Bee: a Book Review

When I started my non-resolution plan to read through my Christmas book haul, I had estimated it would take me until around Easter to get through everything. Looking at my progress so far, I think I might be close to my guess. Some of the larger books are ahead of me, but I think I can manage to keep up my current frenetic pace.

Speaking of frenetic pace, the latest book offering has found me exploring the wonderful world of bees 🐝!

Bee

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have had a fascination with bees for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago my wife bought me a taster session at a beehive which I loved, and if I finally build up the courage (and can convince the wife) one day I might get my own hive in the garden. Given my love of all things apian, buying me a book call Bee was likely to be a winner, and Claire Preston’s book did not disappoint.

Focussing on the honey bee and its relationship with humanity, Preston’s book skilfully blends the basic science of bees and their society with everything from human religion and art to Shakespeare and Bee Movie. If you have never considered the impact bees have had on our lives and culture beyond honey, then you are in for a real treat with Bee.

What I really liked

  1. The surprisingly eclectic subject matter, given this a book about bees, allowed for an exploration of the whole range of human culture. Each chapter of the book nominally explored one such facet (for example bees in folklore), but Preston’s ability to weave an intricate narrative was such that Shakespeare and modern horror films could find themselves only a paragraph or two apart.
  2. The research which went into this book was clearly extensive, with references as disparate as prehistoric cave paintings through to IMDB. While I got the impression Preston had not necessarily watched all the films she referenced beyond the trailer (some of them sound truly terrible), it was clear her understanding of her source material was thorough and presented in such a way as to be understandable to even the complete bee novice.
  3. I know you should not judge a book by it’s cover, but Bee’s cover (at least the addition I have) really is a thing of beauty and just adds to the book as a whole.

The less good bits

  1. Bee is full of images and photographs to complement the text, but at times I found the quality of the pictures poor and difficult to make out in black and white. Higher quality images throughout or perhaps fewer images but printed in colour would have added to my enjoyment of the book.
  2. While the earlier chapters cover the basics of the science and lifestyle of bees, the book very quickly moves to humanities relationship with bees. Personally, I would love to have had more of the science in the book even if that was at the expense of a little of the arts.

Summary

Bee is a delightful book on a fascinating subject which has had a huge (and I think under-appreciated) impact on the course of human history as well as the lifestyle of bees themselves. Written with extensive knowledge and passion throughout, Bee is an excellent introduction to our Apian friends.

Who should read this book? Anyone with a passing interest in bees; from the novice apiarist to the expert keeper, there is something for everyone in this book.

Have you read Bee or got it on the TBR pile? Were you as surprised as me at the extensive impact bees have had on our history? Did the book leave you interested in starting your own hive? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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