David Gordon, Samantha Larson, and MaryAnn Barron Wagner — 'Heaven on the Half Shell: The Story of the Oyster in the Pacific Northwest (2nd Edition)'

Heaven on the Half Shell offers a thoroughly researched and richly illustrated history of the Pacific Northwest’s beloved bivalve, the oyster.


Third Place Books welcomes David George Gordon, Samantha Larson, and MaryAnn Barron Wagner to our Seward Park store for a presentation of their new book, Heaven on the Half Shell: The Story of the Oyster in the Pacific Northwest (2nd Edition)! This book serves as the second edition to the 2003 book of the same name, now with more on the significant changes in the oyster industry since the book’s initial publication, including emerging challenges to oyster farming due to environmental changes and increased involvement of women and contemporary tribes in the industry. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.

This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About Heaven on the Half Shell. . .

How oysters shaped the environment, cultures, and economies of the Northwest.

Starting with the earliest evidence of sea gardens and clam beds from 11,500 years ago, this book covers the history of oyster cultivation through contemporary aquaculture in coastal Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, northern California, and southeastern Alaska.

Generations of oyster farmers, Native and non-Native, have weathered many challenges to continue the harvest. Their vivid individual accounts are braided together with significant history, such as the major contributions of Japanese immigrants prior to World War II and the 1994 Rafeedie decision that affirmed shellfish harvesting rights held by Northwest tribes. The book also sheds light on the innovations that made oysters an enduringly popular food, from the creation of so-called sexless oysters that could be consumed year-round to breakthroughs in contemporary oyster cuisine.

Now fully updated and expanded—and chock-full of “oysterabilia”—this classic text shares new insights on emerging challenges to the oyster farmer’s life as well as increased coverage of the roles of women and contemporary tribes in building this cultural tradition, past and present. Newcomers and aficionados alike will also be delighted by the carefully selected recipes, both historic and contemporary, from the region’s top chefs. As the old saying goes, when the tide is out, the table is set.

Praise for Heaven on the Half Shell. . .

"The writers’ respective backgrounds in science and history, combined with delectable dishes, make this book one part cookbook, one part bedside reading for food and history buffs."
425 Magazine

"If an oyster can be an angel on horseback, swim succulently in steamy creamy chowder, be deviled with mustardy scallion butter or with nary an adornment, be heaven on a half shell…it’s no wonder why a pearl is its least tasty achievement. Read this book, love these mollusks, save the world!"
—Tom Douglas, author of Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen

"The definitive work on the trials and triumphs of the Pacific Northwest oyster industry. Essential reading for oyster lovers and farmers alike."
—Rowan Jacobsen, author of A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America

David George Gordon is author of 22 books on topics ranging from slugs and snails to sharks and gray whales. He previously served as science writer for Washington Sea Grant.

Samantha Larson is science writer at Washington Sea Grant.

MaryAnn Barron Wagner is the lead for communications at Washington Sea Grant.

Want a signed edition of the featured book, but can't make it to the event? Order through our website or over the phone, and write your request for a signature or personalization in the comments field at checkout. Please call the hosting store if you're placing your order within 24 hours of the event.

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