Summer Reads in Honolulu

Four focused tomes on music, beaches and ... bananas?

If It Swings, It’s Music

By Gabe Baltazar Jr., with Theo Garneau

A legendary Hawaii jazz musician tells his own story with the help of biographer Theo Garneau. The book reads as an extended oral history, taking us from Baltazar’s birth in Hilo through local and national jazz scenes from the 1940s to today, including his years with Stan Kenton and his band in the early 1960s. It’s a treat to hear a master describe both the objective craft and the subjective experience of performing at his level. $24.99, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu,

The World of Bananas in Hawaii: Then and Now

By Angela Kay Kepler and Francis G. Rust

We’re speechless in the face of such an encyclopedic approach to bananas in Hawaii—586 pages, hundreds of photos, cultural histories, horticultural tips, recipes and more, all in a hardbound, oversize book. Bananas in Hawaii come in more shapes, sizes and colors than you ever imagined. A most, er, appeeling work. $80, Pali-o-Waipio Press, Haiku.  Distributed by UH Press,

The Ukulele: a History

By Jim Tranquada and John King

By the 1920s, the ukulele had come to seem so thoroughly Hawaiian that it took an anthropologist to point out that it had been imported. Portuguese plantation workers from the island of Madeira brought it with them to Hawaii in 1879. This exhaustive history of the instrument starts there, then documents the musicians, luthiers and musical trends that made the ukulele what it is today. Our favorite trivia item: hybrid banjo-ukuleles , known as “banjuke” or “banjulele,” emerged around 1917. $20.99 paperback, $45 hardcover, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu,

Oahu Beach Access

By Katherine Garner and Carol Kettner

Hawaii’s courts have repeatedly upheld your right to public access of all beaches. Make the most of it with this definitive guide to the 89 public rights-of-way listed for Oahu by the City and County of Honolulu. Maps show the way to each, while brief write-ups describe each beach, its marine life, available activities and more. Re-create for yourself the adventure the authors had in finding every one. $9.95, Mutual Publishing, Honolulu,