Non-Fiction Books


Oyster (Reaktion, 2004)
Darwin and the Barnacle (Faber, 2003)
Theatres of Glass The Woman who Brought the Sea to the City 
(Short Books, 2003)

Oyster (Reaktion, 2004)

As well as an aphrodisiac, the oyster has since the earliest times been an inspiration to philosophers, artists, poets, chefs, gourmets, epicures and jewellers. It has been pursued by poachers and thieves, and defended by oyster-police and parliaments. In Oyster, literary historian and radio broadcaster Rebecca Stott tells the extraordinary story of the oyster and its pearl, revealing how this curious creature has been used and depicted in human culture and what it has variously meant to those who have either loved or loathed it: the Romans carried much-sought-after British oysters across the Alps on the backs of donkeys to be eaten as delicacies at banquets in Rome, whilst by contrast Woody Allen once famously said ‘I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead – not sick, not wounded – dead.’ Using many unusual images and anecdotes, Oyster will appeal to oyster lovers and haters everywhere, and for those too who have an interest in the way animals such as the oyster have woven themselves into the fabric of our culture.


This addictive book gives the oyster its cultural, historical, scientific and nutritional due.’– The Times (London)

‘Intelligently written and lavishly illustrated, Oyster is a feast for the eyes and mind.’–P.D. Smith, The Guardian

‘The book is full of great facts, quirky stories and the obligatory–but in this case entertaining–chapter on seduction.’Delicious

marvellous … The most luxuriously illustrated volume yet in the Reaktion ‘Animal’ series … Treat yourself to a dozen oysters, a bottle of Chablis and this delicious book.’–Todd McEwen, The Glasgow Herald

This fascinating, beautifully produced and illustrated account is based on worldwide scholarship enlivened by some pretty saucy stuff… Altogether, this is a succulent little book. Tuck in!’John Jollife, Country Life

’Her well-researched Oyster dazzles with its breadth of details and observations. . . . An ambitious undertaking . . . . Stott’s Oyster pleases the reader with its wealth of information, its prodigious research into the zoological aspects of the androgynous mollusk, and its sure-hand appraisal of oyster literature and lore. . . . commendable study.’Gastronomica


Darwin and the Barnacle
(Faber, 2003)

It is 1846. Darwin is poised to publish The Origin of the Species and blow the scientific world apart. But one small creature makes him hesitate. First, he decides to solve the riddle of a tiny barnacle the picked up on the shores of southern Chile, the last of his Beagle specimens. The investigation takes eight years and tests his theory to the limit. Was Darwin hesitating? Or was he testing his ‘dangerous idea’ to destruction? Beautifully written and superbly told, ‘Darwin and the Barnacle’ is the fascinating story of how genius sometimes proceeds through indirection – and how one small item of curiosity contributed to history’s most spectacular scientific breakthrough.


’It weaves together science and humanity superbly, making it an absorbing accessible read.’ – Glasgow Herald, 8 March 2003

’This is a brilliant performance with a grip like that of the Ancient Mariner.’ 
– New Scientist, 5 April 2003

’Exciting, gripping and addictively readable.’ Independent on Sunday, March 2003

‘A marvellous evocation of an eminent Victorian’s passion for some surprisingly sexy sea creatures. You’ll never look at a barnacle, or at Darwin, the same way again.’ – James A. Secord, author of ‘Victorian Sensation’

‘A spellbinding story, intricate and beautifully told . . . ‘Darwin and the Barnacle’ will have wide appeal in our Darwinian age, just as Darwin’s barnacles did in his own.’ – James Moore, co-author of ‘Darwin’

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Theatres of Glass: The Woman who Brought the Sea to the City
(Short Books, 2003)

In the winter of 1847, the cloisters of Westminster Abbey enjoyed a sudden growth in popularity – though the visitors who streamed in were not of the usual kind. They were naturalists, come to see the very first marine aquarium in England, a large collection of madrepores and sea sponges kept in glass cases in the drawing-room of Ashburnham House.

The Abbey aquarium was established not by the Rev. Lord John Thynne, the Sub-Dean of the Abbey, but by his extraordinary wife Anna, a great beauty and mother of eight children, who found herself working on a series of questions which cut right to the heart of the prevailing conflict about the origins and development of life on the planet. Were species fixed and divinely ordained, and if so what was God’s purpose in creating these bizarre aquatic forms with all their strange ways of reproducing? In the wake of Anna’s invention, as aquarium mania took hold in the 1850s, the theatres of glass became a forum for evolutionary, religious and philosophical debate ten years before Darwin published his explosive conclusions about the origin of species.


‘A five-star cultural history and a moving and strange tale.’
Peter Thomas, Amazon.