California’s Love Affair with the Sea
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Product Details

  • Author: David Helvarg
  • Product Code: 84403
  • ISBN: 978-1-60868-440-3
  • Pages: 368
  • 1 Paperback / softback
  • Size: 5.50 x 8.25


From the first human settlements to the latest marine explorations, The Golden Shore tells the tale of the history, culture, and changing nature of California’s coasts and ocean. David Helvarg takes the reader on both a geographic and literary journey along the state’s 1,100-mile Pacific coastline, from the Oregon border to the San Diego–Tijuana international border fence and out into its whale-, seal-, and shark-rich offshore seamounts, rock isles, and kelp forests. Part history, part travelogue, part love letter, The Golden Shore captures the spirit of the California coast and its mythic place in American culture.


“David Helvarg’s passion for the ocean is equaled only by his elegance in writing about it. Like the ocean itself, The Golden Shore ranges from the glimmering surface to mysterious mid-waters to far deeper realms. This book will remind everyone who reads it of one fundamental fact: we live on a water planet. No author has conveyed this with more art and meaning.”
— Susan Casey, author of The Wave and Voices in the Ocean

“Helvarg dives deep into history to remind us of all the forces that have shaped California’s coastline and near-shore waters—and our attitudes about them.”
Los Angeles Times

The Golden Shore is a thrilling read. Join master storyteller David Helvarg on a heart-pounding journey into the tumultuous past, provocative present, and promising future of California’s wild blue frontier.”
— Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

“A broad, insightful exploration of the Golden State’s pristine coastline and its social and ecological impact on the nation... A lush, labor-of-love appreciation of maritime California.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A comprehensive history of California’s long relationship with its shoreline, covering everything from commercial shipping to surfing to fishing to the U.S. Navy. . . . A unique and enthralling work.”
Booklist (starred review)

“We’ve gotten used to thinking of California’s jammed freeways, or its tech riches, or its Hollywood excess. But David Helvarg’s splendid account reminds us that those are transitory—in the beginning and the end, the Golden State is the place where North America meets the mighty Pacific, a coast of unvanquishable splendor and unforgettable history.”
— Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“As geography, history, and myth, the power of California as place, society, and dream is best encountered on its shoreline. In ‘Facing West from California Shores,’ Walt Whitman bore witness to this drama. In the decades that followed, writers such as Mary Austin, J. Smeaton Chase, Robinson Jeffers, and John Steinbeck each encountered the California shore as fact and symbol. And now David Helvarg embarks upon an odyssey up the coast of dreams, asking the question: what is contemporary California telling itself about itself—and what does this mean for the nation?”
— Kevin Starr, author of California: A History

“Brilliant and engrossing . . . a comprehensive account of California’s coastal history. With a deft journalist’s touch, Helvarg weaves a tapestry of ‘the Golden State’ both past and present, mixing history, biology, adventurism and activism. The tale is woven with interviews and the author’s own unique personal experiences and relationships.”
— Ralph Nader, Huffington Post

The Golden Shore is a history of California’s relationship with the ocean, but it’s much more than a straightforward history. It’s also a travelogue with elements of geography, geology, sociology and ecology, brought to life through the people [Helvarg] interviews and his own observations and experiences as a bodysurfer, diver, writer and lifelong Californian (who lived 10 years in Ocean Beach). It should be required reading for anyone in California, whether native or newcomer, as an introduction (or reintroduction) to the diverse places and issues that hug our shore.”
San Diego Union-Tribune

“Really, a joy. Helvarg literally takes you on walking tours of the places he talks about; get ready to want to discover parts of California you’ve either never been to or have completely forgotten even existed.”
Surfer magazine

“Having lived in California for forty-four years I was surprised by how much I learned from David Helvarg’s book The Golden Shore. It blew my mind. If you have the same love affair for the beautiful California coast and ocean as I do, this marvelous and compelling book is a must-read.”
— Jean-Michel Cousteau, explorer and founder and president of the Ocean Futures Society

“In this ambitious work, journalist and conservationist Helvarg successfully relates the myriad ways in which Californians engage with their beloved Pacific.”
Publishers Weekly

“Helvarg is particularly gifted at profiling individuals who are doing their part on behalf of the environment. . . . Whether he’s giving us the play-byplay of a local campaign to stop a casino development on long-neglected Point Molate in the San Francisco Bay or explaining how the unique bathymetry and ocean currents off our coast result in a rich marine environment that some call the ‘Serengeti of the ocean,’ Helvarg just might make you feel optimistic about the future.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Helvarg deftly evokes that spirit of exploration that drove the earliest inhabitants to populate California. In The Golden Shore, Mr. Helvarg shows how that adventuresome spirit is the perfect fuel to propel such an illuminating book about the world around us Californians, one golden mile at a time.”
Santa Barbara News Press

“An informative, beautifully written trip along California’s coastline from the Oregon border to Tijuana. Helvarg artfully combines history, travelogue and interviews with his experiences on the coast and in the ocean in an enthralling book.”
The Oregonian

The Golden Shore is about more than one man’s love affair with California’s iconic coast. It’s the history of an environmental consciousness that has been impressed upon people around the globe. This is a vital story that will help inform future generations of how and why we work so diligently to protect and preserve California’s majestic coast. I applaud David Helvarg for this great work.”
— John Laird, chair of the California Ocean Protection Council

“For all its mountains and forests, farms and deserts, California would not be California without its iconic shores. But, turns out, there’s much more to it than the Beach Boys’ surfin’ coast. This book dives deep, literally and figuratively, from deep history to deep waters to where it’s all headed. Find a comfortable chair, preferably with a view of the sea, because you’ve got your hands on a good read, told by one of our nation’s most passionate journalists—who, thankfully, happens to be a devoted coast-lover.”
— Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View from Lazy Point