The best books about life on Saipan, a little-known US territory in the Pacific...and history's forgotten footnote

Who am I?

I discovered Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, on one December night in 2005 through my friend, Ken, who had visited the island for business and raved about his experience. Two months later, I was on an 8,000-mile, one-way flight to escape the NY rat race and live out my dream life in this tropical Pacific paradise! It's been one of the best decisions of my life! I've since fallen in love with the lifestyle, people, culture, and history of the islands. These authors are people I've met or have seen around the island. Their books offer a unique peek inside life on the islands of this little-known US commonwealth!


I wrote...

There's Something About Saipan! A Visitor’s Guide To Fantastic Facts, Tantalizing Trivia, Startling Statistics, Dramatic Diaries and Hair-raising History From America’s Most Colorful Island Territory!

By Walt Goodridge,

Book cover of There's Something About Saipan! A Visitor’s Guide To Fantastic Facts, Tantalizing Trivia, Startling Statistics, Dramatic Diaries and Hair-raising History From America’s Most Colorful Island Territory!

What is my book about?

There is something about Saipan that endears it to tourists, writers, historians, expats, guest workers, and indigenous residents alike. But what is it exactly? Is it the Guinness Book of World Records-recognized weather? Is it the island's pivotal role during WWII and the ushering in of the atomic age? Is it its prominence in the "real" story of Amelia Earhart's fate? Is it the warm, welcoming indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people? Is it the eclectic multi-ethnic mix of guest workers and expats from all over the world? Or, is it the unique, possibly magical, energetically-enhanced proximity to the Marianas Trench--the deepest point on the planet? Perhaps it is a combination of all these or something as yet unidentified? There's Something About Saipan will help you discover it for yourself!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

Walt Goodridge Why did I love this book?

Author Doug Mack took the time to visit and immerse himself in various communities in the US' "not quite states:" American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I know because I was one of the people who showed him around and shared my own story when he visited Saipan, CNMI. When I received my copy of the book several months later, I was as captivated by the stories of the expats and "locals" in the other outposts as I was by those here on Saipan. Doug's attention to detail, respect of local norms and inquiring mind makes for a great read. The Not-Quite States of America offers on-the-ground insight you won't get from any text book on the territories.

By Doug Mack,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Not-Quite States of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and... some other stuff. The U.S. territories-American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands-and their 4 million people are little known and often forgotten, so Doug Mack set out on a 30,000-mile journey to learn about them. How did they come to be part of the United States? What are they like today? And why aren't they states? Deeply researched and richly reported, The Not-Quite States of America is an entertaining and unprecedented account of the territories' crucial yet overlooked place in the American story.


Book cover of The Rope of Tradition: Reflections of a Saipan Carolinian

Walt Goodridge Why did I love this book?

Lino Olopai is a Carolinian elder in the community and also a friend. In fact, I ran into him this morning (the very day I write this summary) at about 6:30 am while I was jogging on the beach. The beachfront land beneath Lino's simple home has been in his family for generations, and because of that, he has refused to sell despite offers from corporate concerns and developers. Lino is also of a lineage with privileged knowledge of celestial navigation. He could set sail on nothing but a raft and—using the stars, waves, and movement of sea creatures as signposts—navigate hundreds of miles over the vast Pacific ocean to other islands! The Rope of Tradition is an account and knowledge that must be shared and preserved.

By Lino M. Olopai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rope of Tradition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From back cover of book: [Topic of book:] "Indigenous Micronesian cultures and the issues and challenges confronting cultural preservation in the face of rapid globalization.' . . . "Indigenous cultures throughout Micronesia have undergone major changes over the six decades since the end of World War II, a situation that has been particularly acute on Saipan, the capital island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. "The Rope of Tradition," written by Saipan Carolinian Lino M. Olopai with the assistance of cultural anthropologist Dr. Juliana Flinn, describes Mr. Olopai's longstanding efforts to document and better understand his rich cultural…


Book cover of Saipan: A Brief History

Walt Goodridge Why did I love this book?

Don A. Farrell's name always comes up (as it has now) in any credible discussion of publications about Saipan's, Tinian's, and Rota's history—particularly as it relates to World War II. His meticulously researched books have set a standard unmatched for thoroughness and accuracy. Don flies around the world to personally conduct interviews, visit sites, and scour archives and collections to produce visually stunning and informationally satisfying work replete with previously-unseen photographs, declassified documents, and accounts that even the history books often get wrong! Here on Saipan, you'll find Saipan: A Brief History at the American Memorial Park Visitor Center, our local library and bookstore, but also at gift shops, car rental companies, and even the checkout counter of local supermarkets! You won't be disappointed!

By Don A. Farrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saipan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This well-made 112-page booklet tells the history of Saipan, capitol island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, in both text and illustrations.
In a concise and accurate format, Marianas historian Don Farrell takes the reader from the roots of the indigenous Chamorros and Carolinians of Saipan, through their experiences with the Spanish, German and Japanese administrations to a graphic review of the island’s role during World War II. The last sections discuss the postwar Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the birth and growth of the Commonwealth. The last sixteen pages provide a full-color representation of Saipan…


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Book cover of Without a Penny in my Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After World War II

Walt Goodridge Why did I love this book?

Marie S.C. Castro knows. Here on Saipan, we tell a different story about aviator Amelia Earhart's and Fred Noonan's fate. The famed pilot and navigator did not "disappear." They crashed on Mili atoll in the Marshall Islands; were detained by the Japanese military;  brought to Saipan where Fred was beheaded and Amelia died of dysentery. Without a Penny in my Pocket includes rare photos and shares Marie's account of growing up and attending school during the Japanese occupation, moving stateside, and ultimately returning home. It helps us understand the lifestyle of the local people at the time of Amelia's presence. (Castro, founder of Saipan's Amelia Earhart Memorial Association, has a book with Earhart researcher, Mike Campbell, to further the mission of keeping the legacy alive. Start the adventure with Marie's story!)

By Marie S.C. Castro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Without a Penny in my Pocket as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Some memories live in hearts and minds even though miles and years come between”—and for the author, she not only has memories to share, but a history to tell. Born and raised in the island of Saipan in Northern Marianas, Marie S. C. Castro (Miss Soledad) witnessed the transition of an idyllic community into a land of terror and poverty as the Japanese soldiers invaded her homeland. But rather than just tales of adversity in the hands of the Japanese invaders and the horrors of war, she showcases stories of bravery, faith, and hope as she, her people, and the…


Book cover of Our Northern Islands: The first expedition to the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument

Walt Goodridge Why did I love this book?

It is the dream of many indigenous residents of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to visit—at least once during a lifetime—the remote "northern islands" of the 400-mile archipelago that comprises the Mariana Islands. High school student Dennis Chan fulfilled that dream as his prize for winning an essay contest. The contest—and the winner's participation in a week-long, first-of-its-kind ocean expedition—was timed to coincide with the Bush administration's designation of a 95,000sqare mile swath of the Western Pacific Ocean as an official Marine National Monument. Dennis, with the help of activist and blogger Angelo Villagomez, chronicled and published Our Northern Islands, an account (with photos) of the team's once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

By Dennis Chan, Angelo O'Connor Villagomez (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Northern Islands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our Northern Islands is a first person telling of the first expedition to the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument.


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Book cover of Unsettled

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What is my book about?

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By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

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