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A Country Year: Living the Questions

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,402 ratings  ·  348 reviews
When her thirty-year marriage broke up, Sue Hubbell found herself alone and broke on a small Ozarks farm. Keeping bees, she found solace in the natural world. She began to write, challenging herself to tell the absolute truth about her life and the things that she cared about. The result is one of the best-loved books ever written about life on the land, about a woman find ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 26th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1983)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  2,402 ratings  ·  348 reviews


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Cheryl
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quest
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I have reread it countless times because Hubbell's memoir of her life in the midst of nature in rural Missouri never fails to transport me away and bring my mind back refreshed and see the natural world in whatever less-than-idyllic place I'm living. Her work really reminds me to be aware of all the creatures and plants around me and notice how they "make a living" and interact with the human world. And her insights on how to live the questions of li ...more
Guy
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
When reading "A Country Year" I was continually reminded of Oscar Wilde's apology for sending a long letter -- he did not have time to write a short one. Sue Hubbell has taken the time to write a short book filled with concise gems, each as long as it should be and no longer, and I am much the richer for having read it.

Other than the transcendent writing, what impressed me most was Sue's eye and mind. She notices things that I would not, and then she reflects upon them and understands them bette
...more
Rebecca
A seasonal diary that runs from one spring to the next, this is a peaceful book about living alone yet finding community with wildlife and fellow country folk. At her farm in southern Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, Hubbell had a small beekeeping and honey production business, “a shaky, marginal sort of affair that never quite leaves me free of money worries but which allows me to live in these hills that I love.” After her 30-year marriage ended, she found herself alone in “the afternoon of my life ...more
jess
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, audiobook-d, growing
This is the story of a woman who lives in the Ozarks on a small farm. After a 30 year marriage, her husband leaves and she eeks out a difficult living keeping bees. The rural people of the Ozarks are her friends and occasionally her comrades, but mostly she is alone with her farm. It's almost a lie to say she lives alone. She has the dogs, and her cat (Black Edith. hello, awesome cat name), all of the bees, the coyotes, termites, copperheads, the goldfinches, indigo buntings, humming birds, blue ...more
Amy
This was an enjoyable, comfortable read about one lady's experiences over the course of a year as a beekeeper in the Missouri Ozarks. I like her observational approach to life and nature. She's the type of person who takes field guides with her so that she can learn the common and scientific names of the plants, flowers, and animals around her. She seeks to live in harmony with even the less savory of creatures around her including snakes, wood roaches, wasps, termites, coyotes. I like how she s ...more
Jennifer
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, memoir, favorites
I don't know how many times I have read this book...my all-time favorite. I still remember how it found me on the shelves of Willard Public Library in the 1990s. I've carried my tattered paperback that bears her autograph with me all these years. I was inspired to read it again while camping this summer, feeling the urge to take a solo trip in the future. It has been at least a decade since I last picked it up. Once I opened it, I knew I needed Sue to remind me how she made a life her own way. T ...more
Barbara Nourse
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sue Hubbell writes a series of stories about her life from spring to spring in the mountains of the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. Her husband of 30 years has just left for the last time. They had started a business as bee keepers. That becomes her only source of income as she makes a living, barely, harvesting and selling her honey. Her stories are about her life on the land. And they are amazing! She is a careful observer of all the natural world that surrounds her. The stories also give an insi ...more
Telyn
Jul 29, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: natural-history
Sue Hubble's reflections on life as a beekeeper in the Ozarks is quiet, introspective and tinged with an edge of melancholy. This book is not quite in the league with Edwin Way Teale's "A Walk Through the Year," or Henry Beston's "The Outermost House," but it is a well-written and interesting look at natural history—and human nature.
Charlene
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I listened to this but I would like to go back to it in print, to pick out again my favorite parts.

Goes from spring to spring, in the Ozarks hills, where a former college librarian is keeping bees to make a living, observing nature and her neighbors while trying to restructure her life after husband of 30 years has left it.

I particularly liked her descriptions of the birds, the wildflowers, and frogs -- book was written in the mid-1980s so I wonder if the wild diversity of nature still exists
...more
Carolw
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is a true story of a year in the life of a middle aged woman living on her own as a bee keeper in the Ozark’s in Missouri. Sue Hubbell is an observer of all things around her; the plants, the birds, the spiders, the caterpillars, the termites, the cockroaches, the bees and even the people. I found some of her observations fascinating, especially about the bees, but some of them were a little tedious. It is an uplifting story about a woman who is of an age that society believes doesn’t ...more
Eric_W
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sue Hubbell, author of A Book of Bees And How to Keep Them- a delightful book which has as much to do with naturalism and our place in nature as it does about bees -- lives in the Ozark mountains on some 95-100 acres where she maintains 300 beehives throughout the surrounding hills.

She writes extremely well, and in this book she reflects on nature's intricacies and "queerness" and man's place in the world. She (and the reader) become captivated by such oddities as the chigger whose chewing on t
...more
Sarah
After a really long or really magnificent book, I always have to take a break and read something simple and easy. Wide line spacing, 6th grade vocabulary, no more than 200 pages. It’s like a palate cleanser for the brain. That’s what this book was— the crackers to my wine. And thank goodness for that, because I was barely upset by its mediocrity.

I’ve read a lot of books about lives in seclusion (mostly because I plan to spend my retirement years as a mountain-bound recluse and am preparing myse
...more
Lindsay
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who has lived in Missouri, rural life, nature, Barbara Kingsolver fans
Recommended to Lindsay by: my 8th grade biology teacher!
When I ran into my 8th grade biology teacher about a month and a half ago (my favorite science teacher of all time, hands down), we naturally had a discussion combining the subjects that we teach: science and literature. Once we professed our mutual love for Barbara Kingsolver, she recommended Sue Hubbell to me.
What an awesome book. Maybe I appreciate it more because she reflects on life in the Ozarks and observes the flora and fauna I'm familiar with, but her calm and intriguing style is access
...more
Kathryn
Oct 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
This book was just okay for me. I learned tons about animals, insects, birds and raising bees for honey, but the book lacked a story or even thoughts by the author. It is much more of a journaling of the occurrances on the Ozark acreage by season. Very interesting all-in-all, I just would have liked a bit more of a story line.
Jessie Gussman
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Despite the fact that the author writes something I emphatically disagree with in every single chapter, and her conclusions are not mine at all, I love her easy, calm writing style and the details and random information she has planted throughout her writing.
Jane
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful writer Sue Hubbell is, and how elegantly she tells of her life as a beekeeper in the Ozarks. This is a fine meditation on learning how to live on your own after middle age and divorce.
David Rudin
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a lovely and special book! It is broken into short chapters, each a vignette about some facet of country life. There are chapters on local characters, snakes, frogs, flowers, even chiggers and of course her bees. Hubbell includes short primers on various aspects of natural history, a bit about her life, current and former, and a lot about the slow paced existence she relishes in the backwoods of the Missouri Ozarks.

Her writing is straightforward but nonetheless compelling. She is an able st
...more
Karen GoatKeeper
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2016, nonfiction
Sue Hubbell writes short essays about life in the Ozarks. She lived alone on a hilltop in the Ozarks earning her living as a commercial beekeeper for twelve years. The essays are about beekeeping, nature and people in the Ozarks.
The essays on nature evoke the beauty of the Ozarks. Some reflect on the attitudes and treatment this beauty receives from people. Others describe the plants and animals living around the author.
Beekeeping commercially is challenging. Many of these essays end up being hu
...more
Dee Mills
I read about Hubbell in Writer's Almanac. While this was my first read of Hubbell, it will not be the last.

I'm a fan of outdoor seasonal essays. I've read Terry Burger's Year of the Moon Goose which was excellent and started my hunt for other such books. I'm in the midst of acquiring and reading books by Marcia Bonta, a naturalist writer from Pennsylvania.

Hubbell ranks right up there with what I've read so far. I acquired a healthy respect for what a single woman could achieve on a farm. She c
...more
Amy
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I still have "Winter" to read yet, but I read the rest in less than two days. For the same reasons I like Chapter "November" in Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold), which I think are philosophical ones, I love the thoughts in this book. It's the thoughts that have captivated me, and I've been so absorbed in them that I haven't noticed if the writing is good or not (I'm assuming it is, because I haven't noticed it, like good movie music).

If I can find other books that make me this excited to read
...more
Tara
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
A wonderfully slow read. Its wandering nature reminded me a bit of "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" by Dillard (my all-time favorite book).
It's a one time read, I think but definitely worth that one-time.
Side-note: I was worried it was going to be "about divorce" but that was not a big part of the book nor was it dealt with bitterly or awkwardly.
Jennifer Conner
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of the greatest snapshots of Ozark living I've ever read. From copperheads,to local lore, to splitting wood. Hubbell took a deep sadness borne from her broken 30 year marriage and instead of dwelling, turned her life into a reflection of the beauty she found living a simple, yet glorious, life in the Ozarks.
Peter
Sep 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A series of essays, observations by the author of her Ozark existence as a bee keeper. A keen observer of nature and commentator on the Ozark scene. The book is in the tradition of Thoreau . It moves a slow country pace.
Debbi
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting non-fiction about a divorced 50ish woman who now lives alone on the Ozarks bee-keeping farm her and her husband started. Learned a lot about bees but also the different bird species around there as well as the wildlife and what her life is like.
Jody L Nave
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lovely book. Peaceful and introspective.
Annette
Three and one half stars. I wanted more so I rated lower.
Sue tells me about her cabin and her barn, her dogs, her cat and her bees.
She describes her hilarious chickens and her beat up pick-up truck, but she fails to give me a complete picture of herself.
Once in a while, between caring for her bees and noticing the insects and wildlife around her Ozark farm, Hubbell offers a glimpse into her inner thoughts of why she stays on the farm living this kind of life.
I wish there was more revelations,
...more
Madhusree
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, memoir
Magnificent writing about living alone, keeping bees, looking & thinking about nature and yes- living the questions. Perfect reading for this time in my life. ...more
Cheryl
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise, lovely, illuminating... and what a joy to read from my current home in central Missouri, probably within a hundred or so miles of Hubbell's bees' territory.
Michele Morin
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another Country Year

In the car, in the dark, I trekked a twice-daily, hour-and-a-half commute for the final eighteen months of my life as an employee. I don’t miss that, but those miles and hours translated into an era of abundant listening to books on tape. A favorite from that time was A Country Year by Sue Hubbell, and I’m sure I listened to it a half-dozen times at least — especially during the days of snowy roads and Braxton-Hicks along for the ride in those final days of commuting.

I have b
...more
Eric
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Over the past twelve years I have learned that a tree needs space to grow, that coyotes sing down by the creek in January, that I can drive a nail into oak only when it is green, that bees know more about making honey than I do, that love can become sadness, and that there are more questions than answers."

I read A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell. Book #76 of 182, 240 pages, finished 6/6/2017.

A Country Year is a collection of short stories by Hubbell, descriving her life living
...more
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500 Great Books B...: A Country Year: Living the Questions - Sue Hubbell 1 6 Jul 22, 2014 04:20PM  

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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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