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4.8 out of 5 stars
From A to Bee (Unabridged)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2012
James offers us an entertainingly jolly, extremely readable account of all the trials and tribulations of becoming an English beekeeper. Not only is he combining this with a hefty workload as an international travel agent and being dad to a young toddler, he has to face the worried looks of his wife and friends as he turns into a complete bee geek. The book is written in diary format and follows his challenging journey during 2009 from complete bee novicery to getting his first pot of honey.

My favourite aspect of the book is that James is fearless in poking fun at himself. At a gangly 6'5, he creates a picture of himself as a clumsy Mr Bean style character, at one point falling down a flight of steps as he leaves his beekeeping classes. On another occasion he attempts to communicate with Polish beekeepers that he is a fellow beekeeper too by running around making buzzing noises and pointing at their honey - "As I walked away, I did turn back for one last look at these moustached Polish beekeepers and they were just looking at each other with a rather strange expression; one then shrugged whilst the other started laughing."

It is quite touching how completely absorbed he becomes in the bees, obsessively reading the nights away (a glass of red wine or whiskey at his side) and driving around trying to find out the local forage in his area. He also develops from being most interested in getting his first pot of honey to being deeply concerned with all the threats his bees and those across the world face. I think all of us beekeepers understand that feeling of wonderment at how much there is to learn, and how amazing these fascinating little creatures are.

By the way, if you choose to buy this book or indeed any other items from Amazon, please consider going through the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Fundraising page at [...] first. Each time you access Amazon.co.uk via their link and make a purchase this brilliant charity receives a donation worth 8% of your total purchase, at no extra cost to you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2012
This little book is charming, entertaining and full of fun - however along the way we do learn some of the basics of bee keeping and the ups and downs of this most interesting hobby. It is obvious that the author has a passion for his subject, and is not afraid to admit the mistakes he made on starting out. Bee keeping is an adventure and it is interesting to read how the author juggled his extremely busy job, and family responsibilities alongside his new venture with bees.

Is this a book that will teach you all you need to know about bee keeping? No, it is certainly not going to do that, but there are many great books out there that do cover in detail the ins and outs of the craft; this is however, a good introduction for the general reader about starting such a hobby, some of the joys and pitfalls that come along and also the plight of the bees in the world today.

It is an easy read and a satisfying one - there is much humour nestled among the pages and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in gardening, bee keeping and nature. Few people realise the plight of the bees and the pollinators, who are being wiped out in droves by the pesticides that are commonly used today in all our countries - and few seem to know that if the pollinators are gone, then so is mankind. If this book encourages even one person to think more about the pollinators in our world, then it will be a job well done. I highly recommend it.
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on 31 July 2012
Having started out on my beekeeping journey in May 2012, I really wanted to learn as much as possible about this craft. Although the textbook type books I've read have been very helpful, it was great to read a diary account from a novice like myself who has been there, done that and got the bee stings.

James starts off his book in September when he has a crazy notion to become a beekeeper. It then tracks his first full year from attending a beekeeping course, to buying his two hives (a traditional wooden one and a modern plastic Omlet one), the collection of a swarm and then a nucleus and his adventures thereafter all leading to the ultimate aim of whether or not he'll get just one jar of honey.

I really enjoyed James' relaxed style of writing which was really rather humorous at times. He admits when he has got it wrong, which made me feel so much better about what I was doing (he's not the only one who has fed his bees brown sugar syrup, which causes dysentery). It was also great that it wasn't just about life in the hive and his account of it but how his new found hobby fits into his family life. Although very supportive, his wife and young son think he is barking at times (I can relate to that too).

You also don't have to be a 'bee geek' to enjoy his book, whether you are thinking about keeping bees or have done so far many years or have no intention of keeping bees at all but just interested in these fascinating creatures, then you'll find this a very enjoyable and engaging read. I for one hope that this isn't the end of James' account of his beekeeping adventures...perhaps the next one could be 'From Bee to Apiary - My early years of beekeeping' :)
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on 18 September 2012
I read this book while travelling around Mongolia and thoroughly enjoyed it. From A to Bee describes James' adventures in becoming a bee keeper - from his very first thoughts trying to convince his family this would be a good idea to becoming a fully fledged beekeeper.

I'm not a bee keeper but I just enjoyed the story. It's a great insight into the world of bees and how important they are to our lives. But it's also a warm-hearted tale about the author's mishaps trying to learn bee keeping and a family coming to terms with the Dad's new hobby. And throughout the book, the author keeps you guessing as to whether or not he will get a jar of honey at the end. All bee keeping terms are explained very effectively so I was never lost.

If you like any books by James Herriot, then 'From A to Bee' is for you. It was a fantastic slice of home when exploring foreign lands and would make a great Sunday night drama. James Dearsley has a very engaging writing style that draws you in as a reader and I finished the book in about 3 days. So whether you're thinking of starting out as a beekeeper or just want an interesting story, I would highly recommend 'From A to Bee'.
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on 10 November 2012
"From A to Bee" is quite simply a joy to read. James Dearsley's humourous account of his first year as a beginner beekeeper will have you chuckling out loud on the train, and, from the safety of your armchair, feeling just a little bit smug at not having been so foolish as to undertake such a dangerous escapade....and all for one jar of honey!? But James is the winner here, as he and his family embark on their year long adventure (involving a fair few capers, mishaps and definitely a steep learning curve!) and gain a new found respect for honey bees! What incredible little creatures! The book is fascinating and informative, as our rookie beekeeper becomes ever more passionate about the plight of the planet's honey bee population, but also a rallying call to us all to get out of that armchair and do something extraordinary! (....Just don't tell your friends what you're up to and above all ensure that at all times you keep "she who must be obeyed" happy!)
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on 12 April 2015
I really enjoyed this book, having long been fascinated by bees but never having taken the trouble to find out much about them. This book assumes no knowledge at all and may be a good start for anyone thinking of keeping bees.

However, I really hesitate to call it a book at all: it is clearly just a series of blog posts, dashed off pretty carelessly, which would not much matter in the context where they originally appeared, but which is irritating for someone who has purchased this collection of posts as a book. The author comes across as a likeable character, but certain not a good writer! Some editing by a third party, with improvements to the style and removal of the considerable repetition natural in a series of blog posts, could make this a book worthy of the name.
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on 3 August 2012
I received this book for my birthday. I've been interested in Bees for years and have recently been cultivating my own plans to have a hive or two. Whilst that is probably for the next couple of years, I do try to keep up with the Bee 'industry' and read books on the subject. James' experiences have been a thoroughly enjoyable read. He has a very easy style and I read the book in just over a week, spread across a few business trips.

Highly recommended if you're thinking about bee keeping or even if you just have a passing interest in bees! Their plight deserves wider attention and even if you don't think bee keeping is for you, do as James suggests, and adopt a beehive: facebook/adoptabeehive

Nice to see my local Sussex producer Paynes get a mention too!
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on 30 July 2012
I am not a bee keeper and don't even like honey but love reading about other people's exploits. Since reading James' book I am more aware of the bees in my garden and what they are up too, and I'm glad I have so many bee friendly plants. It's an inspiring read and made me think 'what can I do?' can't promise I'll do bee keeping but James' enthusiasm and determination have definitely made me think that I should find my own challenge.
I like how he shares stories about his family and friends as well, which keeps it light and personal rather than a technical handbook. And he is very honest about his mistakes which keeps it real and more interesting than if everything had gone perfectly.
I wonder what James' next project will be? And hope he shares it with us!!
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on 21 July 2012
`From A to Bee - My First Year as a Beginner Beekeeper' by James Dearsley, The Surrey Beekeeper is a great read for those considering taking up the art of beekeeping. And those who already have!

In his diary James describes the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations and the joys of setting up and managing his two hives. Learning by his mistakes (never shine your torch into the hive entrance at dusk - this led to James bolting and frantically leapfrogging raised beds in order to escape the hotly pursuing guard bees!!) he eventually achieved the bottling of the enthusiastically and long awaited first two jars of delicious golden honey.

As a new beekeeper too, I could relate to everything he has written.
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on 3 August 2012
This really is a delightful book for beekeepers, non-beekeepers and potential beekeepers alike. You will certainly identify with James' exploits if you have already succumbed to this fascinating hobby. If you are considering taking up beekeeping it will give you and insight into the difficulties and emotions involved when you first take responsibility for a colony of honey bees - who would think that you might have sleepless nights worrying about your bees as though they are an extension of your family! Never mind the bees, James is very amusing in his disarmingly honest and enthusiastic style and I would definitely ready anything else he cared to write.
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