Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2006

The Bay

Book Review: The Islands of San Francisco Bay

October 1, 2006

The Islands of San Francisco Bay, edited by James A. Martin and Michael T. Lee, Down Window Press, 2006, 200 pages, $55.00

Ask any ten locals, and chances are that none will know how many islands there are in San Francisco Bay. The magic number is 48. The ecological and human histories of each one are portrayed in words and photos in this coffee-table book self-published by photographer James Martin and designer Michael Lee. The book covers the islands we all know (such as Angel and Alcatraz), the ones we ought to know (Brooks and Bair), and some more obscure rocks that keep just enough of their heads above water to provide resting places for passing seals and seabirds. Though it features nearly as much text as imagery, this is not a book to read cover to cover. Written by several authors, the text tends to be uneven—at times, it soars to rhetorical heights not quite supported by the humbler islands, and at other times it dwells on minutiae while glancing over ecology that deserves more careful explanation. But the photos are remarkable and often surprising, showcasing natural and human history equally well, from haunting backlit images of the stained-glass chapel windows on Mare Island to wonderfully architectural images of herons and cormorants nesting on high-voltage power lines at Bair Island. This book is available through the authors’ website,

About the Author

Dan was editor of Bay Nature from 2004 until 2013, when he left to work for SF-based Stamen Design. He is now executive director of GreenInfo Network, a nonprofit mapmaking organization. A onetime professional cabinetmaker, he considers himself a lifelong maker of things and teller of stories. Dan has been working at the intersection of journalism and technology since, at age 16, he began learning reporting, page layout, and database design. His enduring interest in environmental issues crystallized into a career path in 1998 when he assisted former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass in a cross-disciplinary nature writing and ecology course at UC Berkeley, from which Dan received a Masters in English literature. In 1999, he became Associate Editor of Terrain, the erstwhile quarterly magazine of Berkeley's Ecology Center. In addition to editing and art-directing Bay Nature magazine, he was also Bay Nature’s chief technology strategist, fixer of broken things, and designer of databases and fancy spreadsheets. And he was even known to leave the office and actually hike outdoors.