Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keeping Bees and Peaches...Or, What I'm Currently Reading

Sometime last year I read a non-fiction book called The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns. It is fascinating look at the life of honey bees, with great photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. The book offers an explanation of the mysterious disappearances of honey bees, all the factors that may be contributing to the disappearance, and what is being done to understand this colony collapse disorder. It's accessible and interesting enough for older elementary school kids, but also equally wonderful for adults, especially as an introduction to this topic. I've been wanting to do more reading on the subject, so when I saw ARCs of The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America by Hannah Nordhaus at TLA,  I eagerly picked one up. (It will be available on May 24.)
At times it might be a little more in-depth than what I wanted, and it got off to a slow start (talking about cars?) but it's really gotten incredibly interesting. I am underlining things, feeling like I am working on a research paper. (This is a good thing, enjoyable to me.) I had no idea just how migratory bees are - some are transported all over the country and their migration has a huge impact on much of our agricultural system. They pollinate everything from almonds to cranberries to lettuce to blueberries.

Did you know that bees are not native to North America? They came over from England with the first settlers. And bee migration is not new - beekeepers in ancient Egypt moved bee colonies up and down the Nile River. I could keep going with the facts...Seriously, this book has so much information and, first few pages aside, it's written clearly and is easy to follow.

If I haven't managed to convince that reading about bees can be really interesting, I'm also reading The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen.
I picked it up not really knowing what to expect, and it's been a pleasant surprise. It has a hint of magical realism in it, which I wasn't sure about at first...and there's a scene toward the beginning of the book that I'm hoping gets explained more later on, but the characters and the mystery, have kept me up way too late reading each night to see what's going to happen.

Willa Jackson comes from a prominent old family in her small Southern town; unfortunately, her ancestors hit hard times and lost their fortune, and their historic home. One of Willa's former classmates, and a local socialite, Paxton Osgood, is renovating this house, the Blue Ridge Madam, and turning it into a grand inn. Plans take an unexpected turn when a skeleton is found buried on the grounds, under a peach tree. Willa and Paxton find themselves becoming friends as they try to find out what happened years ago, and how their grandmothers were involved.

With the hints of magical realism, superstitions and ghosts, a mystery and a little romance, this book has completely drawn me in.
What are you currently reading? Any good recommendations?

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