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Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay Paperback – March 21, 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JOHN BARTH's fiction has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, and the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. For many years he taught in the writing seminars at John Hopkins University. He is the author of such seminal works as "The Sot-Weed Factor, Chimera" (for which he won the NBA), and "Giles Goat-Boy".
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (March 21, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316923354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316923354
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on October 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a kid in Marblehead, Mass. I liked to catch crabs off the rocks. When I grew up a bit, I learned to eat them too---a very succulent food that I still love. But, I must confess that I never thought of reading books about them until one day I ran across William Warner's BEAUTIFUL SWIMMERS in a college bookshop. This wonderful work contains all you ever wanted to know about the life cycle of one particular kind of crab that lives in Chesapeake Bay (the kind you probably smashed with mallets if you ever went to that area). Surprisingly, for most of its life, the Atlantic blue crab has nothing to do with beer. Taking it for a focus, Warner draws connections with the sea, the rivers, the crab-friendly environment that produced such a wealth of the creatures, and then the people who live from that wealth, the islanders who lived isolated for centuries, but are now firmly within the web of modern life. Warner tells of the marketing of crabs, the catching of other Chesapeake products like oysters, and even of festivals like a Miss Crustacean contest ! You can learn about esoterica like crab pots, the Waterman's Union, the religious heritage of crabbers, and lots more. My edition came with a number of excellent pencil drawings of crabs, crabbers, and maritime scenes from the area. I was disappointed by only one thing----reaching the end of this great book.
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By A Customer on October 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is a technical wonder of writing. The lyrical beauty of the prose gives it the flow and cadence of poetry but with the straightforward phrasing of journalism. It should be required reading for college literature majors everywhere. I was first exposed to Beautiful Swimmers when it showed up on my son's 9th grade English summer reading list. What a fortunate assignment for mom.
I am in awe of Mr. Warner's skill in crafting spare yet well-thought phrasing that carefully blends the unique local language with technical terminology. You read this book and forget that it is non-fiction, nature writing. It draws you in like a compelling fictional account. Therein lies the success of the book.
Beautiful Swimmers covers the crabbing industry and the impact of this lovely crustacean on the Bay and its economy - a worthy journalistic endeavor. But for me, the real beauty is in the joy of just reading this charming work.
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Format: Paperback
I left my last copy of this book on an airline, where I was re-reading it for probably the tenth time, and am once more at this site to purchase a bunch more copies, for myself and as gifts to friends. This is a magnificent naturalist book, for anyone who has ever eaten a blue crab, caught one (they are smart and dumb at the same time, getting immersed in their eating the bait that they don't see your net, but brilliant escape artists the moment they focus on their peril), spent time anywhere along the Chesapeake, wondered about the lives of fishermen, or the cycles of the sea.
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Format: Paperback
If you look at all the other reviews here, you'll notice that almost everyone raves about this book. And for good reason. I think Warner's book is one of the great although little known classics of nature writing. Despite Warner's winning the Pulitzer for it, it still doesn't seem to be that well known. Perhaps that has to do with the specific focus of the book, but there are few nature books that can match Warner's little classic for their informative as well as engaging and entertaining observations of nature. And he did this by writing about the eastern blue crab rather than something "sexier" or more sympathetic such as dolphins, whales, or some endangered bird.

In fact, I would say it is one of the 20th century's greatest works of popular science and nature writing. In this distinguished group of books (ranging from the natural sciences to the social sciences) one would have to include such classics as Rachel Carson's The Silent Spring, Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters, Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape, Lincoln Barnett's The Universe and Dr. Einstein, Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Donald Culross Peattie's A Diary for Moderns, Lancelot Hogben's Mathematics for the Millions, Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex, Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, and so on. But I think Warner's book is the most readable and enjoyable by far of all these books, and yet is the least known.

I have a friend who keeps extra copies of the book around to give to other people to read, and that was the way I got introduced to the book.
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By A Customer on August 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
I discovered this book on my brothers bookshelf while visiting the Eastern shore, and read it in two sittings. An absolutely fascinating book on the Bay, the Eastern shore, the blue crab and more. William W. Warner's gifted prose depicts the watermen and their life in a way that is both honest,sympathetic and informative. As a non-native Washingtonian, this book finally explains so many of the mysteries of the bay -- from soft shell crab and how/why they get that way --to Tangier Island and how/why it became so popular. It is the kind of book you immediately want to share with your friends... your family... your lunch bunch... the guy sitting next to you on the subway..
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