What to Read This December: 5 Hawai‘i Book Picks Recommended by Local Experts

We reached out to our friends at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities to ask their community of writers and readers for their picks: a vegan cookbook, a feminist fairy tale, a classic local play and more.
The Aloha Shirt Dale Hope Patagonia

Photo: Patagonia



The Aloha Shirt: Spirit Of The Islands

by Dale Hope

“Truly a passion project from Dale Hope, this book is the quintessential combination of timeless Hawaiian fashion inspiration, cultural exploration and a candid look into our local love affair with the aloha print. This work is the ideal gift for your dad, brother, uncle or anyone with an appreciation for fashion, history, art and the influences behind the vintage Hawai‘i badge of honor and how it’s come to find it’s respective place on fashion racks the world over. Hope writes with a fluid tone that weaves personal stories into the fabric of aloha shirt designers, large and small. It’s truly a classic and truly a definitive edition to any home library or coffee table.” —David DeLuca, co-owner of Da Shop: Books + Curiosities



Okinawan Princess Lee Tonouchi Bess Press

Photo: Bess Press



Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos

by Lee Tonouchi, illustrated by Laura Kina

“Lately my 5-year-old daughter has been requesting Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos each night at bedtime and it’s of no surprise to me why she loves the book. Lee Tonouchi, ‘da pidgin guerilla,’ is an award-winning author and this is his first children’s picture book. It’s a wonderful mix of adventure and intrigue, an intergenerational relationship between a girl and her grandmother, and the history and value of the Okinawan tradition of the hajichi tattoo. I love how Tonouchi sprinkles in tidbits from his childhood growing up in the ’80s in Hawaiʻi with references to Bruce Lee and Kikaida—they brought a subtle sense of nostalgia to me. The illustrations are unique and a tad whimsical and you can hear Lee’s voice and humor as the story unfolds. The message of brains over beauty and valuing traditions of one’s culture is so perfectly blended into this book. This story is a uniquely feminist fairy tale and I couldn’t think of a better bedtime story for my daughter.” —Sarah DeLuca, co-owner of Da Shop: Books + Curiosities



Folks You Meet In Longs Lee Cataluna Bamboo Ridge

Photo: Bamboo Ridge



Folks You Meet in Longs and Other Stories

by Lee Cataluna

“I’m almost inclined to feel that you’re really an old-time ‘kama‘āina’ if you remember when Longs was just Longs. The Hawai‘i-branded drugstore was so ingrained in our very existence (since before statehood) that CVS smartly allowed the chain to keep its original name here after taking over. Written first as a play before CVS ever came to town, Lee Cataluna captures an affectionate sentiment for local caricatures meandering the Longs aisles with her hilarious, poignant, quirky monologues. There may be a bit of a ‘reading curve’ with the pidgin, and it’s possible that some may not find all the characters relatable. Nonetheless, it’s a great introduction for a sense of place about the ‘non-touristy’ and grittier version of Hawai‘i. In 2020, it may seem like this is based on the Longs of yesteryear, but Folks You Meet in Longs stands as a classic piece of local literature. Stores may come and go in Hawai‘i, after all, but the Longs we love and need as well as Cataluna’s iconic vignettes endure.” —Lani Lee, bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities


SEE ALSO: 50 Essential Hawai‘i Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime


Hawaii A Vegan Paradise Lillian Cumic Mutual Publishing

Photo: Mutual Publishing



Hawai‘i A Vegan Paradise

by Lillian Cumic

“People always talk about vegan cookbooks in terms of how they will appeal to meat eaters, but what about lifelong vegans and vegetarians? With this new cookbook, we can finally eat what the meat eaters are having! This book is full of local favorites using those trendy genius vegetable tricks that chefs are inventing nowadays. I just started cooking from this book, and so far everything has been super delicious. I’m excited to try the Spamish Musubi and the ‘Ulu Croquettes. And there are vegan cakes and cocktails, too!” —Mariko Merritt, illustrator and bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities



Hoonani Hula Warrior Heather Gale Penguin Random House

Photo: Penguin Random House



Ho‘onani: Hula Warrior

by Heather Gale, illustrated by Mika Song

“Based on the life of Ho‘onani Kamai, this book tells the story of a young Ho‘onani, who doesn’t identify as wahine or kāne. When her high school showcases an all-male chant, Ho‘onani is eager to join in. Her Kumu Hina helps her to be ‘strong, sure, and steady’ as others project limitations and expectations on Ho‘onani. This book is a great example of how Mainland publishers might defer to cultural experts to help tell a story with sensitivity and respect. The talented Mika Song illustrated the book with vibrancy and strength and drew on her childhood years in Hawai‘i as inspiration. The story of Ho‘onani celebrates māhu identity and the journey to empowerment and love for nonbinary youth. You’ll find yourself cheering for Ho‘onani as she claims a place of her own making.” —Kristen Namba Reed, bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities


SEE ALSO: What to Read This November: 5 Hawai‘i Book Picks Recommended by Local Experts


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. The Kaimukī bookseller is also open for browsing Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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