Honey Bee Parasites, Pests, Predators, and Diseases by Penn State College of Agricultural Services. 1999. This is a handy little spiral-bound book with good photos of honey bee ailments. I use it frequently for the pictures, but I find it a little out of date with no mention of Nosema ceranae, colony collapse, or many of the viruses. Also it leans heavily toward chemical solutions rather than management and prevention.

The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men by William Longgood. 1985. This is the only bee book I’ve asked my husband (not a beekeeper) to read. The author interweaves plenty of good information about bees and beekeeping with thoughts and reflections on nature and mankind. I highly recommend this one.

Beeing: Life, Motherhood, and 180,000 Honeybees by Rosanne Daryl Thomas. 2002. This is a nature memoir about a recently divorced woman who rebuilds her life around bees. The writing is lyrical, the story is novel-like, and her descriptions of beekeeping are entertaining.

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture, 41st edition by A.I. Root Company. 2007. The book has a little of everything, but because it tries to cover every conceivable topic, it doesn’t go into depth about anything. It does have some good photos and a few sections are fairly complete. Oddly, about half of the book is biographical information about dead beekeepers. Works well as a booster seat.

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley. 2010. Great book. It explains how swarms decide on a new home and how they decide when to go. Seeley provides his raw data in charts and graphs, as well as his conclusions and insights. The book is not easy reading (you have to pay attention), but it’s packed with interesting tidbits about swarms. Good photos, too.

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden by Kim Flottum. 2005. This very popular book is not my favorite. It’s hard to say why, but I think it is confusing to beginners, perhaps because of the way the material is presented or the order. Not sure. It didn’t give me a warm-puppy feeling when I read it. I think it spends too much time pushing eight-frame equipment, and the candle-making and recipe sections should be in a separate book. Good glossary and photos.

The Beekeepers’s Handbook, Third Edition by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile. 1998. (There is a fourth edition of this book coming soon.) This is my first choice for an overall beginner how-to book. The sequence is logical, the explanations are clear and concise, and it gives you enough to get going without overwhelming your brain. Many clear diagrams, bulleted lists, and appendices. If you can buy only one beekeeper book, buy this one. The downside to the third edition: the shape of the book (short and wide) is really annoying and it doesn’t fit on many bookshelves. Why did they do that?

The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture by Gene Kritsky. 2010. The book is a history of hive design from ancient times to the present, including drawings, photos and descriptions of what worked, what didn’t, and why some hives were more popular than others regardless of how they worked. This book is a pleasure to read and gives good insights into how beekeeping today is strongly rooted in the past.