Roll of Honor: The Next 37 Titles on Our List of 50 Essential Hawai‘i Books
The voting was close enough we’re recognizing books that just missed making the list, as well as plays and guidebooks that our judges suggested. More to read this summer—and all year.
Choosing the first-ever list of 50 Essential Hawai‘i Books wasn’t easy or for the faint-hearted. But there was a good reason to do it. Too many important titles were slipping away from us, obscured by the white noise of an increasingly digitized media existence and the closing of most of our Island bookstores in the past 15 years. When books aren’t physically there to notice, leaf through and sample (especially in an overstuffed chair), they are in danger of going out of print, then lost in the mists of time.
That’s why we created our first 50 list. You’ll find it the May issue of HONOLULU, which starts landing in subscriber mailboxes in the next few days and on the newsstands May 1. It’s not a ranking from No. 1 to No. 50, and it’s not a canon. We like to think of it as a commons, a shared resource like our ocean and ‘āina.
It also was a very close thing, when the votes were counted. Our tally placed many worthy and well-known books just south of the Essential 50—the 51st spot on the list was shared by two titles, while 10 landed on No. 52. And so was born the idea of this Roll of Honor, in the style of the venerable Best American Short Stories and Essays series.
As with the Essential 50, the 37 titles listed below are unranked and arranged by the same categories.
We still had two more issues to wrestle with—what to do with guidebooks and plays. To do a vote and include both seemed to introduce confusion, as the former are basically utilitarian and the latter are written to be performed, almost always with cuts, trims and adjustments. Then there was the issue of lack of wide familiarity with both categories. In the end, we tip our caps to both, at the end of the Roll of Honor, by naming top vote-getters.
We hope all of these books are now positioned for greater recognition and popularity as their reputations solidify and readers get a chance to discover them. For readers of the two lists, we hope you make use of this resource to buy some books and support local authors and literature.
Finally, we also hope this exercise in taste-making sparks debate. In fact, if you have something to say about it or don’t see your own favorite on the list, we encourage you to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment after the story on honolulumagazine.com. Because any list of great books shouldn’t be a conversation stopper; it should be a great conversation starter.
51. The Journals of Captain Cook, by James Cook
52. A Shark Going Inland Is My Chief, by Patrick Vinton Kirch
53. Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawai‘i and Its People, 1778–1941, by David Forbes
54. The Echo of Our Song: Chants and Poems of the Hawaiians, by Mary Kawena Pukui and Alfons L. Korn
55. Place Names of Hawai‘i, by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert and Esther T. Mookini
56. Nā Mele O Hawai‘i Nei: 101 Hawaiian Songs, edited by Samuel H. Elbert and Noelani K. Mahoe
History & Social Criticism
57. Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawai‘i, by Valerio Valeri
58. Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawai‘i, by Carol MacLennan
59. Hawai‘i: Islands Under the Influence, by Noel Kent
60. Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai‘i? by Jon M. Van Dyke
61. The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai‘i, By Tom Coffman
62. Ben: A Memoir, from Street Kid to Governor, by Ben Cayetano
63. Ē Luku Wale Ē, by Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf
64. A Nation Rising, edited by Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Ikaika Hussey, Erin Kahunawaiki‘ala Wright
65. Finding Meaning: Kaona and Contemporary Hawaiian Literature, by Brandy Nālani McDougall
Lucky We Live Hawai‘i
66. Ka Lei: The Leis of Hawai‘i, by Marie McDonald
67. Jan Ken Po: The World of Hawai‘i’s Japanese Americans, by Dennis Ogawa
68. The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory, by Julie Checkoway
69. Obake: Ghost Stories in Hawai‘i, by Glen Grant
70. Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai‘i, by Garrett Hongo
71. Balikbayan: A Filipino Homecoming, by Michelle Cruz Skinner
72. The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong, by Alan Wong
73. Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing, by Stuart Holmes Coleman
74. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan
75. Sunny Skies, Shady Characters: Cops, Killers and Corruption in the Aloha State, by James Dooley
Novels & Short Fiction
76. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, by Herman Melville
77. Stories of Hawai‘i, by Jack London
78. From Here to Eternity, by James Jones
79. Lucky Come Hawai‘i, by Jon Shirota
80. My Old Sweetheart, by Susanna Moore
81. House of Many Gods, by Kiana Davenport
82. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers, by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
83. Boi No Good, by Chris McKinney
84. Islands Linked by Ocean, by Lisa Linn Kanae
85. Hotel Honolulu, by Paul Theroux
86. This is Paradise, by Kristiana Kahakauwila
87. Still Out of Place, by Christy Passion
Plays (not in consideration, but received numerous votes)
Aloha Las Vegas and Other Plays, by Edward Sakamoto
Hawai‘i Nei: Island Plays, by Victoria Kneubuhl
The Conversion of Ka‘ahumanu, by Victoria Kneubuhl
Kāmau, by Alani Apio
Guides (not in consideration, but received numerous votes)
Hawai‘i Place Names: Shores, Beaches and Surf Sites, by John R.K. Clark
Hawaiian Surfing, by John R.K. Clark
Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, by John E. Randall
The Hiker’s Guide to O‘ahu, by Stuart Ball