Crabs, Beer and Bay
Photo by Oblivious Dude used under a Creative Commons license.

William M. Warner, Beautiful Swimmers (Back Bay Books, 1994).
Both a natural history of the Atlantic blue crab and the Chesapeake Bay, and a cultural history of those who earn a living from crabbing. The biology and habits of the crab, the waters and weather of the bay, how to catch and harvest the crab — all of these are tied together. If you want to know how to tell a jimmie (a male crab) from a sook (a mature female), it’s here too. Warner was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1977 for this book. Since then, the Bay has suffered a decline and there are fewer of watermen in Maryland and Virginia, but Beautiful Swimmers has never been out of print and it still describes their world.

Peter Stoler reviewed it for Time, and Ned Daly reviewed it in Takoma Voice. Pinckney and Julie Dunlap blog about the book. Tom Horton profiled Warner for Washingtonian. Some folks credit Warner with making the Maryland blue crab famous, though I think the crabs were doing OK in that department before he came along. Like Warner did many times in writing the book, Johnny Apple went crabbing. Tom Anderson visited Tangier Island thirty years after Warner did. The Strathspey sails where Warner went, too.

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