Island Explorations

Here in Hawaii and across the Pacific.

Photo: David Croxford

Big Island Journey: An Illustrated Narrative of the Island of Hawaii, by Sophia V. Schweitzer and Bennett Hymer

When the authors of this book first began their project, they intended to compile a simple illustrated history of the Big Island. But as they began researching, they found such a wealth of photographs and illustrations in both public archives and private collections that they decided to turn the book into something closer to a “community photo album.”

It was a great decision. You could get lost for hours poring over the more than 400 images here—sugar trains passing over high trestle bridges, Hawaiian families outside their hale pili (grass houses), Hilo businesses smashed apart by the 1946 tsunami, backyard barrio festival celebrations. Everything from historic moments to everyday life is represented here, and the end result is a vivid portrait of a beautifully unique community.   

Here’s hoping Big Island Journey becomes the first in a series—every island deserves as rich a photo album as this one. $40, Mutual Publishing.


A Woman in the South Pacific, by Sheree Lipton

In this recently released memoir, Sherée Lipton, a travel writer, photographer and long-time Hawaii resident, recounts her travels crisscrossing the Pacific. Over the course of several decades, Lipton explored Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tahiti, the Cook Islands and many other remote archipelagos, gathering all kinds of fantastic anecdotes along the way.

Here, she spins those tales in Technicolor detail. (Describing her first morning in the village of the Big Nambas tribe in Vanuatu, she writes: “When I awoke, there were 20 pairs of testicles at eye level. … As I looked around me, I thought of burnt potato skins.”)

The book is really as much an autobiography as a travelogue—Lipton details her love affairs, her religious awakening, the births of her children, her struggle with asthma—but the ultrapersonal approach gives readers a closeup view on each of the unique island cultures she encountered. $29.95, Belknap Publishing and Design.