Hubbell, Sue 1935–

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Hubbell, Sue 1935–

PERSONAL: Born January 28, 1935, in Kalamazoo, MI; daughter of B. LeRoy (a landscape architect) and Marjorie (a homemaker; maiden name, Sparks) Gilbert; married Paul Hubbell (an engineer), October 31, 1955 (divorced, 1983); married Arne Sieverts (spokesperson for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee), 1988; children: (first marriage) Brian; stepchildren: (second marriage) Michael, Lisa. Education: Attended Swarthmore College, 1952–54, and University of Michigan, 1954–55; University of Southern California, A.B., 1956, Drexel Institute, M.S., 1963.

ADDRESSES: Home—Missouri and Washington, DC. Agent—Liz Darhansoff, 1220 Park Ave., New York, NY 10128.

CAREER: The Book Shelf, Moorestown, NJ, manager, 1960–63; Trenton State College, Trenton, NJ, acquisitions librarian, 1963–67; elementary school librarian in Peacedale, RI, 1967–68; Brown University, Providence, RI, serials librarian, 1968–72; commercial beekeeper in Missouri, beginning 1973; writer, 1985–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nomination for Walter Sullivan prize, 1991, for "Earthquake Fever" (magazine piece).


A Country Year: Living the Questions, illustrated by Lauren Jarrett, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.

A Book of Bees: … and How to Keep Them, illustrated by Sam Potthoff, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.

On This Hilltop, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1991.

Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs, illustrated by Dimitry Schidlovsky, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.

Far Flung Hubbell (collected essays and articles), Random House (New York, NY), 1995.

(Author of introduction) Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.

Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time before Bones, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.

Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering before We Knew about Genes, illustrated by Liddy Hubbell, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

From Here to There and Back Again, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2004.

Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including New Yorker, Smithsonian, New York Times Magazine, Time, Harper's, Sports Illustrated, and Discover. Contributor to anthologies, including Best Essays of the Year, 1990.

Author's works have been translated into French and Japanese.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Research for a book on North Africa; magazine articles.

SIDELIGHTS: Writer and beekeeper Sue Hubbell's A Country Year: Living the Questions is a collection of forty-one essays describing Hubbell's reflections on life and her experiences with nature over the course of one year. Lauded by critics for her vivid descriptions of nature, Hubbell tells about her trips to her Missouri beehives in her thirty-year-old pickup truck and about making her own shingles in preparation for shingling a barn on her Ozark Mountain property. Doris Betts, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, called A Country Year "a record of mysteries questioned, then embraced." According to Jeremiah Tax in Sports Illustrated, the essays in A Country Year "are filled with the wonders and surprise that the diligent, empathetic observer finds in the behavior of wild things." He added that "one's reaction when finishing many of the essays is likely to be an entrancement brought on by the softness and innocence of Hubbell's prose." Betts also praised Hubbell's writing, declaring that "like a pane of glass, her prose reveals without distortion or sentimentality." Dubbing the author a "sunny naturalist who writes stimulating prose," Booklist contributor Donna Seaman praised Hubbell's more recent book, Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time before Bones, and noted that, "as philosophical as she is descriptive" in her nature writing, Hubbell brings to each of her works an "astute attention and fluid sense of wonder."

With A Book of Bees: … and How to Keep Them and Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs, Hubbell earned a reputation as "one of the two or three best writers-about-bugs now living," in the words of Noel Perrin, in the Washington Post Book World. A Book of Bees can be read as a primer in beekeeping: Hubbell educates readers on how hive frames are built to allow beekeepers get at the honey, how to calm angry bees, and how to peacefully integrate two warring colonies with just a piece of newspaper. But as David Quammen noted in the New York Times Book Review, even readers who have no interest in taking up beekeeping can appreciate her fascinating account of her mutually dependent relationship with the bees. "Strictly speaking," Hubbell admonishes in her book, "one never 'keeps' bees—one comes to terms with their wild nature."

The appeal of Broadsides from the Other Orders, according to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in his New York Times review, is that while many writers would not be able to describe thirteen insect orders without falling into numbing repetition, Hubbell takes a refreshingly wide variety of approaches in her thirteen chapters. She goes to California to learn about the multi-million-dollar ladybug business; recounts the mating activities of camel crickets observed in her home terrarium; and explains the hundred-year history of humankind's attempts to eradicate the destructive gypsy moth. Lehmann-Haupt concluded that "given Ms. Hubbell's graceful prose and observant eye, she makes an excellent ambassador from [the insect] world to us."

In Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering before We Knew about Genes, Hubbell discusses the largely controversial issue of genetic engineering, with some intriguing case studies. She clearly explains the effects of engineering efforts throughout the decades "in plain English, with no confusing scientific terminology to bore or distract readers," according to Irwin Weintraub in Library Journal. Discussing such topics as silk worms, apples, and even the common housecat, Hubbell explains the dependency that has evolved alongside genetic engineering and some of the evolutional drawbacks that have come to pass. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Hubbell's Shrinking the Cat a "fresh and personalized take on genetics," while Gilbert Taylor commented in Booklist that the work is "An engaging synthesis of material that will appeal to Hubbell's well-established audience."



Hubbell, Sue, A Book of Bees: … and How to Keep Them, illustrated by Sam Potthoff, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.


Booklist, April 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time before Bones, p. 1373; September 15, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering before We Knew about Genes, p. 172.

Library Journal, October 15, 2001, Irwin Weintraub, review of Shrinking the Cat, p. 104.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 13, 1986.

New York Review of Books, February 16, 1989.

New York Times, June 24, 1993.

New York Times Book Review, April 13, 1986; October 30, 1988; July 11, 1993.

Publishers Weekly, September 10, 2001, review of Shrinking the Cat, p. 76.

Sports Illustrated, April 21, 1986.

Washington Post Book World, April 27, 1986; August 8, 1993.