Years before I went on a course or joined the BBKA, I bought a book about beekeeping. Over the next twelve years I bought, or was generously gifted, a few more.

Here is my library as it currently stands:

Hooper, Ted (1978) Guide to Bees and Honey, Blandford Press, UK, ISBN 1904846246
Amazon link

Scott, William (1977) Backyard Beekeeping, Prism Press, UK, ISBN 0904727432
Abe Books search

Maeterlinck, Maurice (1901, this edition 2006) The Life of The Bee, Dover Publications Inc., UK, ISBN 0486451437
Amazon Kindle link

Chandler, P.J. (2009) The Barefoot, UK, ISBN 1409271145
Amazon link

Heaf, David (2011) The Bee-friendly Beekeeper: A Sustainable Approach, Northern Bee Books, ISBN 1904846602
Abe Books search

Storch, H. (1985) At the hive entrance: Observation handbook, European Apiculture Editions, UK

Warré, Abbé Émile (1948, this translation 2010) Beekeeping For All, Northern Bee Books, UK, ISBN 1904846521
Amazon link

Melzer, Werner (2000) Beekeeping: A Complete Owner’s Manual, Barron’s Educational Series Inc., USA, ISBN 0812040899
Amazon link

Cramp, David (2011) The Beekeeper’s Field Guide: A Pocket Guide to the Health and Care of Bees, Spring Hill, UK, ISBN 1905862512
Amazon link

Davies, Andrew (2007) Beekeeping: Inspiration and Practical Advice for Would-be Smallholders, Collins & Brown, UK, ISBN 1843404184
Amazon link

Heller, Jenny, Editor (2010) Collins Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, honey, recipes and other home uses, Collins, UK, ISBN 0007279892
Amazon link

Blackiston, Howland (2002) Beekeeping For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, UK, ISBN 0764554190
Amazon link

Waring, Adrian & Claire (2011) Bee Manual: The Complete Step-by-step Guide to Keeping Bees, J H Haynes & Co Ltd, UK, ISBN 0857330578
Amazon link

Head, Vivian (2011) Keeping Bees: Looking After an Apiary, Arcturus Publishing, UK, ISBN 1907231064
Amazon Kindle link

Squire, David (2011) Bee-Kind Garden: Apian Wisdom for Your Garden, Green, UK, ISBN 085784024X
Amazon link

Little, Maureen (2011) The Bee Garden: How to Create or Adapt a Garden To Attract and Nurture Bees, Spring Hill, UK, ISBN 1905862598
Amazon link

Dearsley, James (2012) From A to Bee, Summersdale, UK, ISBN 1849532729
Amazon link

Turnbull, Bill (2010) The Bad Beekeepers Club, Sphere, UK, ISBN 1615190325
Amazon link

Preston, Claire (2006) Bee, Reaktion Books, UK, ISBN 186189256X
Amazon Kindle link

Duffy, Carol Ann (2012) Bees, UK, ISBN 0330442449
Amazon Kindle link

Other bee related reading, including fiction:

Wilson, Bee (2004) The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, John Murray, UK, ISBN 0719564093
Amazon link

Paull, Laline (2014) The Bees, Fourth Estate, UK, ISBN 0007557728
Amazon link

King, Laurie R. (2000) The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, UK, ISBN 0006514340
Amazon link

Monk Kidd, Sue (2003) The Secret Life of Bees, Headline Review, UK, ISBN 0747266832
Amazon link


The time has come…

… the Walrus said, to talk of many things:

Here is a slightly random brain dump with a literary bent.

I have just finished another incredible Alistair Reynolds book, House of Suns. Thanks to the fantastic @waarg for the loan. Reynolds is definitely my go to guy when I have no Iain M. Banks to read. They have both created convincing imaginings of a futureverse, populated in believable ways, by which I mean populated by characters and technologies which we would like to believe will come to pass, benevolent super-computers, machine people with heart, alien worlds with visual wonders to blow the mind, etc. Some books are better than others, House of Suns is good, but never quite as great as I think it could have been, certainly not as great as Reynolds at his best. But then I am talking about the best books by the best sci-fi authors out there, so the odd dip in high standards is excusable.

I have simultaneously been reading book eleven in the wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams. This is the last book written wholly by Jordan before his untimely death, and it is as enjoyable as fans of the series might expect. As I start book twelve, written from Jordan’s extensive notes by Brandon Sanderson, I have to say it is not without  a sense of trepidation. This story has taken twenty-one years to emerge, book one was published in 1990, the final part, book fourteen is due to be published in 2011, and a change in the author’s hand at this late stage could do untold damage to something that has been an epic part of may readers lives. The first few pages of Sanderson’s book twelve were uncomfortable reading, but by page 100 or so I’m beginning to notice his presence less. I can only hope that Jordan chose his successor well.

I’ve also read three more of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – The Laughing Policeman, The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Murder at The Savoy. One can only be disappointed that the authors stopped this series at ten books.

New to me was author James Anderson, but I picked up his Agatha Christie style classic crime novel, Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks, in a January sale, and enjoyed it enough to buy the other two in this series.

I had been planning to read Neal Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book since it was published, but for one reason or another it eluded me.  I have now rectified that oversight and I am so pleased I did. There is no doubt that this is strictly speaking a children’s book, but as with so many other books of this category it is a delightful and rewarding read for adults too. There is no point saying anything about Gaiman, it has all been said, he is a master of the storytelling craft. In the foreword or afterword Gaiman says that he had spent 20 years writing the book, having started it when his now adult son was a child riding a tricycle around a graveyard, and he was struck by the first nugget of the story. It makes me feel better about having taken a couple of years in my turn to get around to reading it. If you ever had any ambition to write fiction, read the opening few lines of this book, it will either inspire you or make you realise the error of your ways. Genius. At. Work.

Like many other readers of crime fiction I have been drawn into the writing of the Scandinavians. Yes many years ago I too read Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and recently I have read the real pioneers, Sjowall & Wahloo, mentioned elsewhwere and above. I have read and loved Larsson’s  Millenium trilogy. But for me the start of it was Henning Mankell. I had read all of his Wallander books to date and I just have to make an appointment with his ‘final’ Wallander novel, out about now, to finish the series. And whilst I have been trying to avoid spoilers this is the story which I’m already suspecting will see Mankell kill him off. In order to prepare myself for the loss of Wallander I have recently taken up with a new detective Harry Hole, creation of the Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. I determined to start at the beginning, hunted through the shelves of many book shops and found that Redbreast was the earliest title. Of course after I was well in to that book I discovered two earlier Harry Hole novels which have not yet been translated into English. Of all people you’d imagine I would have done some internet research too(!) So what of my new friend Harry? I liked him. I liked him from the opening chapter, through the trials and tribulations of his investigation and this excellent novel all the way to the finale. I am already anticipating the next in the series.

I’m also continuing my somewhat random meander through the books of Kate Atkinson having failed to get a couple of them in the correct sequence from the protagonists perspective, I am now reading One Good Turn. This is another Atkinson novel with elements of crime and the police which avoids being ‘relegated’ to the less well respected category of a ‘crime book’. I hope readers of crime books will not pass Kate Atkinson by, she writes a very great story, every time in my experience, and many of these stories feature things that avid readers of crime fiction will recognise and enjoy.  Categories are crap, don’t be bound by them, it’s part of marketing and audience profiling. Read good books by good writers.


in 2010 I have been mostly reading:

The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
Jennifer’s Body [Graphic Novel] by Diablo Cody
Dark Entries [Graphic Novel] by Ian Rankin
The Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
They Knew Mr Knight by Dorothy Whipple
Barking! by Liz Evans
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
The Information Officer by Mark Mills
The Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
Shutter Island by Denis Lehane
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
Angel With Two Faces by Nicola Upson
Nation by Terry Pratchett
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
First Rule by Robert Crais
Taint in the Blood by Dana Stabenow
Transition by Iain Banks (not yet finished, I’ve found this one of the hardest books by Banks to get in to – I’ve read a couple I didn’t like, notably Song of Stone, but this one I like, I think, but I just can’t get into it – so it sits beside the bed waiting for the mood to strike for me to pick it back up)
The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
The Pure in Heart [2nd Simon Serrailler] by Susan Hill – I enjoyed this book, but I’m kinda mad because I skipped the first of the series (we have it in hardback somewhere and I couldn’t be bothered with lugging it back and forth to work each day) decided to start with book 2 only to find that the events of book 1 are discussed in detail to the point where I’d no longer want to read it, bummer.
Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell
D-Day by Anthony Beevor
Deep South by Nevada Barr
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

That’s where I’ve got to as of posting, end June.

2010, so far, so good

another year another embarrassing gap between posts. why do I bother I ask myself, indeed why do you bother asks my reader, all one of him/her. NB I am ignorant of their gender, it is not they who are undecided, at least as far as I know, which is plainly not very far at all.

There are like a million things I could catch you up on, except, that would be 1. boring (I mean srsly even more boring than this) and 2. it would take far too long.

So instead I’ll ramble about some random things, like:

A. a fabulous new iPhone photography App that I downloaded this very day, called Hipstamatic, and priced at an incredibly reasonable £1.19 which is like $1.99 of your American dollars. plus when you realise just how fantabulous it is for yourself, you will be pleased to discover that there are additional upgrade packs for a paltry 59p (99c) each, an amount you’ll be only to happy to pay to have even more fun with this App.
Oh, but why? I hear you ask, [listens briefly, and almost deafened by the silence, continues] why does this fool think I want another camera app for my iPhone which has a pretty poor camera already, for no extra money.
Well here’s why, because it will make your photos even poorer quality, but also indescribably sooo much better and more fun.
Hipstamatic is a beautiful re-creation of the plasticy-goodness of the original early 80’s camera with a ton of options for customising, lenses, film type and flash. to quote their app store entry “Digital photography never looked so analog”.
[note to self upload at least one convincing example here]

B. i saw The Wolfman movie this weekend, and what a jolly good romp it was too. the caveat with this film is, it’s not a modern horror movie, the film-makers ignore even the retro make-up effects of 80’s classics like The Howling or American Werewolf in London, to go proper ‘back-in-time’ to the 1940’s B&W horror days of Lon Chaney Jr.’s The Wolf Man. Wonderfully recreating the make-up style that made Chaney into a monster whilst clearly keeping him a man. Yes the script in this version is patchyin places, and Anthony Hopkins goes a little over the top, but, if for no other reason than to see a bunch of annoying local villager types get their comeuppance, this is a popcorn movie to sit back and enjoy.

C. Just finished the first of Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I know, I must be like the last person on the planet to have read it, but, just in case dear reader you are in fact yet to have picked this up yourself, let me urge you to do so. Here is why – fistly this is a difficult book to get in to. There must be 90 pages or so of pretty uninvolving stuff before I found the narrative became truly gripping. But once you’re in to the core of the story it’s worth the wait. That said there is nothing here which is completely unique, but enough elements are refreshingly combined to make this a very enjoyable read even for one such as myself who has been all over this genre for 30-odd years. Also, I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, that is always a promising sign…

Which leads me to an apology to my book club colleagues, I’ve been reading this instead of the book I was meant to be reading. That’s about the second month in a row I’ve done that, perhaps I’m not the clubby type, I like to read what I’m in the mood for and as soon as something is prescribed I have a tendency to rebel against it. sorry 😉

Book list – a work in progress

Ages since I wrote anything about books, going to have to strain, thrash and mash the few remaining brain cells to recall all of them. Can’t do it in one go, so gonna post a quick list and come back to it over the weekend.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910 by Alan Moore (words) and Kevin O’Neill (pictures)
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell (pictures) and C. Gaby Mitchell (story)
Don’t Mess With Mrs In-Between by Liz Evans
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8 Vol. 4 by Joss Whedon
An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson
Go With Me by Castle Freeman (could this be the next Elmore Leonard? Dialogue to die for just like ‘the Master’)
Tank Men by Robert Kershaw
A Murder of Quality by John Le Carre
Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton
The Albert Memorial by C Brooks
Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert (pictures) and Alan Cope (recollections)
Rebel by Bernard Cornwell
The Olivetti Chronicles by John Peel
Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson
The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
War Artists by Meirion Harries and Susie Harries
The Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell
err, and probably a few more to come…


Decided to convert nearly all the comics on my pull list to trade paperbacks (TPBs) mostly because it’s getting increasingly difficult to store all the individual issues, and finding and re-reading TPBs is a whole load easier too. Anyway while picking up the latest issues from Gosh, I chanced upon a couple of titles I heard things about but not read, so grabbed them too, All Star Superman is an amazing new take on a well established character and it’s fabulously drawn and coloured too   – I haven’t listed stuff I’ve been reading here for a while so here’s a catch-up:

Bryan Talbot, Alice in Sunderland
Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, All Star Superman
Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, Umbrella Academy
J. Michael Staczynski, Olivier Coipel, Thor
Manuel "Spain" Rodriguez, Che: A Graphic Biography

other books

Robert Matheson, I Am Legend
Douglas Coupland, All Families are Psychotic
Terry Darlington, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
Robert Crais, Demolition Angel
Marina Warner, The Dragon Empress
Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan
Peter Robinson, Friend of the Devil
Terry Pratchett, Making Money
Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom
Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
Terry Darlington, Narrow Dog to Indian River
Maj Sjowal, The Terrorists (A Martin Beck novel)
M.C. Beaton, The Potted Gardener
Bernard Cornwell, Pale Horesman
Peter Lovesey, Diamond Solitaire
Robert B. Parker, Spare Change
Michael Palin, Diaries 1969-1979

Douglas Coupland and others

Have just finished All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland a writer I greatly enjoy (although am yet to read his purportedly ‘classic’ Microserfs). This particular title is high on the humour and lower on the ‘drama’ than others. I was making the comparison to Carl Hiaasen in another forum, because this story features many of the things which make Hiaasen’s stories such fun, disfunctional people doing disfuntional things being the key element here. Not that that disfunctional is an unusual element in a Coupland novel, but here the disfunctional things are usually directly funny or lead to funny situations/consequences. Not that that should put you off it’s not all laugh out loud, half the characters in the book seem to be HIV positive. This is not ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ or ‘Hey Nostradamus’ but it’s still pretty cool.

Prior to this I had read I am Legend by Richard Matheson, because I had also just seen the movie. And boy am I glad I saw the movie first because otherwise it would have ruined the book. If you know both you will understand my point, if you know either or neither trust me on this, the person who wrote the movie had obviously found out about the plot by talking to a guy in a pub, after they’d both had a few beers.

The movie stands alone, it has the uber-cool premise of last man alive (… on the planet, maybe – book & film slightly differ but at the beginning that’s not important by the end it’s crucial) it’s got a not too bad central perfomance from Will Smith, and the early scenes of him driving around a New York partially reclaimed by nature are visually stunning. The film also deals well with his desperate loneliness which he tries to remedy by talking to mannequins he has ‘posed’ in places he visits regularly. This strand is original, and in fact more staisfying an insight into his state of mind than that given his paper-bound incarnation who resorts to alcohol at any and every manifestation of stress.

In most other areas the book is superior, and it is fundamentaly different, particularly in realtion to the ‘infected’ population (some have referred to them as vampires as they have many similarities). The key thing in my opinion is that these two works of fiction both develop the plot, particularly in relation to the ‘infected’ along massively divergent lines. And to all intents and purposes these could be considered two different products sharing the same title and a similar starting point. And of course that is what they are anyway, that is what every film adapted from a book is, regardless of how the plot of one sticks to, or diverges from the plot of another, etc. They are two different things, in different media that work on the human brain in completely different ways.

Most books require the reader to complete the missing elements (to use their imagination) most films present much of this information up there on the screen in the visuals, maybe only in the scenery and the clothes of the protagonists, but there is tons of information that we pick up subliminally from the images, in books this often only needs to be hinted at for us to construct our own ‘reality’ for the storyline.

I always find it hard to go into the cinema and leave my love of a novel outside. I know that I sat through all of the Lord of the Rings adaptations shouting (in my head) at Peter Jackson et al for changing, ommitting, and sin of sins, adding stuff to the films. I know I’d have enjoyed them all more if I hadn’t read the books, but of course in the long run I’m more interested in the books, and the Middle Earth I imagined that Tolkien was describing, than anything I saw on screen.

Anyway, I Am Legend, pretty-goodbook, okay film, two different stories, two different experiences. If you like ‘action’ type movies with a bit of sci-fi you’ll probably enjoy the film. If you like to read sci-fi go for the original novel.

Solving crimes: LA vs. The Cotwolds

The Watchman by Robert CraisSo after the long haul through Stephenson’s ‘The System of the World’ I wanted some quick and rewarding reading and having recently picked up the latest Robert Crais, ‘The Watchman’ I decided reading two of my favourite authors simultaneously was a treat not to be missed.

The Watchman concentrates on the second, almost literally ‘silent’ partner of Crais’ detective duo, Joe Pike. He of very few words, a smile which never extends beyond a twitch to the corner of the mouth, aviator sunglasses even at night and those forward facing red arrows tattooed on his deltoids. That Joe Pike.

Other than making Pike the focus, instead of wise-cracking Elvis Cole, this is a traditional Crais book. This one is mostly about protecting a witness from mobsters trying to kill her. Pike is as laconic as ever, although having deliberately pushed Pike to the forefront Crais explores a little more of his character and his history, as well as softening him a little in allowing him a friendship with the young woman he is protecting. There is action and tension from page one, Cole is as funny as Pike is ruthless, and as ever they are both deadly to those opposing them or threatening the innocent.

The only problem with Crais’ books are that they are far too easy to read and this one was no exception, I consumed it in two days. A shift in style without changing genres seemed like an interesting move. For a while my partner has been reading a series of crime books set not just in the Cotswolds but in a fictiional Cotswold village a few minutes drive from our home.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton‘Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death’ by M.C. Beaton (a resident of nearby Blockley) is a light-hearted crime story in the tradition of Miss Marple.

Beaton updates Christie’s slightly stilted period style whilst retaining the village stereotypes and adding her own nice observations of the locality, its residents and the tourists who visit us in our golden hued villages.

Initially her lead, the titular Agatha Raisin, a successful Marketing company entrepreneur, selling up and taking early retirement to the idealised Cotswolds she remembers from a childhood visit, is anything but likeable.

Having established her in her new home Beaton sets up a series of village encounters designed to demonstrate how out of place she is, culminating in her attempt to ingratiate herself with the village by entering a London bought quiche into the village baking competition.

This is a very easy read, made all the more enjoyable as our village and many we know well are mentioned frequently, the whole thing is faintly ridiculous, but then so are the plots of many murder mysteries.

I shot through this in a day-and-a-half and there are a good number in the series, so I hope they remain fun and diverting.

Two Ia(i)ns

Matter by Iain M. BanksI’m not the first to observe that it’s been 5 years since Iain M. Banks published a ‘Culture’ novel, so his new book ‘Matter’ is much anticipated by fans like me who enjoy his Culture sci-fi books more than anything else he writes and better than any other sci-fi I read, and I read some of the best and most acclaimed authors currently producing stories.

This is one of those books I couldn’t wait for in paperback, so I took the plunge and bought the Hardback (after hunting for a few impatient weeks to secure a signed copy) and now I’m trying to not to read it in a rush of excitement.

So far so good, but I’ve just chewed up the 890 odd pages of Neal Stephenson’s ‘System of the World’, while keeping Matter on the nightstand, and rationing myself to no more than 20 or so pages a night.

Control a film by Anton CorbijnAs another alternative read I am tempted to start ‘Touching From a Distance’ by Deborah Curtis, widow of Ian, lyricist and lead singer of Joy Division, who sadly took his own life in May 1980 at the age of 23.

Having just seen the excellent movie ‘Control’, adapted by Anton Corbijn from Deborah’s book, I am reminded just how important Joy Division were to me in the evolution (and growth in sophistication) of my musical taste in the late 1970’s – I was really a couple of years too young to have been able to enjoy punk.

However important a stage punk can now be shown to have been in the evolution of British music, that amount of anarchy at the age of 11 or 12 is too scary to be inviting. Whereas the more restrained, angst-ridden, self-reflective, anti-establishment and politically aware sound of Joy Division’s post-punk indie rock was massively appealing to my 14 / 15 year old self.

Anyway, instead of starting Deborah’s book immediately, I have decided to make a little space between the film and the book, and try a lighter read for the train while pacing my way through Matter. More on that choice in next post…

The Baroque Cycle

Cryptonomicon by Neal StephensonI’m a big fan of the books of Neal Stephenson, particularly ‘Cryptonomicon’ which is a fascinating exploration of cryptography within the format of a novel, it’s not short at over 900 pages, but it’s fabulously well written and to me, at least, was one of those ‘un-putdownable’ books, which stays long in the memory.

Stephenson followed this with his ‘Baroque Trilogy’, which I started when the first part ‘Quicksilver’ came out in paperback, back in 2004 or 5 I think. I wrote about the middle volume, ‘The Confusion’, back in November 2006 and if you read that entry you’ll maybe understand why I’ve had the final part ‘The System of the World’ sitting on a bookshelf ever since waiting for me to summon the energy to tackle it.

It is going to take a number of days to read, well over a week, maybe longer. This is an incredibly long time for me to spend reading one book, normally I get through a novel in about two days, some in much less time than that, either because they’re very light (like the Sharpe stories) or really gripping ( a lot of the best whodunnit crime novels). This is partly because I get up to 3 hours reading time a day, on the train, plus I nearly always try to read before I go to sleep because it helps to give my brain somewhere to go other than back over the events of the day (or into anticipation of tomorrows events). One of the things I enjoy most about this fast pace is the way I can mix-up the styles of books I read, either across genres from crime to sci-fi, to non-fiction to humour to biography; or just within one genre, the contrasting styles of Ed McBain and Peter Robinson’s police procedurals or the individuality of private investigators created by Robert Crais versus Reginald Hill or Liza Cody; etc.

So when I come to something big like the 886 pages that finish this trilogy I have to approach it with the foreknowledge that I’m not going to be able to read anything else for much longer than normal. Add to that a weeks holiday approaching without regular commutes and I could be in the company of Mr Stephenson for quite a while.
Quicksilver by Neal StephensonThe Confusion by Neal StephensonThe System of the World by Neal Stephenson