The best books about Hawaii 📚

Browse the best books on Hawaii as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii

Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii

By T.W. Neal

Why this book?

I was attracted to the word “wild” in the title of this childhood and youth memoir. It’s stories by a girl, Toby Neal, whose parents were hippie surfers on the beautiful and empty beaches of Kauai, Hawaii, during the 1960s and 70s. By most people’s standards, they’d be regarded as negligent parents, even more so today. Living day to day, they didn’t care about giving her a proper home or food. But they loved her and gave her great freedom to explore. She learned how to survive, building her life skills. The other thing about Toby Neal’s memoir is that…

From the list:

The best memoirs of childhood and youth

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Book cover of Bound in Flame

Bound in Flame

By Katherine Kayne

Why this book?

I truly enjoy historical fiction that presents a culture or era from a different point of view. This one is set in early twentieth-century Hawaii. It features a girl, Letty, returning from a boarding school on the mainland. Letty’s devoted to animals, and she is one of the first female veterinarians in history. She jumps into the ocean to save a horse. Her healing powers are strengthened by her connection to the ancient Hawaiian land. The undercurrent of power gives this novel a fantasy feel, but it doesn’t lose its historical aspect. Then Letty learns the price of her healing…

From the list:

The best historical fiction about Hawaii

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Book cover of Diamond Head

Diamond Head

By Cecily Wong

Why this book?

Frank Leong is a wealthy shipping industrialist who moves his family from China to Oahu at the turn of the nineteenth century. Frank is murdered, which completely destroys his family. Whispers of an ancient parable haunt the Leongs, of a red string that connects someone to their perfect match but can also punish for mistakes in love. Frank’s pregnant teenage granddaughter, Theresa, is the next target to suffer from her family’s curse. The story is told from multiple points of view in this tragic multigenerational story of secrets and betrayal. My own interest in family history made this novel resonate…

From the list:

The best historical fiction about Hawaii

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Book cover of The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage

The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage

By Rachel Laudan

Why this book?

I love this book as it enables me to travel vicariously. It is not a conventional travel book, even though it is filled with the stories of a kaleidoscope of Hawaiian people. Nor is it a straightforward cookery book although it contains plenty of recipes for intriguing dishes such as ‘Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup’ and a biscuit version of bread and butter pudding known as ‘Nihau pudding’. Nor is it a conventional history book although we learn a great deal about Hawaii’s history while Laudan tells us about ‘plate lunches’ and poke (a sort of sushimi), musubi (rice balls),…

From the list:

The best books on food and history

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Book cover of Hawaiian Mythology

Hawaiian Mythology

By Martha Warren Beckwith

Why this book?

First published in 1940, Hawaiian Mythology is an astonishingly comprehensive compilation of native Hawaiian stories and beliefs that, had it not been for the systematic – even dogged – efforts of people like Martha Beckwith may have never survived to today. This is a book to dip into, especially if you find yourself in Polynesia. The stories are factual, often unembellished, which allows you a glimpse into the soul of Pacific peoples. This book also explores the connections between (remote) Hawaii and other island groups in the western Pacific whence its people came, bearing oral memories that seeded the geography…

From the list:

The best books on ancient oral traditions

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Book cover of KINO and the KING

KINO and the KING

By Jen Angeli

Why this book?

With a sacred stone in hand, twelve-year-old Kino hides from bullies in an ancient grass hut on display at Bishop Museum. In a blinding flash, she travels back in time to 1825 and meets a young boy who is destined to become King Kamehameha III. Together they go on an epic adventure facing sharks, Night Marchers, wild boars, and more as they collect the four items Kino needs to return home. I love this fantasy story with Hawaiian kids as heroes because it treats Hawaiian history and culture as both magical and ordinary rather than sensationally exotic.

From the list:

The best authentically Hawaiian books for tweens and teens

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