A Geography of Oysters

Rowan Jacobsen begins his guide to the peculiarly adult pleasure in eating briny, live sea creatures by pointing out the obvious: "Oysters taste like the sea." This, he writes, gives each delicious mollusk a "somewhereness" -- or, if you prefer to borrow a fancy French vintner's term for describing how climate and geography influence flavor, "terroir" (given that oysters' "terra isn't very firma," he points out, the nonexistent word meroir might be more correct in describing the oyster's ocean home but would get you laughed out of any restaurant). He lays out the basic flavors that one can expect from each region (cucumber, citrus, melon, copper, smoke), runs through the most obvious complaints made by the uninitiated, and provides a history of the good old, bad old days, from Native Americans who harvested wild oysters to the early '80s, when restaurateurs, coddled by years of reliance on the shucked meat market, were stunned to discover that oysters could be served in their own shells. An appendix provides lists of oyster festivals, restaurants, and growers who will ship overnight to anywhere in the world. Though most of those who pick up this book will likely be previous converts, Jacobsen, a staff writer for the The Art of Eating, the food magazine with a deservedly cultish following, provides lively, lucid prose that should suck in even the most squeamish eaters.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."