April 30, 2019||On the Lighter Side

10 Island Reads for Your Hawaii Vacation

Aloha! The summer months are upon us and the beach beckons. This is the time of year when many of us are gearing up for summer vacation. We’ve been thinking about the beach and travel books we have enjoyed over the years, particularly those with an island flair. We asked our agents and staff what their favorite Hawaii-themed books are and made a list to share some of these with you (in no particular order). Note that some of these books may be out of print, but may be well worth a search for a copy.

1. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands (Isabella L. Bird)

Six Months in the Sandwich IslandsRecommended by: Heather M. Cole (Hilo) and Karen B. Clarkson (Waimea)

Synopsis: The adventures of Englishwoman Isabella Bird during her visits to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s. This is a revealing story of what Hawaii was like in the last nineteenth century, told through a series of entertaining letters home to her sister back in England.

“The author was adventurous and a fantastic writer!! Her adventures were amazing.” — Karen Clarkson. 

“I enjoyed and admired her strength and determination in making her trips. None were a walk in the park.” — Heather Cole

2. Been There Done That Back to Hilo (Fred J. Koehnen)

Been there done that, Back to HiloRecommended by: Kathy Oldfather (Hilo)

Synopsis: This is a story about the adventures and life of Fred Koehnen, one of Hilo’s most prominent businessmen. It tells the stories of his life over nine decades. It covers a lot of history of the island as it grew.

“He is a great storyteller and I found this book to be extremely entertaining.” — Kathy Oldfather

3. Big Island Journey (Sophia Schweitzer)

Big Island JourneyRecommended by: Vicky Carlson (Keauhou)

Synopsis: For history buffs, this book is packed with amazing historical photos of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is fascinating to view places on Hawaii Island that we know so well and see them in a completely different time. Big Island Journey is also packed with captions and information on Hawaii Islands rich past.

“So comprehensive with great old photos of Kona and more. A great coffee table book. ” — Vicky Carlson

4. The Aloha Shirt (Dale Hope)

The Aloha ShirtRecommended by: Cheryl White (Kona)

Synopsis: A look into the history of the iconic Aloha shirt. Whether bright and bold or of more subtle designs and colors, the Aloha shirt holds a special place in the islands.  Worn casually by all or as dress attire by businessmen and politicians alike, this book takes a deep dive into the shirts from design inspiration to fabrics used.

“It’s a fascinating read and will encourage you to start collecting the vintage icons of yesteryear as well as the modern classics. ” — Cheryl White

5. Shark Dialogues (Kiana Daveport)

Shark DialoguesRecommended by: Christina Macias (Waimea) and Marsha Goodman-Pryor (Hilo)

Synopsis: In simplest terms, this books tells a history of Hawaii through generations of a family. But that doesn’t really do it justice. Words used to describe this book include: spellbinding, epic, passionate, magical, provocative, surreal, erotic and devastating.

“Combines love, ancient history and tragedy all in one. A highly captivating read.”  — Christina Macias

“This book was really good and I quite enjoyed her writing style.” — Marsha Goodman-Pryor

6. Kona Legends (Eliza D. Maquire)

Kona LegendsRecommended by: Vicky Carlson (Keauhou)

Synopsis: This is a book of stories and legends from Old Hawaiians that relate to modern-day locations on the Big Island. Translated in 1926 from Hawaiian to English, these stories link us today to the history and culture of the past.

“My kids enjoy some of these as bedtime stories about places they recognize. Campfire kind of stuff. ” — Vicky Carlson

7. The Water of Kane (Q.A. Bushell)

The Water of KaneRecommended by: Heather Cole (Hilo)

Synopsis: This book told a story of the Japanese workers brought from Japan to work the sugar plantations. The storyteller told of the living conditions as the workers camped and built the ditch system from East Maui (Hana side) to central Maui to irrigate the cane. It was very difficult living in these makeshift camps — damp and cold most of the time.

“It was interesting to me to hear the perspective of a worker. We have many family books that tell it from the owners perspective. ” — Heather Cole

8. Hotel Honolulu (Paul Theroux)

Hotel HonoluluRecommended by: Jaclyn MacKinnon (Waimea)

Synopsis: A tale and short stories of the daily comings and goings of a small vintage hotel in Honolulu, as told from the perspective of the resident manager.

“It really captures the feeling of being new to this very one-of-a-kind place. It is very true to place. ” — Jaclyn MacKinnon

9. Fragments of Hawaiian History (John Papa Li)

Fragments of Hawaiian History

Recommended by: Cyndy Dyal (Kona)

Synopsis: Translated from original works of John Papa li for the Hawaiian language newspaper Kuokoa, this book tells the history of the author’s role of service to the high chiefs under the Kapu system in Hawaii since childhood.

“I enjoyed reading about his life as a child and young man, as well as his role in Christianity in the islands.” — Cyndy Dyal

10. Designing Paradise (Don J. Hibbard)

Designing ParadiseRecommended by: Me

Synopsis: This book documents the history of hotels and the tourist industry in Hawaii from the first hotels in Honolulu serving 19th-century visitors to the master-planned destination resorts of West Maui and Hawaii Island’s famed Kona-Kohala Coast.

“Incredibly interesting narrative tells the history and story (much of which I didn’t even know) and it is all accompanied by awesome photos.” 


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