New Books for Bay Readers

These books will make a welcome addition to any Chesapeake bookshelf.

One of the great things about Chesapeake Bay living is there’s always more to learn, via limitless local history and personal memoirs, rich food pathways, and an ever-changing environment. Whether you’re trying to resurrect a recipe from the past or introduce a child to the natural wonders of the Bay, these books will make a welcome addition to any Chesapeake bookshelf. Pick them up at your favorite local bookshop, in person or online at

Island Life

By Jay Fleming, $55
Fleming’s photos have graced these pages many times, and he has built a niche as one of the premier photographers of the people and wildlife of the Chesapeake. In his latest book (excerpted in our November issue), he takes as his subject the lives and traditions of Tangier and Smith Islanders, both human and animal, bringing his insider’s view of the beauty and hardships of these isolated communities to the rest of us. With island life under threat from the very environmental forces that brought it into being, it’s a deep dive into a different world, and a reminder that the traditions of the Chesapeake are very much alive.

Vanishing Boathouses of Colonial Beach

By Diane Anderson Doumas with Photography by Karie Winograsky Anderson, $36.95
Consider the humble boathouse, a utilitarian feature that once covered the shoreline of Virginia’s Northern Neck. For a variety of environmental, aesthetic, and zoning code reasons, the covered boat-garage has fallen out of favor, but Doumas and Anderson have set out to document these vanishing structures by visiting the ones that remain, capturing them in story and photograph, from elaborate barn-like structures to dilapidated dockside shacks. Local ordinances forbid the building or rebuilding of traditional boathouses, but their legacy is well-preserved here.

A Culinary History of the Chesapeake Bay

By Tangie Holifield, $23.99
American Palate Promising “Four Centuries of Food and Recipes,” Holifield delivers with this cookbook, interspersed with historical essays about the dishes’ provenance. Starting with the foundations laid by indigenous peoples of the region, through colonial, African American, and immigrant contributions, she takes us from Brunswick stew to Berger cookies, stopping along the way to sample oyster stew, fish pepper hot sauce, and pawpaw pudding.

A History Lover’s Guide to Baltimore

By Brennen Jensen and Tom Chalkley, $23.99
The History Press Baltimoreans love their history, and Tom Chalkley and Brennen Jensen (who also contributes to this magazine) are able guides to the events and people who made the city. Former contributors to the Baltimore City Paper’s “Charmed Life” column, Jensen and Chalkley have been prowling Baltimore’s back streets for decades, searching out the stories behind the big events (War of 1812) and the smaller ones (filmmaker John Waters’ battles with the Maryland board of censors). They provide a guidebook for newcomers and longtime residents alike, to seek out the traces of Charm City’s past lives.

My Date with an Oyster: and Other Stories of a D.C. Girl Discovering Chesapeake Country

By M.L. Faunce, $15
New Bay Books A collection of essays and feature stories from Faunce’s coverage of Chesapeake country for the New Bay Times (which later became CBM Bay Weekly, our sister publication covering Maryland’s Anne Arundel and Calvert counties). The book weaves her personal reflections with reported features on many of the subjects we cover in this magazine—oysters, crab-pickers, skipjack captains—and serves as a reminder that while the players may change, some Chesapeake stories are timeless

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse: A Chesapeake Bay Icon

By David Gendell, $22
The History Press When the Thomas Point shoal lighthouse was built in 1875, they said it wasn’t strong enough to withstand the ice and exposure of the Bay, but there wasn’t enough money to build a stronger one. Some 150 years later, Thomas Point is now the last of the Bay’s screwpile lighthouses in its original spot. David Gendell digs into the life and times of this charming structure, an enduring symbol of the Chesapeake.

Awesome Chesapeake: A Kid’s Guide to the Bay

By David Owen Bell, $14.95
Schiffer Kids A second edition updates this 25-year-old classic, introducing a new generation of kids to the Bay. Aimed at elementary and middle school students, Bell packs a lot of knowledge into a slim (63-page) volume, beginning with the formation of the Bay and guiding readers to the life under and around the water, while providing a road map for young citizen scientists eager to get involved. It’s a great gift for a kid who wants to explore the Bay (or one you’re trying to nudge in that direction).

Chesapeake Bay Explorer’s Guide: Natural History, Plants and Wildlife

By David Malmquist, $25
Globe Pequot An impressively dense paperback guide to pretty much everything on or near the Bay, the Explorer’s Guide breaks the Chesapeake into habitats—beach, marsh, forest, etc.—and gives a primer on the animals, plants, and structures of each. Malmquist, the news and media director for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has packed an enormous amount of information into this book, from wildlife to Chesapeake boat types to the various machinery visible at the commercial ports. Next time someone asks “What is that?,” you’ll have a reference book to reach for.