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Discover the rich tapestry of Hawaiian culture, history, and captivating storytelling through this curated list of must-read books about Hawai’i.
From “The Descendants” by Kaui Hart Hemmings, a poignant exploration of family and identity set in modern Hawaii, to “Hawai’i” by James Michener, an epic historical novel that spans centuries, these books offer a profound glimpse into the enchanting world of the Hawaiian Islands. Whether you’re seeking thrilling crime fiction like “When the Shark Bites” by Rodney Morales or a deeper understanding of Hawaiian heritage in “Land and Power in Hawaii” by George Cooper and Gavan Daws, this list has something for everyone.
Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku
“Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku” by David Davis is a captivating biography that tells the inspiring story of Duke Kahanamoku, a legendary figure in surfing and swimming. From his humble beginnings in Hawaii to becoming an Olympic medalist and the father of modern surfing, Kahanamoku’s journey is a testament to his immense impact on sports and his role as a cultural ambassador. This engaging book explores his achievements, advocacy for civil rights, and enduring legacy as an icon.
Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen
“Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen” is a historical memoir by Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii. She shares her personal experiences and provides a unique perspective on the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. The book highlights the cultural heritage of Hawaii, the impact of Western influences, and the Queen’s efforts to protect the rights of her people. It serves as an important historical account and a plea for justice and understanding.
Hawai’i is a complex place and I do my best to provide guides and recommendations on all things Hawai’i.
Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance
“Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance” by Sam Low is a captivating non-fiction book that tells the inspiring story of the traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a, and its navigator, Nainoa Thompson. The book explores the cultural and spiritual revitalization movement in Hawaii during the 1970s, showcasing the challenges and triumphs of Hōkūle‘a’s voyages and Thompson’s role in reviving ancient navigation techniques. It is a powerful testament to the Hawaiian Renaissance and its impact on Hawaiian identity and environmental stewardship.
Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii
“Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii” by Susanna Moore is a captivating book that explores the history and cultural dynamics of Hawaii. With a blend of research and personal narratives, Moore provides insights into the encounters between indigenous Hawaiian culture and European influences. The book offers a nuanced understanding of Hawaii’s past, including the impact of industries, missionaries, and immigration. It is a thought-provoking exploration of Hawaii’s complex history and its ongoing cultural and social dynamics.
Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing
“Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing” by Stuart Holmes Coleman is a captivating biography that celebrates the life of Eddie Aikau, an iconic figure in surfing. Coleman’s book explores Aikau’s journey from humble beginnings in Hawaii to becoming a trailblazer in the world of big wave surfing. It delves into Aikau’s extraordinary skills, his deep connection to Hawaiian heritage, and his selfless acts of heroism. Aikau’s tragic and heroic death while attempting to save others at sea solidified his status as a legendary figure. Coleman’s narrative is a heartfelt tribute to Aikau’s unwavering spirit and his lasting impact on the world of surfing.
“The Descendants: A Novel” is a compelling book written by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Set in Hawaii, the story follows Matt King, a descendant of a prominent land-owning family, as he navigates a tumultuous period in his life. Facing personal and family crises, Matt must grapple with his responsibilities as a husband, father, and steward of ancestral land. Hemmings crafts a poignant and emotionally resonant narrative that explores themes of family, identity, loss, and the complexities of modern Hawaiian society. “The Descendants” is a powerful novel that offers a glimpse into the lives and struggles of its memorable characters, capturing the essence of both the beauty and challenges of life in Hawaii.
Moloka’i & Daughter of Moloka’i
This is a 2 book series.
“Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert is a poignant and captivating novel that tells the powerful story of Rachel Kalama, a young girl who is diagnosed with leprosy and sent to live in the isolated community of Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i. Set in the early 20th century, the book follows Rachel’s journey as she navigates the challenges of her condition, forms deep connections with fellow outcasts, and finds resilience, love, and a sense of belonging in the face of adversity. Brennert’s heartfelt storytelling brings to life the rich history, culture, and struggles of the leprosy-affected community, providing a moving and inspiring exploration of human strength and the power of community.
“Daughter of Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert is a captivating novel that serves as a companion to his earlier work, “Moloka’i.” In this poignant continuation, Brennert introduces readers to Ruth, the daughter of Rachel Kalama from the first book, as she navigates her own path through the complexities of her heritage and identity. The story follows Ruth’s journey from an orphanage to finding a sense of belonging and connection with her Hawaiian roots. Through rich storytelling and vivid characters, Brennert explores themes of family, forgiveness, and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. “Daughter of Moloka’i” is a heartfelt and engaging novel that beautifully captures the legacy of the leprosy-affected community on the island of Moloka’i.
“Unfamiliar Fishes” is a thought-provoking non-fiction book written by Sarah Vowell. With her signature wit and insightful commentary, Vowell delves into the history of Hawaii and its complex relationship with the United States. She explores the arrival of American missionaries in the early 19th century, the impact of Western colonization on Hawaiian culture, and the eventual annexation of Hawaii by the United States. Vowell’s narrative blends historical research, personal anecdotes, and cultural analysis to shed light on the intricate dynamics that shaped Hawaii’s past and continue to influence its present. “Unfamiliar Fishes” offers a fascinating exploration of Hawaii’s history and the clash of cultures that unfolded during its transformation into a U.S. territory.
Shark Dialogues: A Novel
“Shark Dialogues: A Novel” by Kiana Davenport is a captivating and multi-generational story that weaves together the lives of four remarkable Hawaiian women from different eras. Spanning decades and continents, the book explores their struggles, triumphs, and the complex dynamics of family and heritage. Through vivid prose and rich storytelling, Davenport delves into the themes of love, loss, cultural identity, and the enduring connection to the land and sea. “Shark Dialogues” is a beautifully crafted novel that immerses readers in the vibrant tapestry of Hawaiian history, mythology, and the indomitable spirit of its female protagonists.
Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii
“Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii” is a comprehensive historical book written by Samuel M. Kamakau, an esteemed Hawaiian historian. Drawing from ancient oral traditions and extensive research, Kamakau provides an in-depth exploration of the ruling chiefs of Hawaii, their genealogies, and the significant events that shaped the Hawaiian monarchy.
This book offers valuable insights into the political, social, and cultural aspects of Hawaii’s history, allowing readers to gain a deeper understanding of the rich heritage and complex governance structures that governed the islands for centuries. Kamakau’s meticulous scholarship and engaging narrative make “Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii” an essential resource for anyone interested in the captivating history of the Hawaiian Islands.
This Is Paradise: Stories
“This Is Paradise: Stories” is a captivating collection of short stories written by Kristiana Kahakauwila. Set in contemporary Hawaii, the book offers a diverse and intimate exploration of the lives of its inhabitants. Kahakauwila skillfully delves into the complexities of Hawaiian culture, heritage, and the ever-evolving dynamics of the islands.
Each story presents a distinct voice and perspective, inviting readers into the lives of characters who grapple with issues of identity, tradition, and the challenges of modern society. With lyrical prose and keen observations, “This Is Paradise” paints a vivid and nuanced portrait of Hawaii and its people, providing a compelling glimpse into the complexities of island life.
The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration
“The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographies of Exploration” is a thought-provoking book by David A. Chang that offers a unique perspective on Native Hawaiian experiences of exploration and geography. Chang explores the indigenous understanding of space, place, and navigation, challenging conventional Western notions.
Through meticulous research and indigenous knowledge, the book examines the ways in which Native Hawaiians engaged with and conceptualized their environment. It provides a profound exploration of Native Hawaiian geographies, shedding light on their rich cultural heritage and challenging the dominant narratives of exploration and colonization. “The World and All the Things upon It” is a significant contribution to the field of indigenous studies and offers a new lens through which to understand the complexities of Hawaiian exploration and geographic knowledge.
The Descendants: A Novel
“The Descendants: A Novel” is a compelling book written by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Set in Hawaii, the story follows Matt King, a descendant of a prominent land-owning family, as he navigates a tumultuous period in his life. Facing personal and family crises, Matt must grapple with his responsibilities as a husband, father, and steward of ancestral land.
Hemmings crafts a poignant and emotionally resonant narrative that explores themes of family, identity, loss, and the complexities of modern Hawaiian society. “The Descendants” is a powerful novel that offers a glimpse into the lives and struggles of its memorable characters, capturing the essence of both the beauty and challenges of life in Hawaii.
Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i
“Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i” is a thought-provoking and informative book written by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. This guidebook challenges traditional narratives of tourism and offers a decolonial perspective on exploring the Hawaiian Islands. Aikau and Gonzalez delve into the history, culture, and politics of Hawai’i, shedding light on the impacts of colonization and encouraging readers to engage critically with the land and its people.
Through a series of detours, the authors navigate readers away from typical tourist attractions, urging them to explore lesser-known sites and engage in meaningful interactions with local communities. “Detours” provides a valuable tool for travelers seeking a more conscientious and respectful approach to experiencing Hawai’i, inviting them to engage with the complexities of its past and present.
When the Shark Bites
“When the Shark Bites” is a gripping thriller penned by Rodney Morales. Set in the captivating landscape of Hawaii, the book follows Jake Kamaka, a former professional surfer turned private investigator, as he delves into a perplexing case involving a missing heiress.
As Jake unravels a web of secrets and confronts dangerous adversaries, he navigates the treacherous world of crime and corruption lurking beneath the paradise façade. Morales weaves together adrenaline-fueled action, atmospheric descriptions, and a strong sense of Hawaiian culture to deliver a captivating read that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. “When the Shark Bites” is a thrilling journey that showcases Morales’ skill for crafting suspenseful narratives and immersing readers in the allure and danger of the Hawaiian islands.
“Hawai’i” is an epic historical novel by James Michener that spans centuries, chronicling the rich and complex history of the Hawaiian Islands. With meticulous research and captivating storytelling, Michener delves into the origins of the islands, the arrival of Polynesian voyagers, the impact of European explorers, and the eventual merging of diverse cultures in Hawai’i.
Through a vast array of vivid characters and interwoven storylines, Michener paints a vibrant and immersive portrait of the islands’ evolution, highlighting the struggles, triumphs, and enduring spirit of its people. “Hawai’i” is a masterful exploration of the islands’ history, culture, and the profound connections between land and people, solidifying James Michener’s reputation as a celebrated author of historical fiction.
Land and Power in Hawaii: The Democratic Years
“Land and Power in Hawaii: The Democratic Years” is a comprehensive and insightful book written by George Cooper and Gavan Daws. Focusing on the democratic era of Hawaii’s history, the authors delve into the complex dynamics of land ownership, development, and political power in the islands.
They examine the forces that shaped Hawaii’s economy, such as tourism and agriculture, and the impact on local communities and indigenous rights. Cooper and Daws offer a meticulous analysis of key political figures, policies, and movements, shedding light on the intricate interplay between land, power, and democracy in Hawaii. “Land and Power in Hawaii” is a seminal work that provides a deep understanding of the socio-political landscape of the islands, making it essential reading for those interested in Hawaiian history and its ongoing implications.
I hope this list helps you on your journey of understanding Hawai’i and if you think I should include some additional books let me know in the comments below.