Bay Literature

two sailboats, one contemporary, one a replica of a colonial era boat

For centuries, the Chesapeake Bay has inspired those who have settled on its shores. Early communities shared folklore and tales about the Bay—called the “Great Shellfish Bay” by Algonquian tribes and “Madre de Dios” by Spanish explorers. In the 1600s, as large English-speaking colonies were established, a heritage of written language around the Bay emerged.

Authors have written about the Chesapeake Bay through many forms, including naturalist accounts, historic nonfiction, and poems and songs of devotion.

For those who would like to read some examples of this rich tradition of literature about the Bay watershed, Maryland Sea Grant has compiled this bibliography.


Bay Literature Bibliography

Arthur, Robert P. Hymn to the Chesapeake. Virginia: ROAD Publishers, 1996.

Barth, John. The Friday Book. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Branch, Michael and Daniel Philippon eds. The Height of Our Mountains: Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Baltimore: The John's Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Byron, Gilbert. Done Crabbin' Noah Leaves the River. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Clifton, Lucille. Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1998-2000. New York: BOA Editions Ltd., 2000.

Curtin, Philip D., Grace S. Brush, and George W. Fisher, eds. Discovering the Chesapeake: The History of an Ecosystem. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Davison, Steven G. ed., Chesapeake Waters: Four Centuries of Controversy, Concern, and Legislation. Cambridge, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1997.

Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave, Written by Himself. New York: Signet Classic, 1968, 1997. (First published in 1845 by "The Anti-Slavery Office," Boston, Mass.)

Duke, Maurice, ed. Chesapeake Bay Voices: Narratives from Four Centuries. Richmond: The Dietz Press, 1993.

Gear, Kathleen O'Neal and W. Michael Gear. People of the Mist. New York: A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 1997.

Gingrich, Newt, William R. Forstchen, and Albert S. Hanser, eds. Victory at Yorktown. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012.

Harwood, Richard, editor. Talking Tidewater: Writers on the Chesapeake Bay. Chestertown, Maryland: The Literary House Press, 1996.

Hodges, Elizabeth. What the River Means. Pittsburgh: Duquesne UP, 1998.

Horn, James J. Adapting to a New World: English Society in the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake. North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Horton, Tom. An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

Bay Country. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Horton, Tom and William M. Eichbaum. Turning the Tide: Saving the Chesapeake Bay. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1991. Rewritten and re-issued Horton, 2003.

Junkin, Tim. The Waterman: A Novel of the Chesapeake Bay. North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1999.

Lippson, Alice Jane. Life in the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Minichiello, J. Kent and Anthony W. White. From Blue Ridge to Barrier Islands: An Audubon Naturalist Reader. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Nelson, Jack E., Raymond L. Langston, and Margo Dean Pinson. Highland Beach on the Chesapeake Bay: Maryland’s First African American Incorporated Town. Virginia Beach: Donning Company Publishers, 2008.

Pastan, Linda. Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Plant, Ian J, photographer, Tom Horton, essayist, and Amanda Fisher, editor. Chesapeake, Bay of Light: An Exploration of the Chesapeake Bay’s Wild and Forgotten Places. Johnson City, TN: Mountain Trail Press, 2007.

Poag, C. Wylie. Chesapeake Invader. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Robson, Nancy Taylor. Course of the Watermen. Montgomery, AL: River City Publishers, 2004.

Snodgrass, Lucie L., author, and Edwin Remsberg, photographer. Dishing up Maryland: 150 Recipes from the Alleghenies to the Chesapeake Bay. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishers, 2010.

Stranahan, Susan Q. Susquehanna, River of Dreams. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Svenson, Peter. Green Shingles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Taylor, John W. Chesapeake Spring. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Tilghman, Christopher. Mason's Retreat. New York: Random House, 1996.

The Way People Run. New York: Picador, 2000.

Warner, William W. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. The Atlantic Monthly Press and Little, Brown Books, 1976.

Walker, Sally M. Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2009.

Wennersten, John R. The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay. Washington D.C.: Eastern Branch Press, 2007. (Originally published by Cambridge, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1981.)

Anacostia: The Death & Life of an American River. Washington, D.C., Chesapeake Book Company, 2008.

Whitman, T. Stephen. Challenging Slavery in the Chesapeake: Black and White Resistance to Human Bondage, 1775-1865. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2007.

Woods, Sherryl. Chesapeake Shores Series. Thorndike, ME: Center Point Publishing, 2010-2013. 

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