7 Must-Read Books on Hawaiian History, Culture & Modern Life

Hawaii is one of the world’s most beautiful places. If you want to understand Hawaiian culture, history, and modern life, you’ll find many excellent resources. These books offer insights that can make all aspects of this chain of islands easier to understand. Whether you’re planning a short term visit, heading here on a business long term, or settling in this part of the world permanently, these books are a must-read. 

Fictional Insights 

1. Hawaii by James A. Michener 

Written in 1959, this book remains a modern touchstone and a must for anyone who wants to understand the history of Hawaii. The book starts with how the islands formed thousands of years ago. Understanding how the islands began is a way for anyone to make sense of what they see when they come here. Its geological history can help people understand why the islands have active volcanoes today. The book also gets into how the culture has evolved today. It’s fiction that interweaves factual evidence and creates a coherent and fascinating narrative along the way. You’ll want to read this one to help you understand the many motivations of so many who make their home here. 

2. Shark Dialogue

The fictional story of Pono and her granddaughters is the medium for the artist to examine many years of Hawaiian history. The author tackles many subjects that have had an impact on the culture of this land. Come here to learn about the whaling industry and how it made these islands what they are today. There’s also a great deal about the natural history of healing on the islands. Also, it mentioned how the islanders made the best use of the resources available to them amid isolation from many other parts of the world. 

3. From Here to Eternity: A Novel

One of the most well-known novels, From Here to Eternity takes place as the United States was into war overseas. It’s set in Hawaii as the state is about to be bombed by the Axis powers. Many scholars consider this novel one of the most significant explorations of life in the military under war. It’s also a novel that helps people see what life was like in Hawaii before WWII began, and once it started. Look for the updated version to get the full feel of the original, vivid passages used when first written. 

4. Honolulu by Alan Brennert

Honolulu is another classic that focuses on the complicated and fascinating culture of these islands. It’s fiction told from the point of view of a young Korean woman. She sets off from her community, pregnant and eager to start a new life with her husband here. The story opened when Hawaiian society was about to be developed by many cultures in 1914, including that of America. You’ll meet this woman and the many people she encounters in her life as she prepares for the birth of her child. 

Non-Fiction For Your Shelf 

5. Travelers’ Tales Hawai’i: True Stories (Travelers’ Tales Guides)

More than a dozen voices are in this collection of essays that everyone interested in Hawaii should read. Personal stories from long term residents take this book to a level that makes it feel like you have a guide to the life here before you set foot in Hawaii. There are also stories from those who spent less time yet offer illuminating insights into the thoughts of the residents. You’ll learn everything from exact residents to how visitors in the past have perceived it. 

6. Eddie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Holmes Coleman

One of the most critical aspects of this culture is the role the sea plays. The Pacific Ocean is always nearby ready and waiting for people to dive right in. One person who knew the surf and how to explore it well was native Eddie Aikau. Throughout his storied life, he showed off surfing and saved dozens of people from some of the most dangerous waters in the world. The sea reclaimed him when he rescued the crew of the Hokule Ľa voyaging canoe but lost his own life. 

7. DK Eyewitness Hawaii (Travel Guide)

If you’re looking for a current guide to Hawaiian life, this one is for you. Masses of pictures help demonstrate what life is like right now in this corner of the United States. The guide is also an essential one if you’re looking for places to go hiking. Vivid instructions indicate what trails are best to use and why you should be there. 

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