
Perusing the Field Guide to Mushrooms, for example, you find the evocative common names of the fungi themselves, such as Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum): “the white pore surface bruises easily, and a detailed drawing can be etched into the surface that on drying will remain permanently.”
There’s the ominous-sounding Strangulated Amanita and Brown-toothed Crust. Groovy-sounding Green Stain Earth Tongues (“used in the making of Tunbridgeware, the dark green-stained veneer of English dinner tables and wooden plates), Yellow Rabbit Ears, and Tumbling Puffballs. The Dryad’s Saddle (“odor and taste like watermelon rind”) and Beaked Earthstar (unsurprisingly, “one of the most distinctive”). Not to mention Carbon Balls, Green-headed Jelly Club and Slimy Gomphidius (which sounds hideous).
In our cautious view, Mushroom Guides are best read as literature. Despite the excellent clarity of the guide, it’s still feasible to make a dangerous error while collecting mushrooms.
Best-selling author Nicholas Evans (The Horse Whisperer) accidently served poisonous mushrooms to himself, his wife, and two other family members, with awful consequences.
But if you must collect, start with a good guidebook.