If you’re coming to Hawaii and looking for some quality beach reading-material, look no more! Here’s a list of the top five books about Hawaii, so you can REALLY immerse yourself in the island culture while you’re here, courtesy of Honolulu Magazine:

  • The Red-Headed Hawaiian, Chris McKinney: In this book, local author Chris McKinney collaborated with his childhood friend, Dr. Rudy Puana, to write a local-boy-does-good story for younger readers. This particular creative non-fiction book seeks to challenge a few ingrained local attitudes, including notions of what it means to be tough, and give permission to Hawaii’s youth to dream for better lives than their parents had. The story, told in Puana’s voice, follows an unlikely candidate for medical school. a local boy from Kahaluumaking bad grades and bad decisions. To the surprise of his friends and family, he summons the determination to get into medical school, his eyes set on the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. But when UH puts him on the wait list, and a slew of Mainland schools offer him acceptance and scholarships, he’s forced to consider something he never thought he’d do: move beyond Hawaii’s shores.
  • Hawaii: A Novel, Mark Panek: The setting for this book? The state’s long-time U.S. senator is dead, leaving the state’s Democratic party fighting to fill some big shoes. A gambling-addicted state legislator joins forces with a few unlikely allies as he attempts to take on the party’s favorite to ascend to power. Panek’s depiction of Hawaii is one of wide economic disparity, a community ravaged by crystal meth and a prison system overpopulated by Hawaii’s native people.
  • The Hawaiian Survival Handbook, Brother Noland: Wandered down the wrong trail while hiking Maunawili? No worries. Acclaimed Hawaiian musician Brother Noland’s new book covers any number of potential nature mishaps a would-be explorer of the aina may encounter (he moonlights as a tracker, after all). The guide includes such topics as, How to Avoid a Wild Pig Attack, How to Wayfind in the Forest, How to Use Native Plants and How to Use the Moon.
plants in a row

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Dana Edmunds

You may learn how to use Native Hawaiian plants to survive if you read The Hawaiian Survival Handbook
  • Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawaii, Carol A. MacLennan: Leeward YMCA, built around the old smokestack of the Oahu Sugar Co. in Waipahu, may be one of the few vestiges of Hawaii’s plantation past on Oahu, but the societal implications live on. Anthropologist Carol A. MacLennan examines how the sugar industry transformed Hawaii, standing in direct conflict with Native Hawaiian ideas about property relations and ownership.
hawaii sugar plantation on Maui

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

You can find out how the sugar industry affected the land and culture when you read Sovereign Sugar: Industry and Environment in Hawaii.
  • The Value of Hawaii 2: Ancestral Roots and Oceanic Visions, Aiko Yamashiro and Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua: Expanding on the conversation started by its predecessor, The Value of Hawaii 2: Ancestral Roots and Oceanic Visions is a collection of new essays on the issues facing Hawaii. New voices grapple with such issues as water rights, gender politics, archaeology, education and community health in an attempt to share a vision for paradise.

Whether you’re into fiction, creative non-fiction, or straight non-fiction, you’ll find an abundance of books about Hawaii on bookshelves today. So, dive right into one of these five books and make your reading material match your destination!


  1. My wife and I love Hawaii. We spent our honeymoon there in Oahu. She wants to go back badly but we will see. I really liked your post and hope to go back one day!

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