I love to read. I also love pretty much any book- I don’t have a particular genre that I enjoy more than others. I’ll read biographies, historical non-fictions, the bizarre fictional work from authors like Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut, the poetic tales from writers like Toni Morrison, the hilarious short stories of David Sedaris; you name it I’ll read it. Except romance novels. Ugh. Sorry to all the gushy romantics out there, but that is the ONLY genre I don’t read.
So what does this have to do with Hawaii travelers? Well, if you’re like me and you love a good book, then I’m sure you’re looking forward to some much-deserved R&R time in the islands with a new novel. A big part of vacationing, for me, is having the undivided time to relax on a beach or in a hammock and get some serious reading done. While this pastime might not be popular amongst my age group, I do know that many folks are still devoted readers and love nothing more than to cozy up in a beach chair in the sand with a cocktail and a tall tale.
The list below is a handful of recommendations for you to read before or during your Hawaii vacation. It’s a wide variety of books for all you worms out there, but each one is decidedly about Hawaii and selected to get you in gear for your tropical vacation. I hope you find at least one of them as enthralling as I did!
Written by one of the most iconic surfers in the world, Gerry Lopez recounts his childhood growing up on the west side of Kauai and the path that led him to eventually redefine the art of tube riding and become the notorious ‘Mr. Pipeline’. It is a fabulous collection of short stories told by Gerry himself, in his honest and humble and wise way, about his adventures in the islands and how surfing became the core of his being.
Written from the letters of Mark Twain, this book tells of the explorer’s adventures in the islands during the 19th century. Humorous and descriptive, Twain illustrates the landscapes, the culture and the people of Hawaii in a very entertaining and easy to digest way. From experiencing the local foods to the exploits with his horse “Oahu” to the lava that flowed from the Kilauea Crater, this book is a fun read that you’d probably enjoy time and time again.
A more serious novel about Hawaii, this book spans between two centuries and multiple perspectives. Fully fictional but enlightened with Hawaiian history, Shark Dialogues is about a Hawaiian matriarch and her four mix-marriage granddaughters. You learn about the disease that plagued many Hawaiian people and forced their banishment to Molokai, the overthrow of Queen Lil’uokalani, Hawaii’s labor-union movement, life on a coffee plantation and description after description on the beauty of the islands. An incredibly compelling story, Kiana Davenport is part Hawaiian herself and weaves a beautiful tale of family, culture and transformation.
I have to throw this one in here. Lonely Planet has been my guidebook for most of the international traveling I’ve done, so it’s no surprise that they would produce an equally great amount of information for a traveler heading to Hawaii. You can purchase Lonely Planet Hawaii or get more specific with a Lonely Planet Oahu, Maui, Kauai or Big Island edition. If this is your first time to the islands, this book will have everything you need to know about accommodations, beaches, restaurants, trails, local culture and customs, pricing and more.
If you want to know about the raw culture of the North Shore’s surf lifestyle, this entertaining read will do the trick. Highly controversial writer Chas Smith has spent time on Oahu’s North Shore and recounts his adventures narrowly missing death, interviewing surfers and local legends, being part of the crowd during the Triple Crown of Surfing and discovering the ins and outs of a surfer’s life in the ‘lawless’ countryside of Oahu.
A movie was recently released that is based on the premise of this book, but I recommend reading the book first! (As always). This biography traces the life of Eddie Aikau, the legendary big wave surfer and Waimea Bay lifeguard whose life ended tragically during a voyage on the Hokulea. (And if you don’t know what the Hokulea is, I recommend Hawaiki Rising by Sam Low). The book gives readers a look into the life of a true Hawaiian during the ‘60s and ‘70s and recounts the life of a legend that died much too soon.