5 Must-Read Local Books to Dive Into

Kick off the new year with these recommendations from our friends at da Shop: Books + Curiosities.


Grouping of books listed in the article from da Shop in Honolulu

Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities

Have you started making your 2023 TBR list? The staff at da Shop bookstore in Kaimukī  has assembled the books on their reading radar (although it was very hard to narrow down). Here are five local recommendations that will make you laugh, cry, escape to new paradigms and dream for a better world. After all, anything’s possible at the beginning of a new year.




Book Cover: Mata Austronesia: Stories From an Ocean World, An (Ethno)graphic Novel

Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities


Mata Austronesia: Stories From an Ocean World, An (Ethno)graphic Novel

by Tuki Drake

It’s always heartening to see diversity in all genres, and this newly released graphic novel will not disappoint. Weaving together myths, memories, language and Indigenous knowledge into stunning pictorial stories, this book is a gift to readers who have long awaited such publications. Part memoir and part study, complete with a glossary and bibliography to guide deeper research, this unique book will open up worlds that have been hidden, or even suppressed, for too long.




Book Cover: The Sound of Hilo Rain by Roy Kodani

Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities


The Sound of Hilo Rain

by Roy Kodani

This collection of vignettes and short stories encapsulates what life was like for immigrants living in Hilo circa the 1940s and ’50s. The languid pace of life only deepens the universal themes of being human: of wanting love; seeking friendships; understanding filial piety; or finding meaning in one’s existence, however mundane and small such gestures may seem. The Sound of Hilo Rain is a poignant look into the lives of people in pre-statehood Hawai‘i and brings to light both the nostalgia and hardships of that time.


SEE ALSO: 5 New Books By Hawai‘i Authors



Book Cover: Heart of Fire: an Immigrant Daughter’s Story by Mazie Hirono


Heart of Fire: an Immigrant Daughter’s Story

by Mazie Hirono

This memoir is a heartfelt, honest account of the American dream in process. Our very own Sen. Hirono shares her humble beginnings and intense hardships of how her life changed when she moved from Japan as a child to Hawai‘i. She credits her mother’s unwavering perseverance and strength as her own source of success–qualities that helped break barriers of prejudice, injustice and hard luck–to rise above challenges to pursue a greater purpose in life, all without ever losing the will to work hard nor the spirit to serve.




Book Cover: Light From Uncommon Stars Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities

Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities


Light From Uncommon Stars

by Ryka Aoki

This is a magical novel with a little bit of everything under the sun and beyond. Author Ryka Aoki’s sensibilities of growing up in Hawai‘i are endearingly evident throughout, even though the story takes place in San Gabriel Valley. Her descriptions of Asian food are mouthwatering; her characters, interesting and complex. The topics of a transgender teen runaway, a cursed violin maestro nicknamed the “Queen of Hell,” and even an alien who runs a doughnut shop– are deftly presented as unapologetically normal. Mix in dreams, destiny and fate drawing together a found family and you have an unconventional love story that transcends all obstacles as well. When you’re craving a fun, joyfully original story that defies expectations, treat yourself to this book and devour it like a comforting bowl of pork belly noodle soup.


SEE ALSO: Essential Hawai‘i Books You Should Read: The Next 134



Book Cover: Eco-Literatures of Micronesia

Photo: Courtesy of da Shop: Books + Curiosities


Eco-Literatures of Micronesia

edited by Kathy Jetñil-Kilner, Leora Kava and Carlos Santos Perez

As the second volume in The New Oceania Literary series, this anthology has gathered contemporary writings that highlight Pacific Islander cultures, native languages and Indigenous values, this time under the theme of sustainability and climate change. With a unified voice of resilience, these works ride upon the urgency to keep resisting colonial paradigms and refusing to give up hope to restore beloved lands all while celebrating Indigenous traditions and ways of life. This is an important body of work that calls each of us to collective action for social, racial and climate justice.


All of these books can be ordered through da Shop, our 2020 Best of HONOLULU winner for Best Place to Find Your Next Great Read. Find more suggestions here. The Kaimukī bookseller is open for browsing Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Da Shop: Books + Curiosities, 3565 Harding Ave., (808) 421-9460, dashophnl.com@dashophnl