7 Great Stocking Stuffers for Bookworms

’Tis the season to let books balance the bling, banish the screen and provide a perfect excuse to curl up in a corner after pumpkin spice lattes and warm cookies.
Holiday reads
National sales trends show print books making a comeback while e-book sales have leveled off; e-retailer Amazon is even opening brick-and-mortar bookstores (though not here, yet).
Photo: Aaron Yoshino


Fantastic But True


1. Kīkā Kila: How the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Changed the Sound of Modern Music by John W. Troutman

This treasure chest of impassioned investigation tracks the steel-stringed guitar’s signature “glissando swoop” as it sparks a global explosion of composition and performance. A Grammy-nominated pedal steel player and professor of history, John Troutman made national news (and caused Robert Johnson to turn over in his grave) with this big reveal: 1920s tour dates and recordings show that wherever Hawaiians played slide guitar in the South, the instrument showed up not long after on blues recordings by African-Americans. But we like the story of Lā‘ie’s Tau Moe and his family band, who bizarrely became favorites of Hitler in 1930s Berlin, then traded on their fame to smuggle Jews out of Nazi Germany as stagehands.

University of North Carolina Press, $35, uncpress.unc.edu


There’s a War on


2. Bayonets in Paradise: Martial Law in Hawai‘i by Harry N. Scheiber and Jane L. Scheiber

Within hours of declaring martial law on Dec. 7, Hawai‘i’s territorial governor and cabinet were thrown out of ‘Iolani Palace by U.S. Army Gen. Walter Short, whose consigliore, Col. Thomas Green, instituted absolute control over every facet of Island life. Under Green’s thumb you could be ordered to work—and if you resisted, you were summarily convicted without trial and made to work. So far, we are the only state to ever come under martial law, but Bayonets in Paradise should sober up every American—particularly in these jittery days.

University of Hawai‘i Press, $45, uhpress.hawaii.edu


3. Countdown to Pearl Harbor by Steve Twomey and 4. Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson

Both of these books are suspenseful and tough-minded accounts of the combatant countries’ patriotic, political and race-based narratives. Give both, then borrow them back.

Simon & Schuster, $30; Scribner, $32


5. Serving in Paradise: An Illustrated Narrative of the U.S. Military in Hawai‘i by Chris Cook

There’s plenty of post-Pearl Harbor Island life here, mostly viewed through a gauzy nostalgia. (Yes, kids’ gas masks were given bunny ears.) But Cook’s got other fascinating material, including an account of the guards and militias under the various regents of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. Did you know Prince David Kalākaua called in U.S. Marines to quell a riot by Queen Emma’s faction after the state volunteer militia refused to accept his 1874 election?

Mutual Publishing, $18.95, mutualpublishing.com


For the Young and Young at Heart


6. Ordinary ‘Ohana by Lee Cataluna and Cheyne Gallarde (illus.)

“I don’t have an ordinary family,” opens Lee Cataluna’s first children’s book. Instead, ‘ohana is a warm embrace among blended families at a backyard lū‘au that includes your hānai auntie’s cousin, Mom’s partner and five cousins named Kainoa. The illustrations are priceless portraits of local facial expressions. 

Bess Press, $14.95, besspress.com


7. Coloring Hawai‘i: Hawai‘i’s Own Adult Coloring Book by Kelly Monis

Expect a fight over who gets to color which intricate design—variations on honu, hibiscus, he‘e and more—in this absorbing treat from a local artist. Maybe you should buy two? Three? (Dibs on the dolphin!)

Mutual Publishing, $15.95, mutualpublishing.com