69 books like Kava

By Christopher S. Kilham,

Here are 69 books that Kava fans have personally recommended if you like Kava. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Kava: The Pacific Elixir: The Definitive Guide to Its Ethnobotany, History, and Chemistry

Lamont Lindstrom Author Of Tanna Times: Islanders in the World

From my list on kava (piper methysticum).

Why am I passionate about this?

I first tasted kava in the colonial New Hebrides (Vanuatu today) in early 1978. Since then, I have returned to Vanuatu many times to carry out ethnographic and linguistic research on Tanna Island on a range of issues. Although firmly incorporated within global systems since explorer James Cook visited in 1774, Islanders have fiercely maintained their island culture and languages. In addition to kava and other traditional drug substances, I have published books and articles about local knowledge systems, “cargo cults,” contemporary chiefs, Islander experience in the Pacific War, urban migration, and early Pacific photography. Currently, I am Kendall Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. 

Lamont's book list on kava (piper methysticum)

Lamont Lindstrom Why did Lamont love this book?

This is the kava Bible. Kava expert Vincent Lebot shares his comparative analysis of 247 kava cultivars collected from 55 Pacific islands to identify their morphological, chemical, and genetic characteristics—including the six major kavalactones responsible for kava’s physiological effects. Lebot’s research pinpointed kava’s origins in northern Vanuatu as a domesticated form of “wild kava” (Piper wichmannii). The book provides ethnographic information about the religious and social significance of kava across the Pacific, including origin myths, ceremonial and recreation uses, its ethnomedical applications, and growing importance as a cash crop. The authors predicted, successfully, that kava will become the next world drug.

By Vincent Lebot, Mark Merlin, Lamont Lindstrom

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

• The most comprehensive book ever written on nature's most effective stress-relieving plant.

• First paperback edition of the classic comprehensive text originally published by Yale University Press.

This complete guide to kava summarizes the literature and research on a plant that is now considered comparable or superior to anti-stress prescription drugs, and describes its use in the religious, political, and economic life of the Pacific islands for centuries. Beyond its soporific qualities kava is also used throughout the the Pacific as an analgesic, a diuretic, and an anesthetic. There is even evidence suggesting it is effective in the treatment…


Book cover of Buveurs de Kava

Lamont Lindstrom Author Of Tanna Times: Islanders in the World

From my list on kava (piper methysticum).

Why am I passionate about this?

I first tasted kava in the colonial New Hebrides (Vanuatu today) in early 1978. Since then, I have returned to Vanuatu many times to carry out ethnographic and linguistic research on Tanna Island on a range of issues. Although firmly incorporated within global systems since explorer James Cook visited in 1774, Islanders have fiercely maintained their island culture and languages. In addition to kava and other traditional drug substances, I have published books and articles about local knowledge systems, “cargo cults,” contemporary chiefs, Islander experience in the Pacific War, urban migration, and early Pacific photography. Currently, I am Kendall Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. 

Lamont's book list on kava (piper methysticum)

Lamont Lindstrom Why did Lamont love this book?

For those who read French, Vincent Lebot and geographer wife Patricia Siméoni offer a “coffee table” kava compendium filled with beautiful historic and contemporary illustrations—both classic kava engravings and contemporary photographs. Although focused on the origins and use of kava in Vanuatu, the authors range widely and discuss kava production and consumption across the Pacific. Appendices gather all known kava origin myths and stories, and island names for kava bowls, drinking cups, filters, and other preparation equipment. Maps depict kava’s historical and contemporary range, and the authors discuss cultivation techniques within suitable ecosystems. They advocate that Pacific Islanders concentrate on marketing the “noble varieties” of the plant, grown in its traditional terroir, along the lines of high-quality French wine. 

By Patricia Siméoni, Vincent Lebot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Le kava est un trait culturel majeur du Pacifique insulaire dans la mesure où il le distingue du reste du monde. Il existe là et nulle part ailleurs. Il est le dénominateur commun aux Mélanésiens, Polynésiens et Micronésiens qui le cultivent, le transforment et le boivent selon leurs préférences culturelles. Cette plante emblématique d’une vaste zone géographique est aussi l'expression d'identités locales diverses. Le kava est une porte d'entrée de choix pour aborder la complexité des îles du grand océan, il est aussi au coeur de l'évolution de ses sociétés. Tant pour son rôle dans l'histoire des îles du Pacifique…


Book cover of The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia

Lamont Lindstrom Author Of Tanna Times: Islanders in the World

From my list on kava (piper methysticum).

Why am I passionate about this?

I first tasted kava in the colonial New Hebrides (Vanuatu today) in early 1978. Since then, I have returned to Vanuatu many times to carry out ethnographic and linguistic research on Tanna Island on a range of issues. Although firmly incorporated within global systems since explorer James Cook visited in 1774, Islanders have fiercely maintained their island culture and languages. In addition to kava and other traditional drug substances, I have published books and articles about local knowledge systems, “cargo cults,” contemporary chiefs, Islander experience in the Pacific War, urban migration, and early Pacific photography. Currently, I am Kendall Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. 

Lamont's book list on kava (piper methysticum)

Lamont Lindstrom Why did Lamont love this book?

Anthropologist Ron Brunton delves back into 19th-century theory that proposed two waves of Pacific immigrants, one that chewed betelnut (Areca catechu kernels mixed with Piper betle vine and lime), and the other that preferred kava. He wonders why kava is mostly absent in the Solomon Islands despite its presence in scattered communities in New Guinea to the west, and then in Vanuatu, Fiji, and much of Polynesia to the east. He proposes that kava originated in the Bismarck Archipelago and that Solomon Islanders subsequently abandoned kava consumption, perhaps as an element of some religious innovation. We now know that kava originated in northern Vanuatu and found its way back west into New Guinea, north to Micronesian Pohnpei and Kosrae, and east to Fiji and much of Polynesia. Brunton, though, offers good ethnographic information about kava’s place in Pacific cultures, including on Tanna.

By Ron Brunton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ron Brunton revives a problem posed by the great anthropologist W. H. R. Rivers in History of Melanesian Society (1914): how to explain the strange geographical distribution of kava, a narcotic drink once widely consumed by south-west Pacific islanders. Rivers believed that it was abandoned by many people even before European contact in favour of another drug, betel, drawing his speculations from the ideas of the diffusionist school of anthropology. However, Dr Brunton disagrees. Taking the varying fortunes of kava on the island of Tanna, Vanauta, as his starting point, he suggests that kava's abandonment can best be explained in…


Book cover of Transit of Venus: Travels in the Pacific

Simon Michael Prior Author Of The Coconut Wireless

From my list on remote tropical islands.

Why am I passionate about this?

Simon Michael Prior loves small islands, and has travelled to remote countries in search of unique island experiences. He inflicts all aspects of life on himself so that readers can enjoy learning about his latest exploits. During his forty-year adolescence, he’s lived on two boats, sunk one of them; sold houses, street signs, Indian food, and paper bags; visited fifty countries, lived in three; qualified as a scuba diving instructor; learnt to wakeboard; trained as a Marine Rescue skipper, and built his own house without the benefit of an instruction manual.

Simon's book list on remote tropical islands

Simon Michael Prior Why did Simon love this book?

Julian Evans takes us on a personal tour through the islands of the South Pacific, a region for which I have my own fondness. As well as places I know and love such as Tonga and Vanuatu, Evans visits harder to reach places: The Marshall islands and the Gilbert and Ellis group. Encountering natives, visitors, political and geographical challenges, his story is told with good humour and adventure.

By Julian Evans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pacific Ocean calls to mind a world of fabulous kingdoms and noble savages, guilt free sex and gin-clear lagoons, and a perfect idleness fed by lush fruits and fish-rich seas. Ever since Captain Cook first went to Tahiti in 1769 to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, this dream of the Pacific has not lost its force. But Julian Evans's journey through the island archipelagos of the Great Ocean was also informed by a quest into our more modern myths - such as Peacekeeper missiles and nuclear bombs being tested by the US Army. With humour and…


Book cover of The Coconut Wireless

Ann Göth Author Of Volcanic Adventures in Tonga: Species Conservation on Tin Can Island

From my list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Australian writer with a passion for all books about the South Pacific. Thirty years ago, I embarked on a two-year mission to the Kingdom of Tonga, and soon after, my job as a naturalist on cruise ships took me to many beautiful, fascinating, and often very remote island nations in that region. Nowadays, my jobs as a writer, scientist, high school teacher, and mother leave little room to navigate to that beautiful part of the world, but I continue to read whatever seems even slightly related to the South Pacific Theme. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Ann's book list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific

Ann Göth Why did Ann love this book?

This book evoked so many memories from my life in Tonga.

Prior’s humorous accounts of his travels in this island kingdom brought back to me the laidback lifestyle, the flexibility one needs to have when living and traveling in “Tongan Time”, the different foods, customs, and attitudes, and most of all, the friendliness of the people. Having been there myself, one thing was clear: Prior did experience the real Tonga.

And having visited several uninhabited islands there, I especially enjoyed the vivid descriptions of his breakaway to a deserted island, which was full of adventure, tropical bliss, and unexpected hiccups. Simply Tonga as it lives and breathes!  

By Simon Michael Prior,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Simon and Fiona embark on a quest to track down the Queen of Tonga, they have no idea they’ll end up marooned on a desert island.

No idea they’ll encounter an undiscovered tribe, rescue a drowning actress, learn jungle survival from a commando, and attend cultural ceremonies few Westerners have seen. 

As they find out who hooks up, who breaks up, who cracks up, and who throws up, will they fulfil Simon’s ambition to see the queen, or will they be distracted by insomniac chickens, grunting wild piglets, and the easy-going Tongan lifestyle?



Book cover of The Ethnic Origins of Nations

John Hutchinson Author Of The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of the Irish Nation State

From my list on nationalism and identity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like an outsider and so have been preoccupied by questions of identity and belonging. In my youth, I became fascinated by the great Irish writers W. B. Yeats and James Joyce and their struggles with such questions after my family moved from Ulster to Scotland. As a young academic in Brisbane, I encountered fierce debates about Australian national identity as it shifted from a British heritage to a multicultural society. In the flux of the modern world, our identities are always under challenge and often require painful renovation.

John's book list on nationalism and identity

John Hutchinson Why did John love this book?

This is the major book of my teacher, Anthony D. Smith, which seeks to explain why nationalism has become the dominant ideology of much of humanity.

In it, he argues that nationalism seeks to answer profound questions of identity arising from the crises generated by the global secular, political, and economic revolutions of modernity. Although nationalism is a predominantly modern phenomenon, its power rests on its ability to evoke and renovate the myths, symbols, and memories of older ethnic communities to legitimise political demands for autonomy.

Smith takes the symbolic world of nationalists seriously, particularly their preoccupation with national golden ages that are evoked to inspire a drive for a glorious future. 

By Anthony D. Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is an excellent, comprehensive account of the ways in which nations and nationhood have evolved over time. Successful in hardback, it is now available in paperback for a student audience.


Book cover of Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the 18th Century

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Author Of Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

From my list on race and the enlightenment.

Why are we passionate about this?

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is an award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, and has authored or co-authored twenty-two books; he's also the host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. Andrew Curran is a writer and the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University. His writing on the Enlightenment and race has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and more. Curran is also the author of the award-winning Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely and The Anatomy of Blackness.

Henry's book list on race and the enlightenment

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Why did Henry love this book?

David Bindman was among the first scholars to dive deeply into the critically important relationship between aesthetics (including standards of beauty) and the emergence of race within the nascent human sciences. Bindman is a very careful scholar who, in addition to being a superb art historian, pays careful attention to the subtle shifts in terminology (and iconography) that reflect substantive changes in the way that non-European groups were seen and depicted during the Enlightenment era, be they “savages,” Blacks, or Asians. Scholars of race will find unexpected links between aesthetics and race here, including Winckelmann on the link between climate and the supremacy of Greek statues – or Lavater’s aesthetic-driven understanding of human physiognomy. Since it was first published in 2002, this beautifully illustrated book opened up a whole field of research.

By David Bindman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ape to Apollo is the first book to follow the development in the eighteenth century of the idea of race as it shaped and was shaped by the idea of aesthetics. Twelve full-color illustrations and sixty-five black-and-white illustrations from publications and artists of the day allow the reader to see eighteenth-century concepts of race translated into images. Human "varieties" are marked in such illustrations by exaggerated differences, with emphases on variations from the European ideal and on the characteristics that allegedly divided the races. In surveying the idea of human variety before "race" was introduced by Linneaus as a scientific…


Book cover of Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds

Janet Vertesi Author Of Shaping Science: Organizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

From my list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

Also known as “Margaret Mead among the Starfleet,” I’m a Princeton professor who has been embedded with NASA missions for two decades as a social scientist. I’ve observed missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, and beyond; consulted with NASA as a sociological expert; and written two books, with a third on the way. Growing up, I always loved science and technology, but not just for the ideas: for the people behind the findings, the passion they bring to their work, and the ways in which culture and politics play a role in how science gets done. Writing about this, I hope to humanize science and make it accessible for everyday readers.

Janet's book list on NASA and space exploration, from a human perspective

Janet Vertesi Why did Janet love this book?

Did you know there is a research center in Utah made for scientists to pretend they are living on Mars? Or that deep-sea submarines and arctic explorers are supposed to be giving us a taste for finding life on Jupiter’s moon Europa?

My friend and co-author, Anthropologist Lisa Messeri, followed planetary scientists to the unlikeliest of places to witness them transform the planets they study from distant pinpricks in the sky or traces on a graph, into places we can explore or even inhabit.

I loved feeling like I was traveling alongside her as she visits remote telescopes in Chile, Mars camp in the desert, and even sits next to computer scientists building Google Mars to show how our dreams of the extraterrestrial are made right here on Earth.

By Lisa Messeri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Placing Outer Space Lisa Messeri traces how the place-making practices of planetary scientists transform the void of space into a cosmos filled with worlds that can be known and explored. Making planets into places is central to the daily practices and professional identities of the astronomers, geologists, and computer scientists Messeri studies. She takes readers to the Mars Desert Research Station and a NASA research center to discuss ways scientists experience and map Mars. At a Chilean observatory and in MIT's labs she describes how they discover exoplanets and envision what it would be like to inhabit them. Today's…


Book cover of The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

Jim Landwehr Author Of Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir

From my list on the trials and joys of outdoor adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a lover of all things outdoors since I was a boy. After my father was killed at a young age, my brothers and I took his love for outdoor adventure and made it our own. Fully aware of all that can go wrong, my brothers and I went into our ventures with a keen sense of humor. Camping, fishing, and kayaking all come with their own challenges and requisite hilarious moments. It is these moments of adversity, and personal risk, that are sometimes lightened by a good dose of laughter and levity.

Jim's book list on the trials and joys of outdoor adventure

Jim Landwehr Why did Jim love this book?

Don’t let the title turn you off. This book is a hilarious account of taking life to the edge of sanity. Like many of the others, this book takes the author (and his girlfriend) to a remote location in a sort of personal quest for self-discovery.

Troost uses humor and sarcasm with admirable deftness in describing life on a small island near the equator. His book brought me to my knees with laughter in several spots as he described the remote foreign culture he was thrust into, by choice of all things. 

By J. Maarten Troost,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the…


Book cover of Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century

Elesha Coffman Author Of Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith

From my list on Margaret Mead and her life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Elesha Coffman writes about religion and ideas in twentieth century America. A journalist before she trained as a historian, she’s especially interested in the circulation of ideas—how they were communicated, how they were received, why some ideas gained traction and others did not. Her first book examined how a magazine, The Christian Century, helped define the religious tradition known as the Protestant mainline. She didn’t realize that Margaret Mead belonged to that tradition until she was invited to write about Mead for the Oxford Spiritual Lives series, billed as spiritual biographies of people who are famous for something other than being spiritual. Elesha lives in Texas, but she’d rather be at the beach in North Carolina.

Elesha's book list on Margaret Mead and her life

Elesha Coffman Why did Elesha love this book?

Margaret Mead belonged to a rambunctious generation of anthropologists who were trained by Franz Boas at Columbia. His star students were unconventional women—Mead, Ruth Benedict, Ella Deloria, and Zora Neal Hurston—who asked different questions and told different stories than any scholars before them. Were gender and race merely cultural constructions, and what would it take to overhaul them? How did Native Americans and Black Americans understand themselves, without the distortion of the white gaze? Could humans learn to live with their differences, or would the fascists win?

King unpacks the human drama in which these scholars participated on both the interpersonal and the global scale.

By Charles King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gods of the Upper Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2020 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award Winner
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

From an award-winning historian comes a dazzling history of the birth of cultural anthropology and the adventurous scientists who pioneered it—a sweeping chronicle of discovery and the fascinating origin story of our multicultural world.

A century ago, everyone knew that people were fated by their race, sex, and nationality to be more or less intelligent, nurturing, or warlike. But Columbia University professor Franz Boas looked at the data and decided everyone was wrong. Racial categories, he insisted, were biological fictions. Cultures did not come in neat packages…


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