Need something to read—or h& to someone who does? Here’s HONOLULU’s first-ever các mục of the most iconic, trenchant và irresistible Islvà books, as voted by a panel of literary community luminaries.

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Illustration by Michael Byers, Photographs by Aaron K. Yoshino

We’ve all got them—the books we pull off the shelf and h& to a curious child, a first-time visitor & that frikết thúc who couldn’t be bothered, but suddenly is. They’re Hawai‘i nei’s early texts, histories, novels, pidgin classics, poems & plantation stories.

Repositories of basic and arcane knowledge, books are where bodies và cultures và adventures are buried, only lớn be exhumed each generation—if lucky readers know where to look. That’s why HONOLULU decided khổng lồ create this các mục. It occurred khổng lồ us that if we could pool our favorite and most influential titles, we’d be doing a favor lớn readers of the future.

Having such a list will also, we hope, keep these great books in print and bring bachồng a few that laông chồng a current publisher. That’s important because books make the best cultural storehouses; they’re built to lớn last, và to outlast fads và technological “advances.” Ever try lớn boot up a floppy disk lately?

We know lists can rub people the wrong way, so instead of a canon, with all its associations of assigned reading & exclusion of minority voices & end-of-semester-quizzes, we propose this as a commons. It’s a shared resource lượt thích our ocean and ‘āina. It’s a place to lớn help yourself to wisdom, perspective, hilarity, joy và, most of all, a sense of who we are và how we got here.

SEE ALSO: Book-Lovers All Over America Can’t Get Enough of Hawai‘i’s New Genre Writers

The Criteria

We felt the 50 should include seminal books that ground readers in Hawai‘i’s past và key turning points; reflect the varying contributions of cultures & classes, as well as their clashes; make us laugh in recognition; và allow us to connect with our Island communities.

While it was important and natural that books be selected for their impact & influence, we strongly felt that they must be readable. It’s a subject we know something about, as a magazine with 130 years of attracting and keeping readers from all walks of life. We know from taking the pulse of Honolulu and the Islands that it does no service lớn the comtháng reader (Virginia Woolf’s favorite term for her imagined audience) to lớn recommover dense or archaic volumes, or works of punishing difficulty. While we were bound & committed lớn the outcome of the voting, we did ask that our judges keep readability on the front burner. And they did.

SEE ALSO: The Hawai‘i Writer’s Life

The Categories

To organize things, and make the danh mục readable, we came up with a few simple categories: Foundational Texts, khổng lồ cover the time before & after the arrival of James Cook & European contact. (Cook’s own Journals, by the way, did not make the cut.) History và Social Criticism covers works that changed hearts & minds, often by upending assumptions và pointing out abuses by the powerful. Lucky We Live sầu Hawai‘i reflects our shared life through biographies, talk-story classics và memoirs, ranging from the first comprehensive sầu life of Duke Kahanamoku khổng lồ Pidgin to lớn Da Max lớn Barachồng Obama’s Dreams From My Father. Novels và Short Fiction needs no introduction. Poetry is there too.

We were tempted lớn include children’s and young adult books, but, as important as these are for growing future readers, our judges suggested too many. Instead, you’ll find a list of voter favorites in the May issue of our sister publication, HONOLULU Family, và online.

What Stood Out

Besides James Michener’s Hawai‘i barely making the cut—while Mark Panek’s gritty exposé Hawai‘i outscored it—what stood out was the consciously local, provocative writing that revved up in the aftermath of the 1978 & 1979 Talk Story Conferences. Like a relay race, we see a chain of books coming out, building on each other’s momentum, many by members of or affiliated with Bamboo Ridge, the journal edited by Eric Chochồng and Darrell Lum; others brought out by Bennett Hymer’s Mutual Publishing, particularly fiction; work by students of University of Hawai‘i professor Ian MacMillan, himself represented by two books; titles published và kept in print by the Bicửa hàng Museum Press, University of Hawai‘i Press and Kamehameha Publishing; & grass-roots best-sellers from Buddy Bess at Bess Press & Robert Barclay’s upstart Lō‘ihi Press.

What didn’t we see? Titles by more recent generations—a natural outcome of the time it takes for even good books to lớn become well-known. We did invite two Gen X writers, Christy Passion và Kristiamãng cầu Kahakauwila, whose acclaimed books barely missed the 50, lớn short-menu their inspirations.

One rising reputation from out of the past is that of O.A. Bushnell, who died at 89 in 2002 but whose books received the fourth-most votes overall. Combining his career as a bacteriologist & microbiologist at the University of Hawai‘i School of Medicine with his literary acuity, ear for pidgin và affection for the hapa-haole world he grew up in, Bushnell wrote gripping and evocative sầu novels and The Gifts of Civilization: Germs và Genocide in Hawai‘i. He was also fondly recalled and praised for a stirring address at the 1978 Talk Story Conference in which he urged local writers khổng lồ seize the day and write their own stories—as the only way to lớn reject the Mainl& & colonial narratives.

Finally, while we said we won’t rank titles, we will recognize the top aggregate vote-getter, who, by a wide margin, was Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Yamanaka & her blazing streak of books, especially the four written one after the other in the 1990s, struchồng home as instantly recognizable portrayals of a rough-edged, mouthy, diverse và hilarious collective sầu Hawai‘i consciousness. Following Yamanaka in aggregate scoring were Mary Kawemãng cầu Pukui, Chris McKinney, Bushnell, MacMillan & Gavan Daws.

To cthua trận, we would like khổng lồ ức chế again that while we hotline this các mục essential, we know it’s not the last word. Another 50 in 10 years will undoubtedly reflect another order of priorities and books. Until then, we have sầu two suggestions to lớn make: Millennials, won’t you take up the pen? And, for all of us: Act now and order as many of these as you can, to lớn tư vấn local authors & publishing. Fill out your home page library—before the next incoming ballistic missile alert strands you in a clomix with a dead Kindle.

The Fine Print: How We Chose the 50 Essential Hawai’i Books.

Foundational Texts

1. The Kumulipo

various translations


The Hawaiian creation chant makes everyone’s các mục. Its epic sweep yet intimate focus on the origins of many familiar local species—including, eventually, humans—gives it a surprisingly modern feeling of unity and relevance. As poetry, it’s sublime; kiểm tra out these opening lines (translated by Lili‘uokalani): “At the time that turned the heat of the earth, / At the time when the heavens turned & changed, / At the time when the light of the sun was subdued / To cause light lớn break forth …” Owing its survival to a combination of fortuitous events, starting with it being written down by an 18th-century ancestor of future King David Kalākaua, The Kumulipo is most of all a spiritual live wire connecting pre-Liên hệ Hawai‘i to her people in our own time and place. (Also translations by Martha Beckwith & Rubellite Kawena Johnson.)

2. Hawaiian Mythology

by Martha Beckwith​


A childhood growing up in the Islands fed Beckwith’s fascination with its legends, which she collected over decades while also researching and publishing books on Jamaican and Native American mythologies. A student of anthropology pioneer Franz Boas, Beckwith was the first person lớn hold a chair in Folklore at any American college or university (Vassar). She finally published this monumental và comprehensive sầu work in 1940, at the age of 69.

3. MARK TWAIN’S Letters From Hawai‘i

by Mark Twain


After tasting his first national attention for a short story, 31-year-old Samuel Clemens sailed lớn Hawai‘i & sent bachồng 25 letters lớn the Sacramento Union about his experiences. Reading them in sequence is to see Twain shed many of his cultural & racial biases while claiming his arch voice and irreverent outlook—the cornerstones of his future success. In a way, Hawai‘i made Twain; and as a result, the Hawai‘i of 1866 that he describes feels fresh & alive.

4. Six Months in the Sandwich Islands

by Isabella L. Bird


In the guise of writing to her sister baông xã in Edinburgh, Scotl&, Bird recreated her experiences in 1873 Hawai‘i with sound reporting but also a canny understanding of what readers wanted from a most unusual creature: a woman traveling alone in foreign lands. Refreshingly không tính phí of the usual heroic male tropes, she lends her sympathetic eye and ear to lớn all she encounters, from volcanoes khổng lồ kings & common people living in rural isolation.

5. Ancient History of the Hawaiian People

by Abraham mê Fornander​


When Swedish whaler Fornander deserted his ship in 1844 and took an oath to Kamehameha III, he made his name as a sage counsel in fields as varied as agriculture and public education. His early Pacific voyages & gathering of legends & genealogies in Hawai‘i led khổng lồ hyên writing & publishing serial volumes (beginning in 1877) of this influential history that traces the origins and migrations of Polynesians.

6. Hawaiian Dictionary 

by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert

Starting in 1923, Pukui published book after distinguished book that translated, preserved and/or described aspects of Hawaiian culture, but the 1971 dictionary has probably seen the most use and done the most in furthering the resurrection of the Hawaiian language.

7. The Legends and Myths of Hawai‘i

by David Kalākaua

It’s acclaimed for its readability as well as its combination of oral history và myth with the dramatic events that changed Hawai‘i, including the death of James Cook và the abandonment of kapu & religious rites. But this 1888 book also reveals Kalākaua as a captivating & sophisticated storyteller. He vivdly evokes spiritual beliefs và practices, the probable genealogical origins of his people, & modern political turmoil, while striking an easy & informed personal tone.

8. Hawaiian Antiquities

by David Malo 


“No single Hawaiian-language work has been more influential than David Malo’s Ka Mo‘olelo Hawai‘i,” is a typical appreciation of Hawaiian Antiquities, this one by University of Hawai‘i religion professor and critic John Charlot in 1992. Born in 1795, Malo was trained and educated in a chiefly court, and his observations & recollections (first published in 1838 and then in a fuller 1858 edition) are some of the best available of early Island life and ritual, if filtered through the lens of his later conversion to Christianity. It is source material for many past writers and, undoubtedly, for future generations.

9. Kalaupapa: A Collective sầu Memory 

by Anwei Skinsnes Law 


Hawai‘i’s experience of the encounter period seemingly reached a place of pure distilled tragedy in the arrival of Hansen’s disease and the creation of the quarantine colony of Kalaupapage authority. But how it rose khổng lồ become a refuge of self-reliance—thanks khổng lồ activist sufferers và their families, aided by the selfless ministry of two future saints—is detailed in these 200-plus hours of interviews with actual residents và the supporting archival documents of the early petitioners who asked for help và khổng lồ be treated with basic humanity.

10. Ruling Chiefs of Hawai‘i 

by Samuel Kamakau


Going baông xã eight generations before Kamehameha I, here is Hawai‘i’s story from an indigenous point of view, gathered between 1866 and 1871 from oral histories, chants & knowledge. “No historian, anthropologist, or other scholar of ancient & early modern Hawai‘i can afford lớn be without this key source cthua thảm at hand,” wrote noted anthropologist Patriông chồng Kirch as a foreward khổng lồ a revised edition. Many writers of fiction & poetry cited it as well.

11. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings

by Mary Kawemãng cầu Pukui và co-authors


The indispensable Pukui touches on so many aspects of Native sầu Hawaiian culture, from luminous translations to lớn careful collections of songs, poems, rituals and records of how previous generations lived. This 1983 volume, the last to be published in Pukui’s life, reads as a valedictory culmination of her ethnographic and linguistic career, describing & making available the poetic genius of the Hawaiian people. (It was her most popular book in the voting.)

History & Social Criticism

12. Hawai‘i’s Story by Hawai‘i’s Queen 

by Lili‘uokalani


The queen’s own story follows a carekhông lấy phí coming-of-age template that darkens as the aggressive designs of a newly colony-hungry United States và a scheming class of immigrant sugar plantation owners gradually converge. Her increasingly desperate endgame lớn avoid the overthrow—the first American-sponsored coup d’etat—still has the power lớn infuriate & inspire demands for redress.

13. And the View from the Shore: Literary Traditions of Hawai‘i 

by Stephen H. Sumida 


This pioneering 1991 work made a major impact by validating local writing through local perspectives, while using traditional literary criticism to lớn overthrow the establishment’s tired và patronizing assumptions. It’s still an illuminating read for this và also for its clear annotation of debates sparked by the novels, stories, essays, poems and plays that came out after the 1978 Talk Story Conference.

14. Honor Killing: Race, Rape, & Clarence Darrow’s Spectacular Last Case

by David E. Stannard


The Massie Case of 1931 has not lacked exposure in print và film & even poetry (2016’s What We Must Remember), but the standard, voters agree, is Stannard’s 2005 book. It was published to lớn praise by reviewers for its scholarly rigor và eloquence as well as crucial access, according khổng lồ The American Historical Review, to “previously suppressed material like the 331-page Pinkerton Detective Agency report (1932) that found the accused Hawaiians innocent.”

15. Lvà and Power in Hawai‘i: The Democratic Years 

by George Cooper and Gavan Daws


It took the combination of a writer-professor (Daws) và a lawyer-turned-journadanh sách (Cooper) to penetrate the tangled web of real estate dealings ahy vọng the political and powerful in Hawai‘i. Originally published privately in 1985, the book can be slow going. But follow the money & you’ll see how it shook up the state, by calling out the practices and payouts from the days of the Bicửa hàng Estate and the old-school Big Five sầu landowners, lớn the new era ushered in by the Democratic sweep of 1954.

16. From a Native sầu Daughter: Colonialism & Sovereignty in Hawai‘i 

by Haunani-Kay Trask

Coming together from essays written in the centennial years of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s overthrow, this ambitious targeted attack on the systematic abuse of Native Hawaiian rights, culture & political agency made an impact both visceral và immediate. And it’s still being felt, inspiring successive sầu generations of activists & writers with its clear-eyed denunciation of the many ways racism, sexism và imperialism are perpetuated on the land and people of Hawai‘i.

17. Ho‘i ho‘i Hou: a tribute lớn George Helm & Kimo Mitchell 

edited by Rodney Morales

A spontaneous upwelling, the 100-plus entries in this memorial to the two Hawaiian activists—who disappeared while crossing the ‘Alalākeiki Channel off Kaho‘olawe—became an instant sensation for capturing the moment through the men. Reading its songs, poems, testimonies, telegrams, biographies và letters today, it’s possible lớn feel anew why and how, after the deaths of Helm and Mitchell, decades of protest broke through federal & state indifference and stopped the bombing of Kaho‘olawe. We also see how the loss of Helm, và all his talents và political energy, fed rather than diminished the movement.

18. Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement và Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust 

by Samuel P. King and Randall Roth

“A nuanced story of greed countered by integrity, intimidation met by resolve sầu, and imperiousness vanquished by activism,” as one reviewer wrote, this 2006 expansion of the explosive newspaper exposé goes deeper and provides cultural context of the corrupt collusion of Bicửa hàng Estate trustees, the Hawai‘i judiciary & the state executive sầu branch.

19. Fragments of Hawaiian History 

by John Papage authority ‘Ī‘ī 


Another touchstone of Hawaiian culture written by one who grew up educated in the old world and was forced to lớn make his way in the new, Fragments is just that—selected articles written by ‘Ī‘ī between 1866 and 1870 for Native sầu Hawaiian newspaper Ka Nūpepa Kū‘oko‘a. By this time, ‘Ī‘ī had a fabled and illustrious career behind hlặng & was compelled khổng lồ record what he’d seen and experienced before it vanished forever.

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đôi mươi. On Being Hawaiian 

by John Dominis Holt


The 1964 publication of this 64-page essay marks one of the breakaway moments in the Hawaiian Renaissance. “I am Hawaiian … somewhat by blood, mostly by sentiment,” wrote Holt. “It all comes baông xã khổng lồ our choice: to lớn live as Hawaiians or not. I believe we still are warriors …”

21. The Value of Hawai‘i: Knowing the Past, Shaping the Future 

edited by Craig Howes & Jon Osorio​


Imaginative & on target, the 31 contributors lớn this 2010 collection include some of the most incisive sầu activist minds in the Islands, taking on the biggest issues facing Hawai‘i, from economic và social ineunique to lớn energy lớn transportation to Native Hawaiian issues.

22. Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands 

by Gavan Daws


“Why aren’t all his books here? They’re all brilliant!” was one voter’s comment about author Daws. But if we had to pichồng one, Shoal rose up out of the sea of writing about Hawai‘i at the right time, 1974, when the need for a fresh, comprehensive sầu và lively post-Cook history was most adễ thương. Daws’ style, deft sarcasm and energetic storytelling still hold readers today.

Lucky We Live sầu Hawai‘i

23. Hawai‘i One Summer 

by Maxine Hong Kingston


Kingston wrote many of these quicksilver essays for The Thủ đô New York Times while living in Honolulu và finishing what would become her genre-bending best-seller, The Woman Warrior. That book woke the U.S. lớn an Asian-American experience that would no longer take a polite back seat khổng lồ anytoàn thân on the literary bus. The stories here feel lượt thích a distillation of the spirit of the 1978 Talk Story Conference, where her appearance was a highlight. “She has affected more Hawai‘i people in understanding Asian-American identity,” wrote one judge. 

24. Pidgin to Da Max

by Douglas Simonson


It feels like a time capsule now, the original bright yellow book with the wildly gesturing locals talking pidgin while making side-eye và stink-eye and even aku-eye at each other. But it delivered the shochồng of recognition và still feels spot-on and funny, a chronicle of a cultural moment that should not be lost.

25. Pass On, No Pass Back! 

by Darrell H.Y. Lum


“Only in Hawai‘i” probably best describes these stories, whose unassuming titles—“Victor,” “Horses,” “Toad”—launch readers inlớn their young characters’ stream-of-pidgin consciousness. Cartoons by Lum’s intermediate school classmate, Art Kodani, add deadpan absurdity. A local treasure, where pidgin meets modernism.

26. Folks You Meet in Longs and other stories 

by Lee Cataluna


“No other work celebrates and confronts who we are and how we live in these Islands as well as this collection of monologues,” writes a judge; another notes how the final story subtly reflects the sale of Longs Drugs to lớn the CVS chain, bringing an over to an Island institution—not the store, per se, but the ritual it represented.

27. Waterman: The Life và Times of Duke Kahanamoku 

by David Davis 


The first comprehensive biography of Kahanamoku traces his well-known influence in spreading surfing and professional lifesaving, và his still-astonishing feats as an Olympian, but also as a conscious trailblazer of integration around the globe during a virulently racist era. Sports archivist and author Davis exposes Kahanamoku’s mistreatment by the local power brokers in Honolulu, who led a vicious chiến dịch against the 1912 Olympic gold medal winner that forced hlặng lớn leave sầu the Islands. (He would sue The Pacific Commercial Advertiser for libel & win.) A must-read for this little-remembered episode và many others, all meticulously documented.

28. Growing Up Local: An Anthology of Poetry& Prose from Hawai‘i

edited by Eric Choông chồng, James R. Harstad, Darrell H.Y. Lum và Bill Teter 


A compilation of stories & poems belonging khổng lồ the genre known as “What school you went?” this banquet of a book evokes cultural epiphanies from everyday rituals (“How lớn Cook Rice” by Kathleen Tyau), a mother’s folk remedy (“Tongue” by Juliet S. Kono), the self-inflicted wounds of girls who’ve sầu assimilated the pecking order of body types and skin tones (“Carnival Queen” by Mavis Hara) & much more.

29. Hawaiian Son: The Musical Journey of Eddie Kamae 

by James D. Houston with Eddie Kamae


This beautifully detailed, revealing collaboration spans the last century as it follows Kamae from newsboy playing ‘ukulele on a loading dochồng for nickels, to 1940s jazz innovator, to lớn prison inmate, khổng lồ co-founder of the Sons of Hawai‘i. Then the self-taught filmmaker became Mary Kawemãng cầu Pukui’s ethnographic scout—roaming the Islands in 10 documentaries that captured songs, backroad musicians, spiritual seers và other vanishing gems of Hawaiian culture.

30. Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

by Barack Obama 


Published in 1995 in a modest edition, this memoir has had almost as improbable a career as the future president from Punahou. Only becoming a best-seller in 2004 after Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, it helped propel hlặng khổng lồ the Oval Office. By 2011, Time would anoint it as one of its top 100 nonfiction books written in English since the magazine’s founding in 1923. The descriptions of the young African-American wrestling with issues of racial identity & an absent father struck a global nerve; but for Islanders the book is especially loved for its portrait of a local kid from a fractured family thriving thanks khổng lồ Hawai‘i’s inclusive sầu values and community consciousness—the same aloha Obama would later bring to leading a fractious, divided nation và world.

31. Big Happiness: The Life và Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior 

by Mark Panek


The author spent five sầu years in nhật bản following Waikāne’s Percy Kipapage authority & his rise lớn become the sumo wrestler known as Daiki—then broadened his book’s canvas as the life of “Big Happiness” darkened và he returned trang chủ. In doing so, Panek created a deeply felt portrait of the struggles endemic lớn dispossessed Native sầu Hawaiians &, after Kipapa’s death, a mesmerizing murder mystery.

Novels and Short Fiction

32. Hawai‘i 

by James Michener


“I realize you’ll probably have sầu khổng lồ include hyên ổn,” wrote one judge, echoing many. The big blockbuster of 1959 was manufactured to lớn boost the jet-age tourist boom và has not aged well, given its by-the-numbers stereotyping và soft racism. But the legacy of his churning prose and cringe-worthy plot twists—interracial love sầu punished by a tsunami!—must be dealternative text with by local writers, particularly as many Mainl& readers and East Coast publishers still think it’s the best example of a book about Hawai‘i.

33. Moloka‘i 

by O.A. Bushnell


Historically informed, thoroughly modern in style và literary ambition, this 1963 novel starts with a first-chapter shocker—a German doctor suggests human experimentation to King Kalākaua as a path to lớn curing leprosy—then rides the voices of its three narrators inkhổng lồ the agony of the Kalaupapa colony, where the heart’s motivations also come in for Bushnell’s intense & unflinching scrutiny.

34. All I Asking For Is My Body 

by Milton Murayama


“A declaration of independence … from unjust obligations & servitude,” as critic (and author, see page 48) Stephen Sumidomain authority wrote after it came out in 1975, Murayama’s novel confronts the classic double-bind facing Japanese-Americans born and raised in Hawai‘i—how loyalty to community and a patriarchal family system runs counter to lớn individual destiny và self-determination. Like many contemporary residents of the Islands, the characters in this 1930s-era story labor unceasingly for pitifully small wages while carrying the extra burden of inherited debt. To break the cycle, even in modern times, seems khổng lồ require a miracle—which this story does, in a way, still provide lớn local writers.

35. Blu’s Hanging

by Lois-Ann Yamanaka 


Three poor, suddenly motherless children struggle lớn get by in a chaotic world, which unsurprisingly for Hawai‘i và its youth, is inflamed by highly colorful, mordantly comic swaths of ethnic and cultural stereotyping & innuenvì chưng. Some people found this shocking, shocking. “Regardless of the controversy, my favorite of her books,” wrote one voter; many concurred.

36. Waimea Summer 

by John Dominis Holt


In one slyên ổn 1976 book, the outspoken Native Hawaiian Holt masterfully swings from the supernatural to lớn the harshly unsentimental. It’s a coming-of-age story, a coming-to-racial-identity story, a paniolo portrait and a Turn of the Screw-like ghost story that pits good and bad kāhumãng cầu against each other. There’s even a gay subtext in this striking and unique work; but soaring above it all is the question of whether Western và Native Hawaiian identities can ever mingle comfortably in one body.

37. The Return of Lono: A Novel of Captain Cook’s Last Voyage 

by O.A. Bushnell


“First off, please consider O.A. Bushnell, a preposterously neglected talent,” wrote a judge. Winner of the Atlantic Monthly fiction award in 1956, Bushnell’s novel of the fateful encounter between Native sầu Hawaiians & Capt. James Cook marked a breakthrough for local literature written by its people, then recognized and published by a major East Coast press. A kid from a “slum area of town”—Kaka‘ako—Bushnell became a microbiologist & medical historian, while embracing Hawai‘i’s stories with empathy and precision. The Return of Lono was a promising step forward for Hawai‘i lit. But Michener’s book followed it three years later.

38. The Red Wind: Makani ‘Ula 

by Ian MacMillan


A haole who marries inkhổng lồ a Hawaiian family, adopts Hawaiian values & spends the generations after World War II building canoes, Kenika finds his spirit & world tested and undermined by Mainl& America’s consumer-culture values—including drugs—as they swamp the Islands, seduce his children và threaten his beloved Windward O‘ahu.

39. Moloka‘i

by Alan Brennert


The local writing scene has a reputation for being closed to lớn Mainlanders, for good reason (see the movie Aloha). But voters embraced Brennert’s 2003 telling of the story of Father Damien, Sister Marianne & Kalaupapa. That’s probably because the Southern California-based writer—whose television credits include Star Trek: Enterprise, L.A. Law, The New Twilight Zone and Wonder Woman, as well as a handful of Batman & Wonder Woman comic books—researched the novel for a four-hour mini-series that ended up never reaching the screen. Having been written lớn be visualized, và laced with well-placed plot points, the story’s power to lớn haunt us is fully realized.

40. Hawai‘i 

by Mark Panek


In a contemporary Honolulu that feels as soiled and cynical as today’s headlines, a big real estate khuyễn mãi giảm giá is going down—& in a tsunami of powerful, noisy scenes we watch everyone sell out. Panek’s funny, at times excruciatingly intimate account is informed, he’s said, by hours of interviews with insiders. Certainly there’s plenty that feels familiar in his snap-portraits of politicians on the make, arrogant Chinese investors, rich prep school kids slumming around town, on-the-take Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, cowardly university liberals, white-collar state-job sports-betting strip-bar habitués—not to lớn mention gangsters, bent cops & sex-and-shopping-addicted Daddy’s Girls from Kāhala. When it’s over you’ll feel lượt thích you know why things always turn out the way they vì.

41. Shark Dialogues 

by Kiamãng cầu Davenport


A modern epic of the Hawaiian diaspora—the plot follows four granddaughters hailed home page by their mesmerizing, indomitable Pono—Shark Dialogues (1994) is as often hailed for its female-driven storyline & insights as for its lyrically adventurous language và tako-tentacled plot. Though Pono’s hard, magic-realism life has raised her & her coffee plantation to success, she’s now old and ready, like King Lear, lớn dispense wisdom và, perhaps, more. By granting each granddaughter her own life story—one has lupus, another’s a veterinarian in Thành Phố New York City, a third is a lawyer in nước Australia and a fourth an abused wife of a yakuza—Davenport rejects the tidying impulse of conventional novels. In the process she comes up with something new, a little over the top, and unforgettable. Part of a trilogy.

42. The Tattoo

by Chris McKinney


Narrated by a new Halāwa prison inmate, Ken Hideyoshi, to a mute white supremacist who’s giving him a samurai tattoo, this 1999 story of fallen lives và twisted, ill-fated loves in the underworld of Honolulu is rediscovered for good reason by new readers every year.

43. Rolling the Rs

by R. Zamora Linmark

“Adventurous in form, courageous in content,” wrote a judge of one of the most-stolen books in local public libraries (to judge from a recent catalog search). The various coming of age stories of adolescent gay Filipinos in Kalihi read “like a poetry slam,” said one mainstream reviewer when it came out in 1995; the fireworks go off as loudly today.

44. In the Time Before Light

by Ian MacMillan


Published posthumously in 2017, this story is the newest thành viên of the Essential 50. Its protagonist is a commoner kanaka maoli at the time of Contact who survives an epic, bloody & sorrow-filled life only khổng lồ kết thúc up as an old man in Waikīkī, watching yet another epidemic wipe out more of his people. The prose is charged và precise, the battle scenes propulsive và gory, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. The cruel irony at the heart of the story is the massive sầu changes that force modernity on this lower-caste boy also allow hyên to adapt và, inevitably, evolve sầu in knowledge & wisdom. This, however, only sharpens the pain he feels at what has been lost.

45. The Descendants

by Kaui Hart Hemmings


The novel that everyone thinks they know, thanks khổng lồ a certain movie, is a work of such concision and elegance that it solves the question that haunts, and bogs down, many novels of Hawai‘i: what khổng lồ vị with all our history. Hemmings’ solution is to bury it in the setup—the haole-fied part-Hawaiian husb& of a wife on life tư vấn discovers her infidelity as he’s about khổng lồ sell unspoiled family land—and let the story play out naturally and without long-winded digressions. The result is a master class of technique, if a little on the light side for those used to a heavier touch.

46. Da Word

by Lee A. Tonouchi


When Lee Tonoubỏ ra embraced the movement to stake pidgin’s clalặng on Hawai‘i literature—as well as to reclayên ổn it from abuse at the hands of non-Isl& writers—he didn’t go in for half-measures. This 2001 story collection is virtuoso Tonouchi, dealing out comedy and heartbreak in lines that show off how pidgin can be simultaneously spare, recondite and wildly inventive.


47. The Folding Cliffs 

by W.S. Merwin 


From the first swift lines, the story of Pi‘ilani, Ko‘olau & their son, Kaleimanu—the 1890s family made fugitives by a sentence of leprosy, then pursued into lớn the Kalavệ sinh Valley by representatives of the new government that had deposed Queen Lili‘uokalani—unfolds and reforms, readable as a thriller yet built on the historical record & the deeper bedrochồng of myth và Hawaiian knowledge. Adding savor is the language of Maui-based Merwin, former poet laureate và two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, informed by his lifelong interest in the natural world.

48. Expounding the Doubtful Points 

by Wing Tek Lum


“Writing about the everyday world, without fanfare,” goes a line in the title poem, taken from 11th-century poet Mei Yao’chen and cited as a Mã Sản Phẩm. But we should all be so lucky as to lớn experience Lum’s everyday: the wonder a son feels about his mother’s missing breast after surgery, his anger at hearing of a new Charlie Chan movie, a visit to a cousin who stayed behind in China and labors in the fields. From death to babies khổng lồ politics, the book is a complete experience of a Hawai‘i life & a quality mind.

49. Picture Bride

by Cathy Song


Any surprise at this preternaturally poised, confident work, which won the 1982 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, has long given way to recognition of a classic. Whether she’s evoking intimate Wahiawā Korean family scenes or inhabiting the mind & eyes of Georgia O’Keeffe, Song paints with a fine-tipped brush—which makes the occasional quiet knife-thrust all the more effective sầu.

50. Saturday Night at the Pāhala Theatre

by Lois Ann Yamanaka


“This work is the patient zero of local literature,” wrote one judge of this 1993 book. “Everything before it can’t help but sound jejune and quaint & hegemonic. Everything after it can’t help but wrestle with its force.”

THE ROLL OF HONOR: For an additional danh sách of books that just missed the first 50.