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A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them
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A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  125 reviews
"The real masterwork that Sue Hubbell has created is her life," David Quammen wrote in the New York Times. This book is, like its author, a unique achievement. Weaving a vivid portrait of her own life and her bees' lives through the seasons, Hubbell writes "about bees to be sure, but also about other things: the important difference between loneliness and solitude . . . th ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 13th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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I enjoyed this book. It's about the author, Sue Hubbell, who lives out in the country in Missouri and takes care of about 300 hives of bees that are stationed all over on land rented from farmers. Even though I was not familiar with all of the bee-keeping terms, Sue Hubbell explained how the hives worked and bee idiosyncrasies. She references other books of interest in here, which are now in my reading queue at the library. The part I thought was funny was where she took off her sundress out in ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This short book following the author's life and work as a beekeeper in the Ozarks in the late 1980s is a delight, sharply capturing the place and time and details of everyday life and the rhythms of the seasons with a smooth, easy to read narrative voice and clear explanations of the author's beekeeping process. There is an extensive glossary as well that took up nearly 40% of my ebook edition.

A strength of the book was the awareness that things change too- the short afterword relates changes in
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in a good story, or bees.
Recommended to Jennifer by: Birdchick blog
Shelves: wine-and-food, 2009, bees
To date, the most endearing and encouraging book I've read on the subject of Beekeeping. Ms. Hubbell sets the scene beautifully, honoring the calendar of both bee and beekeeper. All of her factual information is presented accurately and with gentle humor. An example: "The textbooks say that bees will only fly if the weather is at least 10C. My bees haven't read the textbooks, so they are out flying today."

I loved her personal tales that wove through the book. I imagined this Ozark mountain gal
Lukasz Pruski
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite animal is Apis mellifera and among many, many things in the world that make me sad, very few make me sadder than the danger to the survival of bees. World agriculture may suffer because of decreased pollination, people may have to miss out on honey, and this wonderful and fascinating species may face a risk of near extinction. I have a personal regret as well: over 12 years ago, when my wife and I bought a house with a large garden, we had thousands of bees, living in an ad-hoc hive ...more
Bob Redmond
May 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bees
This is one of the best books I've read on bees. Hubbell give a lot of information--extremely helpful to the new beekeeper--but also weaves in some of her own story as a professional apiarist. The details she shares are slight, but illuminating. The reader gets a sense not just of how to keep bees (Listen. Watch. Move quietly. Don't let your will get in the way of the natural world.) but also a sense of what makes a good life (many of the same things).

It's a simple, but not simplistic, book that
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I walked by a fellow making beehives today in Oakland and I immediately remembered how much I loved this book. There is a wafting, floaty feeling to her writing that carries a ton of information about beekeeping, nature's cycles, and our human imposition on the earth we rely upon.

Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I think it's important to know, at the top, if you're interested in reading A Book of Bees that there is both a glossary of terms and an index in the back. The former would have been useful to me as there were places where beekeeping lingo went over my head, the latter would be useful for people who want to use A Book of Bees as a reference book.

I'm not sure what inspired me to read A Book of Bees. Whims can't always be dictated by logic, of course, but still--it's a whim that had two s
OH, Ms. Hubbell, thank you for writing books. I love your writing style, and I adored this book. I spent maybe moments in my backyard with this book, watching bees and butterflies enjoying my spring flowers, soaking up your experiences and knowledge. This was a perfect spring read!
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was delighted with the copy of the book I received through the Interlibrary loan. It lacked a cover, was stained, the words on the spine were illegible. Written in 1988, the information still felt current, but what was I loved were hearing the musings of one of the first woman apiarist and her experiences in the Ozarks-both bee related and philosophical "I've come to the belief that we manufacture whatever immortal souls we have out of the bits of difference we make by living in this world". ...more
Dee Mills
I enjoyed this book and learning about bees. Hubbell writes well about a subject dear to her heart. It almost persuades me to take up beekeeping .... almost. But it's an occupation not for the faint of heart, and I don't mean bee stings. Stings are the least of it, as Hubbell explains.

The knowledge required to be good at beekeeping is prodigious. A beekeeper knows about biology and weather; about diseases of bees; about making queens (an intricate and delicate process); what makes good, sellabl
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, ladyish, bees
I just really like Sue Hubbell's writing. I would probably read anything she wrote, but my fascination with bees and beekeeping make this book of particular interest to me. This is partly a nature journal and personal memoir, keeping in the style of Hubbell's early work, A Country Year. It is almost a guide for a beginning beekeeper although I think it might be difficult to refer back to due to the conversational tone. That same conversational tone is what makes the book highly readable straight ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book, of course, makes me want to move alone to the country and make friends with all the bees.
Kilian Metcalf
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-non-fiction
My grandfather kept bees on his property in Nevada. When we went to visit, I would spend hours lying in the grass by the hives just watching the bees. I was too young to be afraid, and no one knew what I was doing, so there were no warnings. It was a remarkable time of freedom for a young child. When my mother expressed worry if I had been gone so long, my grandfather told her not to worry. His dog Queenie, my constant companion, would keep me safe. And so she did.

I have always been fascinated b
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. I picked it up in Belfast at my hotel; it caught my notice because of the post-it taped to the front which requested someone to "TAKE ME, help me travel the world". The book is a book-crossing book that you are supposed to read, find on the website to comment and then "release" somewhere else you know why giving it to someone or leaving it somewhere for someone else to pick up, just like I did :). I almost put the book back on the table at the hotel because I have no desire ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I've been entertaining the idea of raising bees. I probably won't, but I keep reading about it. This is my latest foray into the beekeeping reading. The author recounts what a year in the life of a small commercial beekeeper looks like. She works on her own for most of the year, handling 300 hives scattered on farms near where she lives. It's a great insight into a different way of thinking and living. I think I'm one step closer to owning that beehive. 4 stars.

Number of pages: 210
Number of my
John G
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very well written book on bee keeping and life. This book was a pleasure to read and quite informative on all aspects of keeping honey bees. Along the way, the author weaves into her tale some aspects of life and the people she has met, and also a fair bit of "nice to know" book knowledge.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This one gets a four-star rating simply for the descriptions of her Missouri surroundings and the reverence she holds for the countryside and insects from whom she derives her living. A peaceful, pastoral read at a very turbulent point of my year.
Stephani Finley
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is a great book for the beginning beekeeper, maybe even the advanced. I don't know since I am a real beginner. It is written as a story rather than a text book. I found it entertaining and informative.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books!

Sue’s prose is genuine, informative, evocative, and wondrous. It probably helps if you (as I do) love bees already, but I suspect this book could make a bee fan out of anybody.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very beautifully written book about beekeeping. There is so much useful information, accompanied by some drawings as well. However, it is also a story of what a year looks and feel like for a beekeeper in the Ozarks. Insightful and engaging.
Fredrick Danysh
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: animals
A handbook for those wishing to keep bees. Covers everything from their care to harvesting the honey.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful romantic book all about bees and nature. The author has a nice dry sense of humor and I wish I was her friend. 🐝
Eugene Kernes
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
In this book about bees you will find many social, biology, craftwork, and economics examples and understandings. Bees may be the centerpiece, what is important in this book is how bees interact with the society and how to interact with bees. Honeybees are not native to North America, they were brought to North America by Europe and spread by swarming. Too many bees in a hive will urge the bees to swarm. Swarming is a procedure whereby bee raise a second queen and then split from the hive. Altho ...more
Susan Santos
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have always been fascinated by bees and beehives even though I've never been in a position (or location) to keep bees. I suspect many who've read this book can say the same thing. There's just something so compelling about the idea!

As for this book—the writing is lovely and confirmed my suspicion that beekeeping is a LOT of work. Hubbell's voice is soothing and knowledgeable. It's an enjoyable read, and don't be surprised if you go out to buy honey as soon as you've finished reading it.
I have read several books on bees, but to be honest this author left a bad taste in my mouth... I am sick of animal husbandry, right down to micro managing bees for profit. Being to busy she let things slide/die, it's just rubbing me the wrong way. I think I am in a fragile state of mind, never read a bee book that offended me, I just think I am tired of reading about death, murder and mayhem, from insects right up the food chain...
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
A Book of Bees was part memoir of a beekeeper and part guide on how to be a beekeeper in Missouri. The author is a commercial beekeeper, with 300 beehives. She writes about her experiences as a beekeeper and also gives tips to new beekeepers. I liked how she divided the book into seasons, so the reader can easily understand the life of a bee and the tasks of a beekeeper in ah given season. It was a fun read and I recommend it to anyone interested in bees!
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have always been fascinated by bees. This book is a beautiful glimpse of the author’s year, autumn, winter, spring, and summer while she runs her beekeeping operation. Although, she might tell you she doesn’t run the operation as much as observe and nudge it. If you choose to read this book, you’ll know more about beekeeping, botany, the Ozarks, and country living, and you’ll get to know the author’s contemplative, humble appreciation for a life lived so close with her friends, the bees.
Kerry Clair
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a truly wonderful read. So many beekeeping books are so dry. This was absolutely delightful, with the author interspersing tales of her own life, that honestly I could find no reason for as to adding to the book in any way other than the stories were so much fun. Really thoroughly enjoyed every page of this.
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I genuinely enjoyed this blend of “how-to” and “journal.” The author’s voice is easy to follow and full of humor, and I personally enjoyed the way she spoke about the bees as if they were her own friends or children(in a sense, I guess they are). Highly recommended read if you are interested in beekeeping, or just love bees.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book to read if you are interested in beekeeping. Her details are informative and her perspective clear and concise. It's not just about the practical, but also about the connection between the keeper and the bees.
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Sue Hubbell is a graduate of the Universtiy of Southern California. She received a master's degree in library science from the Drexel Institute of Technology and was a librarian at Brown University. In addition to her books she has written for Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, The New Yorker, the New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She currently resides in Maine.

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Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
27 likes · 5 comments
“I like pulling on a baggy bee suit, forgetting myself and getting as close to the bees' lives as they will let me, remembering in the process that there is more to life than the merely human.” 18 likes
“The only time I ever believed that I knew all there was to know about beekeeping was the first year I was keeping them. Every year since I’ve known less and less and have accepted the humbling truth that bees know more about making honey than I do.” 6 likes
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