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The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America Paperback – May 24, 2011
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“Bees are amazing. That’s the first reason to read The Beekeeper’s Lament, journalist Hannah Nordhaus’s rewarding account of migratory beekeeping and the mysterious scourge stalking the domestic bee population… It’s metaphorical and poetic, elegiac and somehow sad.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“The Beekeeper’s Lament is at once science lesson, sociological study, and breezy read….A book about bees could easily descend into academe, but the author settles for nothing less than literature.” (Boston Globe)
“Nordhaus, an award-winning journalist, weaves a dramatic tale of how and why beehives and bees themselves are threatened by everything from mites to moths to bee thieves.” (Washington Post)
“The book is a rich mix of head and heart.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Echoing Rachel Carson’s 1962 attack on the effects of pesticides, Silent Spring, Nordhaus explores this fascinating subject, providing long overdue recognition to the beekeeper and their task as stewards of a species.” (Financial Times)
“A fascinating peek into the precarious business of keeping the nation’s crops pollinated.” (Smithsonian)
“Some of the best narrative and storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of reading since Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks...You must read this book.” (Maggie Koerth-Baker, Boing Boing)
“A remarkable book….Nordhaus uses a somber, lyrical writing style to make bees into just about the most fascinating subject you’ve ever encountered while at the same time crafting an elegiac metaphor for the contingency of modern American life.” (The Millions)
“A graceful, informative, and engaging book.” (Hill Rag)
“Her book is extraordinary in its breadth and depth, and most of all, it is exquisitely written….The Beekeeper’s Lament offers us a fascinating peek into the diverse, interrelated, and worrisome aspects of the beekeeper’s world....Enjoyable and enlightening.” (AlterNet)
“A crackerjack story…the author struck gold….Nordhaus is a lively writer who…ably conveys the economics of the trade…and is just as able to describe the romance and miracle of honey….A smooth-as-honey tour d’horizon of the raggedy world of beekeeping.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“In this revelatory, bittersweet investigation into the state of commercial beekeeping in the 21st century, Nordhaus follows the migratory life of a commercial beekeeper, John Miller, as he trucks his bees between California and North Dakota...and, against all odds, keep[s] his bees and his business alive.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Miller is a complex and colorful man, and his story, along with the story of the bees, is an engaging read.” (Booklist)
“Highly recommended as both a character study and a compelling popular science work for interested readers.” (Library Journal)
“This book is a terrific read.” (American Bee Journal)
“I loved The Beekeeper’s Lament. With great reporting and great writing, Hannah Nordhaus gives a new angle on an ever-evolving topic. You’ll learn a lot.” (Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World and Mind of the Raven)
“Hannah Nordhaus has written an engaging account of the men and insects who put food on our tables. The Beekeeper’s Lament is a sweet, sad story.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe)
“Rollicking, buzzing, and touching meditation on mortality....You’ll never think of bees, their keepers, or the fruits (and nuts) of their labors the same way again.” (Trevor Corson, author of The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Story of Sushi)
From the Back Cover
The honey bee is a willing conscript, a working wonder, an unseen and crucial link in America's agricultural industry. But never before has its survival been so unclear—and the future of our food supply so acutely challenged.
Enter beekeeper John Miller, who trucks his hives around the country, bringing millions of bees to farmers otherwise bereft of natural pollinators. Even as the mysterious and deadly epidemic known as Colony Collapse Disorder devastates bee populations across the globe, Miller forges ahead with the determination and wry humor of a true homespun hero. The Beekeeper's Lament tells his story and that of his bees, making for a complex, moving, and unforgettable portrait of man in the new natural world.
More About the Author
American Ghost, her latest book, explores the life and legend of Julia Staab, Hannah's great-great-grandmother, who traveled the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico in 1866 as a mail-order German-Jewish bride, and whose ghost is reputed to haunt an elegant hotel in Santa Fe. In American Ghost, Hannah examines Julia Staab's life and deconstructs her ghost story, tracing Julia's path from Europe through the American Southwest, rifling through archives and diaries and old newspapers, and meeting with historians, genealogists, aging relatives, and ghost-hunters in order to explore the hazy boundary between history and myth. "Whether you believe in ghosts," said NPR's Fresh Air, "or are just intrigued by their persistence in popular culture, American Ghost is itself a haunting story about the long reach of the past."
American Ghost, a national bestseller, has seen critical acclaim from the People Magazine, Elle Magazine, the Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, the Denver Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and many other newspapers and magazines. It received starred pre-publication reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Library Journal, and was named one of "20 Books We'll Read in 2015″ by Entertainment Weekly and one of Elle Magazine's "7 Must-Read Books for March."
Hannah's previous bestselling book, The Beekeeper's Lament, is a non-fiction portrait of a fourth-generation beekeeper struggling to keep his bees alive in the middle of a strange and sobering honey bee die-off. Said the Boston Globe: "The Beekeeper's Lament is at once science lesson, sociological study, and breezy read.... A book about bees could easily descend into academe, but the author settles for nothing less than literature."
The Beekeeper's Lament was a PEN Center USA Book Awards finalist, a Colorado Book Awards finalist, and a National Federation of Press Women Book Award winner, receiving enthusiastic reviews from the Washington Post, Wall St. Journal, the Associated Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mother Jones, Audubon, Boingboing.net and dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites, and appearing on a number of year-end "best of" lists. In 2011, the literary magazine The Millions featured this interview with Hannah about the art and craft of writing book-length narrative nonfiction, calling it a "veritable how-to for writing a book of journalistic non-fiction."
Hannah's nonfiction writing has appeared in the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Outside Magazine, Times Literary Supplement (TLS), Ski Magazine, High Country News, The Village Voice, and many other publications, covering such subjects as litigious prostitutes in Montana; snorkeling salmon-counters in Idaho; wildlife crime investigators in Oregon; and dildo-art thieves and dog-poop mappers in Boulder, Colorado. From 2007 to 2009, she was also outdoors columnist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
After receiving degrees in history and American Studies from Yale University and the University of Colorado, Hannah bounced from New Mexico to New York to San Francisco to the Himalayas. She finally settled in Boulder, Colorado, where she lives with her husband, two children, zero beehives, and an unspecified number of ghosts.
Top Customer Reviews
Nordhaus walks us into the world of bees through the eyes and heart of John Miller, a commercial beekeeper who transports his 10,000 colonies of bees between North Dakota and California for honey production and almond pollination. John is wacky, inspired and earth-smart, and he is the perfect person to represent beekeepers in America. The book is hilarious, disturbing, and very accurate; it's the best book about beekeeping I've read in a very long time.
Highly recommneded whether you know anything about bees or not.
A great read and you will will never look at a buzzing bee the same way again!
We are almost totally dependent on honey bees and their human keepers to pollinate our almond trees, cantaloupes, blueberries, citrus trees, bell peppers, sunflowers, etc., etc. If it's a fruit, seed, nut, or vegetable, a bee is probably responsible for bringing it into being--and these hard-working pollinators are trucked back and forth by their keepers across the United States when their services are needed. There are very few wild honey bee colonies. Maybe none. "The millions of acres of intensely and singularly planted crops at the center of the American agribusiness machine simply cannot produce without the help of the beekeepers' pollinating army."
According to author Hannah Nordhaus, bees have been a hot topic ever since the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) caused hives to empty out overnight. But honey bees were in trouble long before they started their 'flight of the living dead.' In this amiable, but ultimately sad and scary book, the reader also learns about varroa mites, wax moths, foulbrood, and PPB ('piss-poor beekeeping'): "Bees have been on life support for decades now, kept aloft only by the efforts of determined--perhaps imprudent--men" like the beekeepers who are featured in this book.
Beekeepers (bee guys) are vanishing almost as fast as their bees. It's a tough profession that requires protective suits, smokers, tons of corn syrup, a high pain threshold, plus semis, forklifts, and other utilitarian vehicles.Read more ›
Before humans intervened, before the days of agribusiness, bees left to their own devices had hard, short, and sometimes violent and vicious lives. Since we've started helping them, their lives are worse. And we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
This fascinating book looks at the lives of bees and at one cantankerous commercial beekeeper, John Miller. It is no small irony that someone who "isn't fond of death," who takes it personally is involved in death everyday; it is part of the business.
Like many, I had heard of CDC, Colony Collapse Disorder, that has wreaked havoc among bees and their keepers. What I didn't realize that CDC is only a part of the problem, that bees are susceptible to a whole host of fatal and really nasty diseases. And the solutions of dosing the bees with drugs, forcing them into unnaturally early springs, transporting them around the country, feeding them with cheap corn syrup instead of their own honey - these things are not making the situation better. Neither is monocropping.
The politics of beekeeping is really eye-opening. Beekeepers are a dying breed, and agriculture as it is practiced today couldn't exist without them. You don't have to be especially interested in bees to find this book very informative. If you eat, their lives affect your life more than you probably know.
There were a couple of places in the book where the writing seemed a touch dry to me. Statements like "in the wild, honey bees have disappeared entirely" made me wish for footnotes and a bibliography, although the statement was explained later in the book. As was "bees began bringing that nectar home to evaporate into honey....Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book to read when becoming a bee keeper. Lots of helpful material to use.Published 1 month ago by nicole
Excellent book about migratory bee keepers but also plenty of knowledge about crops and how they are grown. Good stuff even if you are not a bee keeper. Read morePublished 1 month ago by michael johnson
Hannah Nordhaus is a great story teller. Once I started to read her book I kept reading to the end. This book is very important for everyone to read. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Linda
Excellent! Every aspiring beekeeper or current beekeeper should read this book.Published 8 months ago by William W.
Excellent synopsis of the colony collapse disorder and written well enough to hold the attention of non- bee keepers who are concerned with the environment!Published 8 months ago by Gloria Quinan
Well organized story of the beekeeping industry in america. Well told in a non-boring way. I learned a lot, but also felt entertained.Published 8 months ago by Nora M
Hannah Nordhaus is an excellent writer. She has managed to turn 266 pages about bees and beekeepers into an un-put-downable, exciting look at our country, our foods, our way of... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Bonnye Reed Fry