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A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America Hardcover – September 4, 2007

67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Jacobsen, managing editor of the magazine The Art of Eating, presents the ultimate macropedia for oysters, covering not just geography, but also philosophy, consumerism, epicurean splendor and the proper way to grow a pearl. The first of the guide's three sections, Mastering Oysters, covers such cocktail party talking points as A Dozen Oysters You Should Know and The Aphrodisiac Angle, and presents a primer on how and why oysters taste as they do. Chapter two accounts for half the book's page count and is a travelogue across the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, a movable feast up and down the east and west coasts of North America. Jacobsen ends his research with Everything You Wanted to Know About Oysters but Were Afraid to Ask. (The title exemplifies one of the very few times that his writing goes stale). Here he lists the best ways to ship, store and shuck, and explains why it is perfectly all right to eat oysters in months that do not have an r in them. He also serves up 20 or so recipes, including Coconut Oyster Stew with ginger and lemongrass and Baked Oysters in Tarragon Butter, simple to make but complex in flavor. (Sept.)
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“A wide-ranging, thorough, breezily written guide to oysters as cuisine…Jacobsen leads with his fearless palate every time- he's a down-to-earth companion you listen to, even if you don't always agree with him.” ―Boston Globe

“The most remarkable single-subject books to come along in a while…Jacobsen covers oysters in exhaustive detail, but with writing so engaging and sprightly that reading about the briny darlings is almost as compulsive as eating them…this book will improve your oyster eating immeasurably…There may be no more pleasurable food than a raw oyster, there almost certainly is no better guide.” ―Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons

“the ultimate macropedia for oysters” ―Publisher's Weekly, starred review


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913258
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913257
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Rowan Jacobsen is the author of A Geography of Oysters, Fruitless Fall, The Living Shore, American Terroir, Shadows on the Gulf, and Apples of Uncommon Character. He has written for the New York Times, Harper's, Outside, Mother Jones, Orion, The Boston Globe, and others, and his work has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing and Best Food Writing collections. He has won a couple of James Beard Awards, an IACP award, and some others. His 2010 book, American Terroir, was named one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by Library Journal. His Outside Magazine piece Heart of Dark Chocolate received the Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers for best adventure story of the year, and his Harper's piece The Homeless Herd was named best magazine piece of the year by the Overseas Press Club. He was a 2012 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, writing about endangered diversity on the borderlands between India, Myanmar, and China. He lives in Vermont. Learn more at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Harry Popsicle on December 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love oysters. I don't know why, but I just do. Every now and then I get strong cravings and I just have to have them. I also have a lot of books about oysters because of it. "Consider the oyster" a great book, and others. But they are all mainly cook books with very little detail about the oyster, where it comes from and it's history.

This book is incredibly well written, witty at times and very informative. You can learn how oysters are farmed and their various techniques. Things I didn't even find on wiki. I learned how they get to harden those shells. I purchased some Carlsbad Blondes, and those shells would just snap in half. Terrible oysters. I know why because of the book.

I'm not sure how the author did it, but it seems he has had the incredible opportunity to sample a great many oysters. I can see his tax return $1000 spent as "research" for his book. What a great way to do research. Upon one of the authors great descriptions, I ordered three dozen Hama Hama's. They were fantastic.

The author picks five or six farms and gives incredible detail about the location, the owner/farmer and his/her history and the oysters themselves. This is a book to own now, because it is relavent now with the current oyster farmers listed. It is a chance to learn about the worlds best and to learn how to sample them.

The only thing I would have loved to see in the book, would be a travel guide on how to visit the various farms the author so nicely listed. That's one of the things I plan on doing is to travel up and down the coast visiting oysters farms along the way. I would have loved this book to have a guide like that.

There is a section on "what kind of oyster" person are you? But I didn't find that very useful or informative. A very minor drawback for an incredibly informative book on oysters. Every connosieur(sp?) should have a copy. A book for oyster lovers by an oyster lover.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Christopher Greene on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was one I bought as a potential reference book, however once i picked it up I just kept reading it. This is far from a dry review of oysters it is funny and insightful. My oyster vocabulary has blossomed.

Three friends have requested that I stop talking about oysters and buy them a copy for their birthdays.

It tells about the oysters and then how to get them delivered to your door for dinner. I love this book.
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Format: Hardcover
"A Geography of Oysters" is the guide that I've been looking for. I love raw oysters, but they have a mind-boggling number of names and farming methods that I never could sort out. The people selling them are of limited help. I've read books about oysters, but they said little about particular species or origins. Now Rowan Jacobsen has made sense of it all in this practical guide to oyster eating in North America. Like European wines or single malt whiskies, oysters taste like the place they come from, so Jacobsen takes us all over North America to learn how and where 132 common oysters are farmed. Although there are some recipes in the back, "A Geography of Oysters" is primarily dedicated to raw oysters, so this is for those of us who like to slurp the slimy things out of their shells.

The guide has three parts. The first, "Mastering the Oyster", tells us about the 5 species of oyster that are cultivated in North America, explains the life cycle of an oyster, oyster harvesting, farming, and hatcheries, how different methods of cultivation affect texture, taste, and shelf life, how and why season and place affects taste, and how modern aquaculture has created an environmentally beneficial, diverse oyster industry. It's a solid introduction to oysters. The meat of the book is the second part, "The Oyster Appellations of North America". This is where we get an ostreaphilic tour of the continent. For each region, state, or province, Jacobsen provides a history of oysters in that region, followed by how, where, and other particulars for the major oysters in that area.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Angelo J. Piccozzi on September 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jacobsen has turned the art of eating oysters to a higher level.

You can't wait to finish the book so you can start trying out his great recommendations. Whether you're an oyster novice, blindly feeling your way around the oysters beds, or, a seasoned connoisseur, this book is a must read. Great work Rowan!!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Rowan Jacobsen writes about oysters in beautifully descriptive language, with offbeat humor thrown in. I've recommended this book even to those who won't eat a raw oyster, but love great writing and have a curious mind. If you are an oyster aficionado, then you simply must read this book! But, be warned, you'll then be on a mission to try as many of them as possible, immediately.

"At some level, it isn't about taste or smell at all. Because an oyster, like a lover, first captures you by bewitching your mind." -Rowan Jacobsen
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
Growing up on an island in Washington State and visiting relatives on Hoods Canal who had oysters outside their front door, I grew up loving oysters raw, in stew, bread and pan fried, and in casseroles.

So when I discovered this gem of a book I was overjoyed. Anyone who loves oysters or simply food history should love this book as well. Cannot recommend it enough.
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