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Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind Hardcover – April 12, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553803751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553803754
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An amateur beekeeper, entomologist and conservationist, Buchmann (The Forgotten Pollinators) surveys humankind's relationship with the oft underappreciated bee from prehistoric times to the present, emphasizing the necessity of protecting their habitats from environmental degradation. He discusses bees and honey in myth and legend; observes honey hunters in Malaysia, Nepal and Australia who use ancient methods to collect wild honey; and provides histories of beekeeping and the honey trade and an account of the activities of beekeepers. The meat of the book includes chapters on honey making, the mechanics of pollination, and bee behavior. Buchmann includes a catalogue of honey varieties, recipes, a chapter on mead, a survey of honey's medicinal uses and several appendixes, including a glossary, an inventory of bee species and a list of honey and beekeeping resources and supplies. This is a lot of material for a volume this size, and Buchmann can't cover it all in depth, but he does present a highly entertaining and informative introduction to the world of the bee, as well as an enlightening look at "the enduring bond between bees and mankind." Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Sanford J. Greenberger. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

There has been a recent spate of books on bees and honey, perhaps reflecting a growing interest in the origins of common foodstuffs. This new addition to the genre comes with a twist, as Buchmann is not only an amateur beekeeper but one of the foremost authorities on pollination and pollinators. Bees, as the world's foremost pollinators, are Buchmann's lifework and his obsession, and that blend of science and passion makes for a lively read as he looks at the intertwined lives of bees and humans. Humans around the world learned to keep bees in various forms of hives, and Buchmann examines the evolution of beekeeping and the yearly chores of the modern apiarist. Cooking with honey, sampling types of honey from around the world, and the medicinal value of honey and other bee products round out the text. Appendixes include a glossary and a list of resources, which, with a nice bibliography, complete what may be the single best book on bees for most libraries. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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See all 14 customer reviews
Delightful reading along with a great mass of information.
John Matlock
It is not a how-to book, but it is a great book if you like reading about bees and their relationship with people.
Donnie Darko
What a great book full of insights, humour and knowledge about bees in the world.
Jim Mcleod

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on July 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When the book fell open to the chapter on Mead, I was hooked. In talking about Elizabeth I's favorite drink: spices, syrup, grape wine and honey, "a sickly-sweet concoction that would not appeal to the un-Tudored palates of modern Chablis drinkers." "un-Tudored," anyone who can write like that deserves to be read.

The next chapter talks about what happens to any bacterium that happens to fall into honey. The highly concentrated sugars in the honey pull the water out of the bacterium. The bacterium then shrink up and die. The ancients, applied honey to wounds, they didn't get infected and they healed faster. Honey impregnated bandages are available in Europe, Australia and New Zeeland (but not in the U.S. - probably no way to get honey through the approval cycle) but worth a try next time you get a cut.

Finally, the book concludes with an Afterword, which is entitled 'A Letter to the Hive.' It's a copy of what might be a letter to the bees, sent 'care of the hive.' It says, thanks and we love you.

Delightful reading along with a great mass of information.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Masters on March 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Faint praise you say? Ok, maybe my ruffly apron is tied too tight today. The history and the cultural sections were excellent but the numerous recipes were unwelcome, mere space fillers. In fact most of the contents were fillers, neatly boxed items you could cull from a rural calendar or a few copies of Country Living. Great book for short attention spans and folks who have no trouble falling asleep. You won't fall asleep in the middle of anything in this book, nothing's that long. Which reminds me, the hardcover version is not 288 pages as stated on amazon. It's 276 pages, and that includes 54 pages of: afterword, acknowledgements, five appendices, sources, permissions, index and "about the authors."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jessica L. Lawrence on February 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this is a mostly well written book, but I am a bit disappointed with the recent history section. I would like to have read more from this book about history in the 1900's more so than ancient history and a few hundred years ago. It could be that not that much happened, but I would have like a bit more coverage of what did happen. Other than that it's a pretty good reference.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Falstaff on April 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I just read the only review of this amazing book and am surprised at how much we differ. I am not connected to the bee world and I found this book to be very entertaining. It's raised my awareness of how important these critters are to our fragile environment. The earlier review seems focused on the author. I don't remember any "ego" comments. Just a great storyteller who managed to peek my interest in bees and their world. Wouldn't I love to go on the hikes Dr. Buchmann mentioned. I give this 5 stars. If you enjoy nature and have any sense of wonderment, I feel you'll enjoy reading this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eclectic Reader on July 30, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
This book delivered on all expectations, and then more. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the honey hunts by various peoples, how honey is used as medicine, the history of honey, the recipes, etc. The one thing I would have liked to see more is information about honey in South America. Buchmann touched on the topic briefly, but never really elaborated like he did with other places. Yet I appreciated the amount of detail he devotes to Central and North American stingless bees.

The writing style is simply AWESOME. I enjoyed very much how he and the writer peppered the book with fun remarks. For example, after reading the gruesome battles and killings between queen bees, they finish the paragraph by comparing it to Shakespeare's plays. Even if you are not into bees, you are going to enjoy reading this book.
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Format: Paperback
All in all, this book was very enjoyable. Parts were charming, while half or more sounded more like an article in a scientific magazine or, indeed, a travelogue. Those parts could have used a bit more literary touch. The content throughout, however, is really very interesting, especially if you're not all that familiar with honey bees, and I'm very happy to have read this. The publishers also did a beautiful job on the book, which contains pretty little illustrations to punctuate the chapters.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading the whole book without having to skip around. It kept my interest straight through! Would definitely recommend!
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