Hawaiian Islands Reading List

These resources are suggested to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the history, unique culture, wilderness, and wildlife of Hawaii.

Natural World

By Wind, By Wave: An Introduction to Hawaii’s Natural History - David L. Eyre
Showcasing 17 specific animals, Eyre explores and explains the interwoven and complex ecosystem of Hawaii and how the environment has been changed.

Hawaiian Heritage Plants - Angela Kay Kepler
Through short essays, the stories of 32 native plants are told through their unique biology, cultural and spiritual significance, historical role, and place within the greater ecosystem.

Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore and Environment - Bishop Museum Press
This is a fantastic ethnographic study on the importance of plant cultivation, how the gods and Native religion impacted agriculture, and the significance of plants to the Hawaiian people.

Hawaiian History & Culture

Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen - Queen Liliuokalani
A candid autobiography, Hawaii’s last queen shares the story of her life and the life of her people leading up to the overthrow of the monarchy by the missionary committee.

The Legends and Myths of Hawaii; the Fables and Folk-Lore of a Strange People - King David Kalakaua
Written by the beloved Merrie Monarch in the 1880s, this entertaining, engaging collection of myths and legends paints a colorful and important picture of Native Hawaiian culture.

Na Lei Makamae: The Treasured Lei - Marie McDonald and Paul Wissich
A beautiful resource for understanding the cultural and historical significance of the lei detailing different flowers and plants used as well as how they are used.

Pele: Goddess of Hawaii’s Volcanoes - Herb Kawainui Kane
Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, is a fascinating character in the historic mythology and modern-day lives of Hawaiians. Discover the fiery and gentle sides of this most famous goddess, and a tip or two on how to stay on her good side while visiting her islands.

Voices of Wisdom: Hawaiian Elders Speak - M.J. Harden
Striking photos and phenomenal interviews with 24 leaders of Hawaiian culture today offer up wisdom of the elders seldom shared outside local Native circles.

Eddie Would Go - Stuart Holmes Coleman
This is a well-told tribute biography of Eddie Aikau, pioneer of big wave surfing, ambassador of Aloha, and beloved Hawaiian son who sacrificed his life to save his crew on a 1970s canoe voyage.

Memoir

The Cruise of the Snark - Jack London
Building his own schooner, London sails for Hawaii in the early 1900s with a quirky crew in this charming, humorous tale of adventure and misadventure.

Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing it in the Sandwich Islands - Mark Twain
Sent on assignment to write about Hawaii in the 1860s, his adventure included socializing with Hawaiian Royals, trying to surf, witnessing volcanic flows, and experiencing vibrant island culture.

No Footprints in the Sand: A Memoir of Kalaupapa - Henry Kalalahilimoku Nalaielua, Sally-Jo Keala-o-anuenue Bowman
At age 10, Nalaielua is diagnosed with Hansens disease—or leprosy—and sent away to live at a leprosy colony. Often cheerful, this is his memoir growing up exiled and isolated.

Six Months in the Sandwich Islands - Isabella Bird
Unusual for Victorian times, the adventurous Bird explored Hawaii in the 1870s by horse, foot, and water, and describing all she saw in beautiful detail.

Fiction

The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative - W.S. Merwin
Written in the form of a book-length poem, tells the dramatic tale of a Hawaiian family living on Kauai‘i struggling to escape imprisonment of a leper colony for the wilds of the island.

Hawaii - James A. Michener
Beginning with the islands' volcanic origins, this epic, tells of the first Polynesians who came by outrigger canoe and of the arrival of missionaries, entrepreneurs, and immigrants who shaped the islands.

Moloka'i - Alan Brennert
A novel of historical fiction tells a colorfully imagined tale of a young girl sent to live in Hawaii’s leper colony and the life she discovers there.

Guidebooks

Illustrated Hawaiian Dictionary - Kahikahealani Wight
This pocket guide translates over 5,000 words and includes useful example sentences, illustrations, and provides insight into words with multiple meanings.

Shore Fishes of Hawaii - John E. Randall
This definitive guide includes over 370 fish species, 475 photos, identification and behavior information and both Hawaiian and English names.