Oyster Reads

Here are some of my favorite books about oysters!

The Essential OysterThe Essential Oyster by Rowan Jacobsen (buy on Amazon)

I thought I couldn’t adore an oyster book more than Rowan’s seminal A Geography of Oysters. I was wrong. The Essential Oyster is a magnificent body of oyster tales, farmer profiles, sciencey knowledge (without getting too nerdy) and insanely beautiful oyster photography. For me, it’s like having an oyster yearbook that I want all of my friends to sign. For you, it’s going to offer a fresh new take on today’s oyster culture. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from this A team. Many kudos to Rowan, David and Adrienne for making this dream read come true!

A Geography of OystersA Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen (buy on Amazon)

This is my oyster bible– ground zero for oyster website inspiration. Rowan’s book is incredibly informative and fun to read. It’s a must-have for every serious oyster lover. You’ll be able to truly appreciate why a specific oyster tastes the way it does through his elegant explanation about the terroir and growing conditions. I actually took this book to the oyster bars and used it as a tasting guide during the first few months of my newly-activated oyster obsession.

The Big OysterThe Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky (buy on Amazon)

This is a must-read for New York oyster lovers. I’m not a big history fan, but found myself completely engrossed in learning about the history of New York City and how the oyster was such a vital part of the Hudson River Estuary and the native/local food culture. Amidst the fun anecdotes and surprising facts, Kurlansky also throws a handful of oyster recipes from centuries ago. It’s a wonder how the oyster’s significance to NYC has been so lost and forgotten; I’m glad that it’s been summarized and preserved in such a fantastic read.

Consider the OysterConsider the Oyster: A Shucker’s Field Guide by Patrick McMurray (buy on Amazon)

Eye candy-filled, organized, and a permanent edition to my coffee table book collection. I think that this is a wonderful book for enthusiastic oyster lovers. It’s an all-in-one package that features wonderful photos, easy-to-digest information, extensive US oyster bar guide, and even a detailed flavor profile wheel–which I love–to help you express what you’re tasting. Also, if you get a chance, be sure to check out Shucker Paddy’s oyster bars in Toronto: Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill and The Ceili Cottage.

Sex, Death & OystersSex, Death & Oysters by Robb Walsh (buy on Amazon)

Hilarious, eye-opening, and sprinkled with interesting recipes. The stories in this book made me laugh out loud and motivated me to search out oyster bars wherever I go. It also gives a distinctive Texan point of view, which is certainly not like your run-of-the-mill oyster snob’s.

The Oysters of LocmariaquerThe Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark (buy on Amazon)

Oyster romance at its best. A vivid account of the cultivation of Belon oysters and an excursion into the myths, legends, and rich, vibrant history of Brittany and its extraordinary people, The Oysters of Locmariaquer is also an unforgettable journey to the heart of a fascinating culture and the enthralling, accumulating drama of a unique devotion.

Meet Paris OysterMeet Paris Oyster: A Love Affair with the PerfecT Food by Mireille Guiliano (buy on Amazon)

Enjoying oysters is about living in the moment, and one city has mastered the art like no other. I just finished my preview copy of “Meet Paris Oyster: A Love Affair with the Perfect Food” by Mireille Guiliano and feel compelled to book the next flight to CDG. In between Guiliano’s personal slurping accounts and healthy pepperings of French innuendos and expressions, there is a rich bounty of knowledge and history about French oyster culture. For me, what I found to be the most fascinating were the stories of the people who love and champion the huîtres (oysters) today in France. This delightful, lighthearted read that will surely inspire you to head straight to Huîtrerie Régis on your next visit to Paris.

The Living ShoreThe Living Shore: Rediscovering A Lost World by Rowan Jacobsen (buy on Amazon)

My second book by Rowan Jacobsen also did not disappoint. This book is all about the quest to demystify the elusive Olympia oyster, a native of the Pacific coastline. Once available form Alaska to Mexico, overharvesting and pollution have nearly wiped the entire population out. Jacobsen recounts his adventures with a team of marine scientists and never forgets to drop in the vivid details of the environment. It makes me pine for trip up to British Columbia, which is definitely now a goal of mine in 2011.

Oyster CultureOyster Culture by Gwendolyn Meyer and Doreen Schmid (buy on Amazon)

A luscious, elegant coffee table-worthy oyster book by two adventurous and passionate ladies. I picked this book up at the Marshall Store when I was slurping oysters down Tomales Bay, California. It provides history and context for the Tomales Bay oyster industry, along with beautiful photographs and delicious recipes.

Consider the OysterConsider the Oyster by MFK Fisher (buy on Amazon)

A glorious tribute to the oyster — tales of oysters found in stews, in soups, roasted, baked, fried, prepared à la Rockefeller or au naturel… reminds me of Bubba from Forrest Gump. Plumbing the “dreadful but exciting” life of the oyster, Fisher invites you to share in the comforts and delights that this delicate edible evokes, and enchants us along the way with her characteristically wise and witty prose.

ShuckedShucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm by Erin Byers Murray (buy on Amazon)

This is the oyster version of Eat, Pray, Love… just a little more gritty and sea-breezy. It was fun to follow the trials and tribulations of a New York City gal (not too unlike myself) as she paid her dues on a hardcore oyster farm — Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury, Massachusetts — for a year. It gives a unique outsider’s insider’s perspective on oyster farming.

To Live, the Oyster Must DieTo Live, the Oyster Must Die by Oliver Bullough (read online)

This is a lovely online story that covers the rise and fall of the humble oyster. Following the story of Mersea oystermen and Colchester Natives, it gives you an intimate, yet expansive look into the world of oyster fishing – turned – farming.

Other food/food issues books that I’ve enjoyed reading…

The Story of SushiThe Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson (buy on Amazon)

I love sushi as well and this book was a serious eye-opener. It’s part reality TV show, part National Geographic, part Food Network. One of my favorite parts was about salmon… I won’t spoil the fun.

The Secret Lives of LobstersThe Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson (buy on Amazon)

Another awesome book by Trevor Corson takes you underwater into the secret lairs and lives of lobsters. He goes into detail about lobster mating rituals (fun stuff) and lobster catching.

The Omnivore's DilemmaThe Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (buy on Amazon)

One of the most thought provoking food-policy books I’ve ever come across, which has sparked dozens of food movements across the country. But be warned, once you read it, you may not want to eat meat for a solid week… at least that’s how long I lasted.

The End of the LineThe End of the Line by Charles Clover (buy on Amazon)

Global fisheries are depleting faster than they are replenishing themselves. This book raises some serious issues that every seafood lover should be aware of. Bottom line: quality over quantity. Try to eat as much sustainable seafood as possible (and oysters are one of the most sustainable seafoods there are!) This book was also made into a documentary!

Next, some other great oyster blogs & websites that I follow…

The Oyster Guide by Rowan Jacobsen

Go Shuck Yourself by Josh Hoch

Oyster Information Newsletter by Richard Rush

The SF Oyster Nerd by Greg Babinecz

The Oyster’s My World by Nigel Moore

Beautiful Swimmers by Kate Livie for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Eating About Writing by André Gallant

Pangea Shellfish Blog by Bekah Angoff