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Most modern field guides are good place to start. They all have value as they each contain a slightly different cast of fungi. However today's high quality photography make field identification easier than ever, or I should say, gives you a better starting point to identification than ever. Your google search and frequenting places like this forum are excellent tools to use alongside your own photos and field guides.
Depending on where you are in the world, your best answers are likely different. Even if your goal is to find edible or psychoactive mushrooms, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with your local genera, and try and discern all mushrooms from each other.
It is likely that you could begin by attempting to determine your find to the genus level. There are many mushroom genera, and having a general understanding (genus) is necessary before specializing (species).
The mushroom can be broken down into 6 parts for macroscopic identification, although accuracy to species often requires microscopy.
Take note of the features of these 6 "parts" along with the color of the spore deposit, habitat, date, substrate, and nearby plant life. I would advise browsing the mycological glossaries available at this site and in good books to tackle the jargon necessary to describe everything.
1.The skin of the cap or the pileipellis (observe its texture, compositon, etc.) 2.The cap or pileus (observe its shape, form) 3.The spore bearing surface or hymenophore (note the type (teeth, gills, pores, veins, etc.),and the specifics) 4.The annular zone or ring (What, exactly is going on down there?) 5.The stipe or stem (texture, composition, shapes, size, color) 6.The basal zone (shape, texture composition, color)
Check your local library, and put all books pertaining to fungi on hold.
You will find many names have changed over time, just Google a name, and you should find the latest synonym.
Quote: sulobaiD said: I'm a fan of Mushrooms Demystified By: David Arora.
Quote: thiotimoline said: Mushrooms Demystified is great. The writing is beautiful, too, in places. Two caveats: it focuses on the west coast of North America, and it's too large and heavy to take hunting.
I agree. I'm not on the west coast but I still find it very useful. David Arora has a smaller field guide All That the Rain Promises and More if you're on the west coast of the US and The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms is pretty decent for a general east coast field guide.
I also have one by Roger Phillips that's helpful. Paul Staments Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World is great and is also available online, free.