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18 Hawaii Books to Read This Summer

Our guide to new and notable books from local authors and publishers.


(page 4 of 5)

Local Book Picks

The Possibilities

by Kaui Hart Hemmings

No telling whether George Clooney will make an appearance in the movie version of acclaimed local author Kaui Hart Hemmings’ second novel, but fans may find comfort in some familiar territory. (For the uninitiated: Think loss and grief.) Set in a ski town in Colorado, Hemmings’ new work follows Sarah St. John after her 22-year-old son is killed in an avalanche.  Overcome with grief and confronted with new revelations, the single mother sets out to find answers about a son who can no longer speak for himself. Simon and Schuster, May 2014. Hardcover, 288 pages

Hawaii: A Novel

by Mark Panek

The state’s long-time U.S. senator is dead, leaving the state’s Democratic party fighting to fill some big shoes. Sound familiar? A gambling-addicted state legislator joins forces with a few unlikely (and shady) allies as he attempts to take on the party’s favorite to ascend to power. Mark Panek’s book is not to be confused with the James Michener tome by the same name. Panek’s depiction of Hawaii is like none Michener could imagine: wide economic disparity, a community ravaged by crystal meth and a prison system overpopulated by Hawaii’s native people. Loihi Press, April 2013. Paperback, 568 pages

Local Story: The Massie-Kahahawai Case and the Culture of History

by John P. Rosa

Historian John P. Rosa takes on the infamous Massie-Kahahawai case and how it came to symbolize the long-standing racial divisions in Hawaii. Two of the five young boys accused of raping Thalia Massie turn up dead, with overwhelming evidence linking members of Massie’s family and two Navy men to the crimes. When their lesser conviction is commuted, it contributes to a larger cultural dynamic forming between Asian/Native Hawaiian locals and the white elite. UH Press, April 2014. Paperback, 184 pages

Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawaii

by Carol A. MacLennan

Leeward YMCA, built around the old smokestack of the Oahu Sugar Co. in Waipahu, may be one of the few vestiges of Hawaii’s plantation past on Oahu, but the societal implications live on. Anthropologist Carol A. MacLennan, in Sovereign Sugar, examines how the sugar industry transformed Hawaii, standing in direct conflict with Native Hawaiian ideas about property relations and ownership. UH Press, March 2014. Hardcover, 400 pages

Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA

by Robert Ji-Song Ku

Does a 7-Eleven Spam musubi qualify as Asian enough? How about a chicken teriyaki bowl from Panda Express? Robert Ji-Song Ku delves into the extent that “dubious” Asian dishes are kindred spirits with Asians in the U.S., in that their counterparts across the ocean view them as lacking a certain authenticity. Academics and foodies alike will find something to chew on. Though largely a hardcover academic title, UH Press will release a paperback version for wider distribution this summer. UH Press, 2014. Paperback, 320 pages

Secrets of Diamond Head

by Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett may have retired from local television news, but she’s no less hard at work, continuing to report for Civil Beat and this publication and authoring more books. Fawcett’s latest is part history, part hiker’s guide to one of Honolulu’s most recognizable landmarks. This slim volume is comprehensive in its scope, including the history of ancient temples built by Native Hawaiians on Diamond Head’s slope, the crater’s use by the U.S. military and even a potential commercial future.  UH Press (distributor), May 2014. Paperback, 112 pages

Beyond Green Tea and Grapefruit

by Gail N. Harada

The versatility of writer Gail Harada is on display in this latest single-author offering from Bamboo Ridge. Beyond Green Tea and Grapefruit toggles between stories, poems and memoir, and includes subject matter such as taking care of an aging parent and her own breast cancer. The collection also includes a nonfiction piece about her father’s role in the Japanese American 442nd Regiment in World War II and the rescue of the Lost Battalion. Bamboo Ridge, October 2013. Paperback, 160 pages

The Hawaiian Survival Handbook

by Brother Noland

Wandered down the wrong trail while hiking Maunawili? No worries. Acclaimed Hawaiian musician Brother Noland’s new book covers any number of potential nature mishaps a would-be explorer of the aina may encounter (he moonlights as a tracker, after all). The guide includes such topics as, How to Avoid a Wild Pig Attack, How to Wayfind in the Forest, How to Use Native Plants and How to Use the Moon. You know, just in case. Watermark Publishing, July 2014. Hardcover, 152 pages

The Nanjing Massacre: Poems

by Wing Tek Lum

Though technically a 2013 release, Wing Tek Lum’s collection of poems is worth a mention. The brutal Japanese occupation of Nanjing, China, in 1937, is the backdrop for this volume. Drawing from written accounts, photographs and more, Lum composes glimpses into a devastating part of history that some would prefer to sweep under the rug. In the way only poetry allows, the children, mothers and soldiers of war speak to us from beyond the grave, if we’re willing to listen. (For more with Wing Tek Lum, see page 30.) Bamboo Ridge, March 2013. Paperback, 240 pages

The Hawaii Bathroom Book

by John Richard Stephens

Once you get past the title, John Richard Stephens’ book is a veritable treasure trove of Hawaii factoids and anecdotes. The bite-size histories are perfect for waiting for TheBus, or tanning on the beach and, yes, the lua. The compendium includes the origins of Aloha Friday; a history of the Mai Tai, along with a recipe made famous by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel; and how, in 1935, the U.S. Speaker of the House Joe Byrnes stopped a hula dance in the House Office Building because he deemed it inappropriate. Mutual Publishing, April 2014. Paperback, 356 pages

Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers

by Andrew Warren and Chris Gibson

A pair of Australian human geographers takes a close look at the art and industry of surfing and how it evolved from the exclusive sport of the alii to a growing billion-dollar industry. “This is a book about surfboards,” the introduction reads. But, in fact, it’s more than that. Readers will get a comprehensive overview of the history of the surfboard—from the wood boards of ancient Hawaiians to modern fiberglass and resin version. Through stories about board makers, the heritage of board-making is revealed. UH Press, March 2014. Paperback, 304 pages

The Value of Hawaii 2

by Aiko Yamashiro and Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua

Expanding on the conversation started by its predecessor, The Value of Hawaii 2: Ancestral Roots and Oceanic Visions is a collection of new essays on the issues facing our Island home. New voices grapple with such issues as water rights, gender politics, archaeology, education and community health in an attempt to share a vision for paradise. Change is coming—it always is. Contributors to this volume urge readers to decide what that change should look like. (Read more in our April issue.) UH Press, April 2014. Paperback, 320 pages

Io Lani: The Hawaiian Hawk

Photographs by William S. Chillingworth, with John L. Culliney and Nathan Napoka

Featuring 50 color photographs by Big Island bird-watcher William Chillingworth, Io Lani offers a unique glimpse at the threatened Hawaiian hawk, once a symbol for Hawaiian royalty (think Iolani Palace). Though once found on several islands, including Oahu, today, the bird is only found on Hawaii Island. Chillingworth’s photography is accompanied by two scholarly essays to tell the story of a creature clinging to life. UH Press (distributor), April 2014. Paperback, 80 pages

A Pocket Guide to Hawaii’s Wildlife

by H. Douglas Pratt

Hawaii’s unique and fragile ecosystem is filled with more than 140 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. On a string of islands in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii’s native wildlife is limited to the select species that were able to fly and swim thousands of miles to make paradise their home. As Polynesians arrived on our shores, the Islands’ list of wildlife grew. Readers will find a checklist of Hawaii’s animals, along with full-color photos of our beautiful and unique creatures. Mutual Publishing, April 2014. Paperback, 160 pages

Ewa Which Way

by Tyler Miranda

This local coming-of-age novel has been the talk of Hawaii literary circles since its release last spring, making it a worthy addition to our roundup. Craig Howes, co-producer of Aloha Shorts, says Miranda’s story joins the local canon alongside works from Chris McKinney, R. Zimora Linmark and Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Set around the time of Hurricane Iwa, the novel follows two brothers as their family experiences an economic crisis. Domestic violence and the pain of growing up too soon loom large. Bamboo Ridge Press, April 2013. Paperback, 304 pages

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