World Shores and Beaches: A Descriptive and Historical Guide to 50 Coastal Treasures by Mary Ellen S

Wesley Burnett

The problem isn't, however, with what's included, but what isn't. Why these three East Coast beaches and not Cumberland Island? Or Cape Romain? Or the Florida Keys? Or the Chesapeake Bay? Or Cape May?"

World Shores and Beaches

Publisher: McFarland and Co.
Subtitle: A Descriptive and Historical Guide to 50 Coastal Treasures
Author: Mary Ellen Snodgrass
Price: $45.00
Length: 308
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2005-08
Amazon affiliate

This work claims to be a reference book about the world's shores and beaches. The rationale is that Earth's beaches are at least awfully interesting while most of them are somehow awfully "endangered". Except for where humans are dumping sewage or spilling petroleum, all too common practices, they really aren't endangered. Rather they're in a perpetual state of flux and real estate developers and speculators find that damned irritating. They rant and rave, expecting "government" to do something to stabilize the shorelines and stop all this pelagic coming and going so they can make a financial killing rather than drown in the rising tide.

Since we perceive of shorelines and beaches as being endangered even when they aren't, a good reference guide and directory to the world's shores and beaches is something much needed. And that directory should be a little more detailed than the standard tour guide. In terms of content and layout, then, Snodgrass has the right idea. For each of her 50 entries, she starts with a description of location.

There follows, depending on the beach being discussed, consideration of its history, ecology, cultural significance and/or archaeology. The types of touristy activities available are often discussed. A couple of "contacts", people or offices who have more information, are listed, and the entry concludes with a bibliography. A few black-and-white photos are scattered throughout the text.

That's all very good and well, but as a reference book, this volume fails utterly. For starters, a description of the places' locations is nice but maps would be nicer. In a couple of instances, for example in the discussion of Cape Hatteras where the emphasis is on shipwrecks, the text is incomprehensible without a map. Then there's the bibliography, in every case so ephemeral it's useless.

These are minor flaws. The killer is that there are only 50 entries, and there is no rationale for how they were selected. There are, for example seven entries for the United States, eight if one thinks of American Samoa as part of the United States. On the East Coast, Cape Hatteras and Vizcaya and Myrtle Beach are covered. The inclusion of the latter, a kind of skuzzy, low-rent resort, is puzzling. Its inclusion is justified, supposedly, by Myrtle Beach having invented beach music and a dance, the shag, to go along with it, and finally a local sub-culture to accompany both.

The problem isn't, however, with what's included, but what isn't. Why these three East Coast beaches and not Cumberland Island? Or Cape Romain? Or the Florida Keys? Or the Chesapeake Bay? Or Cape May? Or -- well, you got the idea.

For all of Australia, there is one area listed. Well two, if Tasmania is understood to be part of Australia, a fact that seems to have eluded Snodgrass. No Gold Coast. Nothing about the beaches at Darwin. Nothing about the Great Barrier Reef.

On the US Gulf Coast, there's not a word about the Louisiana Coast, which really is in serious environmental trouble. Matagorda Island is presented but there's nothing about the fact that Texas, one way or another, has all of its barrier islands protected, a magnificent achievement given that state's rather sordid environmental history. How did they do it? A reference book on beaches and shorelines might reasonably be expected to tell us. Likewise, three of England's beaches and one of Scotland's are covered but the UK's aggressive program of beach conservation isn't covered

The absence of a rationale for selecting her various entries makes it impossible for a reference librarian to look a patron in the eye and say with confidence, "Ah, madam, that would be covered in Snodgrass." For all we know, this is a listing of Snodgrass' favorite beaches, or the first 50 beaches she found on the web, or possibly just her random list of beaches. The absence of any programmatic coverage, that is review of international, national or local programs of conservation or preservation, is simply disappointing, an oversight that further detracts from this book's usefulness.

In the introduction, Snodgrass tells us that this kind of book wouldn't have been possible without the Internet. Unfortunately, she's probably right. There was a time when a reference book reflected a lifetime of devotion to a subject and to precise, demanding scholarship. Now we can turn on the computer and generate them on a weekly basis like the Sunday funnies only with less bother. Reference books generated this way aren't much of an improvement over just going to the World Wide Web in the first place, and that is certainly the case with World Shores and Beaches. The book isn't what it pretends to be, a useful addition to the library reference collection, and that being the case, it is hard to think of a good use for it.





South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.


Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.


Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.