By Miles O. Hayes and Jacqueline Michel, Pandion Books, distributed by Heyday, 2010, 352 pages, $29.95.
It’s hard to argue with the claim by the South Carolina-based authors of A Coast to Explore that “the shoreline of Central California is without a doubt the most beautiful in all the ‘lower forty-eight’ states.” And with that, these two coastal geomorphologists (scientists who study the formation of coastlines) are off on a grand tour of the geology and ecology the coastline between Bodega Head and Point Conception. But because this is as much a geology textbook as a field and travel guide, the first half of the book is devoted to an overview of the processes that shape coastlines around the world, including here in California, starting with an introduction to plate tectonics and moving on to a description of all kinds of coastal landforms and habitats. The second half is the actual tour down the coast, visiting all the major scenic and geologic highlights. Plentiful and colorful diagrams are excellent additions to the thorough but sometimes uneven text. While it’s unlikely you’ll want to take this hefty book into the field, reading the appropriate sections before or after your trip will help explain the dramatic sights you encounter along our beautiful coast. [David Loeb]