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2015 Selection The Beekeeper's Lament

Book Info

    The honey bee is a miracle. A willing conscript, it provides an unseen and crucial link in America’s agricultural industry, pollinating crops and helping plants bear fruit and farmers make money. But in this age of vast industrial agribusiness, never before has so much been asked of such a small wonder. And never before has its survival been so unclear – and the future of our food supply so acutely challenged. Enter John Miller. Miller tasks himself with the care and safe transportation of 10,000 honey bee colonies—about a half a billion bees. He is descended from N.E. Miller, America’s first migratory beekeeper, and trucks his hives from crop to crop, working the North Dakota clover in summer and the California almonds in winter. For a price, he provides the crucial buzz to farmers who are otherwise bereft of natural pollinators. But while there is steady demand for Miller’s miracle workers, he’s faced with ever-mounting hive losses. In addition to traditional scourges like wax moths, bears, American foulbrood, tracheal mite, varroa mite, Africanized bees, overturned tractor trailers, bee thieves, and just plain PPB (piss-poor beekeeping), beekeepers now lose hives in the most mysterious of ways, when whole colonies simply fly away, abandoning their combs, in an epidemic known as Colony Collapse Disorder. While bad news is in constant supply, Miller forges ahead because he can’t imagine doing anything else. He copes and moves on. He works and sometimes triumphs, all with the determination and wry humor of a true homespun hero. The Beekeeper’s Lament tells his story and that of his bees, creating a complex, moving, and unforgettable portrait of man in the new natural world.

About the Author: Hannah Nordhaus

    Hannah Nordhaus is author of the national bestselling The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, (HarperCollins, May 2011) and the upcoming American Ghost: The True Story of a Family’s Haunted Past (HarperCollins, March 2015).

The Beekeeper’s Lament, a nonfiction portrait of an unusual fourth-generation beekeeper struggling to stay afloat amid the recent honey bee die-off, received critical acclaim from The Boston Globe, Washington Post, Wall St. Journal, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mother Jones, Audubon, and dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites. The Associated Press deemed the book “a fascinating read from cover to cover.” 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 book, Hannah’s first, was a PEN Center USA Book Awards finalist, a Colorado Book Awards finalist, a National Federation of Press Women Book Award winner, and also appeared on a number of year-end “best of” lists.

Hannah’s writing has also 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. Her articles have covered litigious prostitutes in Montana; snorkeling salmon-counters in Idaho; the underground history of a dismantled nuclear weapons facility near Denver; wildlife crime investigators in Oregon; a personal history of New Mexico’s San Juan Basin natural gas fields; her great-great grandmother’s ghost; and profiles of dildo-art thieves and dog-doo GPS-mappers in Boulder, Colorado. From 2007 to 2009, she was also outdoors columnist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News. She has received Associated Press and California Newspaper Publishing Association awards for feature writing and business reporting, as well as a special citation from the Knight Foundation’s James V. Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.

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.”

A historian by training, she has conducted extensive oral histories with employees of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C., with Cold-War era citizens of Roswell, New Mexico, and with federal judges and nuclear-plant workers in Colorado.

She lives in Boulder, Colorado with two children, one husband, and zero beehives.