What to Read This January: 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 history of volcanoes, a murder mystery, a collection of contemporary art and more.


Aloha Spirit

Photo: Imago Mundi


Hawai‘i – Aloha Spirit: Contemporary Artists from Hawai‘i

Texts by Luciano Benetton, David Behlke, Jennifer Karch Verzè, Gigi Manawis, Joshua T.K. Tengan

Aloha Spirit is truly a little art masterpiece. Supported by Luciano Benetton, of United Colors of Benetton, this book is part of a larger collection representing indigenous cultures around the world through the artistic lens of local artists living in these areas. Hawaiʻi is unlike any other place. A former sovereign kingdom illegally annexed by the U.S., its history is particularly relevant today as we examine the themes of identity, place, culture and appropriation. One of the easiest ways to dive into these oft-touchy subjects is through art, and this book does just that. By lending an identity to Hawaiʻi as seen by the artists who are born and raised here, readers come to interpret paradise and what that cliche term means as seen through the creative perspectives and homogenous ethnicities that have intermixed to make Hawaiʻi what it is today. —David DeLuca, owner of Da Shop: Books + Curiosities


The Last Volcano Simon Schuster

Photo: Simon & Schuster



The Last Volcano

by John C. Dvorak

A local favorite of mine, The Last Volcano (though nonfiction) reads like a page-turner and is full of fascinating Hawaiʻi Island history and anecdotes. Yes, it’s about the legendary volcanologist Thomas Jaggar, founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at Kīlauea, but it also takes a deep dive into the enchanting and dangerous world of volcanoes. Through his masterful storytelling, Dvorak weaves adventure, science, love and nature into one spellbinding tale. Reminiscent of The Wild Trees, this book will both inform and entertain. A big takeaway is the profound influence that one passionate person can have in this world, and how though we think we may be shaping nature, it is really nature that shapes us.


Sidenote: The morning after I wrote this blurb, I woke to the news that a new eruption had started up in Halema‘uma‘u. Even more of a reason to pick up this book! —Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of Red Sky Over Hawaii


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


Six Feet Together Mutual Publishing

Photo: Mutual Publishing



Six Feet Together

by Beverly da Silva, illustrated by Kat Uno

In the quintessential spirit of caring that we show in Hawai‘i, this children’s book provides a playful rhyme with an important message about living through this current pandemic. Love and care can be expressed through the wearing of masks, social distancing and washing your hands. It is a great opportunity to reexamine our challenges and build resilience among young and old alike.


“Instead of six feet apart, think of it as six feet together. We are never really that far apart when we have lots of LOVE in our hearts.” This book is also a great tool for parents and educators who want to open up discussions or lessons on the etiquettes of navigating the new normal. —Lani Lee, bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities


Murder Frames The Scene Uh Press

Photo: UH Press



Murder Frames the Scene

by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl

You know how when you get hooked on a series of murder mystery/detective novels, it’s mostly because of the detectives themselves—their personalities and habits, the people around them, and the places they work? By the time you get to Murder Frames the Scene—the third book in Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl’s series about local journalist Mina Beckwith and her part-Samoan boyfriend Ned in prewar Hawai‘i—I’m sure you’ll be craving more. They are the coolest, smartest couple in town, and their dog Ollie steals every page he’s on. Each one of Kneubuhl’s mysteries has a devious plot, but Murder Frames the Scene tops them all with two wildly twisting and converging plot lines involving Japanese spies and a group of thespians who are picked off one by one in super creepy staged murders.


Like most murder mystery series, you can start with any book. But if you want to get the sweet story of Mina and Ned from the beginning, start with Murder Casts a Shadow. You won’t regret the extra reading! —Mariko Merritt, artist and bookseller at Da Shop: Books + Curiosities



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My Kalo Has Lau, Big and Green

by Pua Aquino, illustrated by Garrett Omoto

Gazing at the big, green lau in her kalo patch, a young girl recounts with pride how her kalo is nourished by the sun, rain and earth. She notes the fluttering of the leaves and the drops of rain that roll into the mud as she joyfully observes nature all around her. We see generations of her family unite to huki the kalo, peel off the skin with ‘opihi shells, and make pa‘i ‘ai, which in turn becomes the poi at their table. Written in a mix of ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i and English, My Kalo has Lau, Big and Green is a great story to teach little ones about the natural world using landscapes, family models, and words that are familiar to them (or a great way to introduce them to words they aren’t familiar with!). Plus, there are extended learning activities that teach math, science, language and literacy, and Hawaiian culture. AND there’s an accompanying CD if you want to listen to the story in song! —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