6 essential summer books about Hawaii

The Hawaii books we’ve been saving all spring to read on the beach.

Sun, surf, and lounge days on the beach are what summer in Hawaii is made of. And nothing makes a better companion for beach relaxation than a good book. Here are a few of our suggestions if you’re interested in the stories of the people, music, myths and traditions that made the Islands’ rich culture what it is. Lay out a towel, settle in and crack these books open for a window onto Hawaii’s deep and colorful past.  

Don’t Look Back: Hawaiian Myths Made New 

(Watermark Publishing)


Modern-day Hawaii writers reimagine classic Hawaiian myths and legends as contemporary narratives, with mostly inventive, ever discussion-worthy results. Available online from Watermark Publishing.

The Ukulele: A History 

by Jim Tranquada and John King (University of Hawaii Press)


Everything you always wanted to know about the creation of the Hawaii-born instrument but didn’t know who to ask. Available online from University of Hawaii Press.

Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure 

by Julia Flynn Siler (Atlantic Monthly Press)

A gripping novel-like narrative guides this history of the agricultural land grabs that birthed Hawaii’s sugar industry and ended the Hawaiian monarchy. Available online from these sellers.

Japanese Eyes, American Heart—Volume II: Voices from the Home Front in World War II Hawaii 

(Watermark Publishing)


A collection of real-life, often deeply personal stories detailing the day-to-day difficulties and sadness faced by Japanese American citizens in Hawaii following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Available online from Watermark Publishing.

Kalaupapa: A Collective Memory 

by Anwei Skinsnes Law (University of Hawaii Press)


A riveting oral history of life at Molokai’s Kalaupapa Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) settlement is revealed in interviews and the letters, songs and memoirs of Hawaii residents exiled to the remote peninsula between 1866 and 1969. Available online from University of Hawaii Press.

Hawaiki Rising: Hokulea, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance 

by Sam Low (Island Heritage)


The triumphs, tragedies and setbacks of the stalwart individuals who dreamed of, built and then sailed the legendary long-distance Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea across the Pacific are shared in this well-researched history. Available online from University of Hawaii Press

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