Because you need a good book to read at the beach, we’ve put together a list of our favorite books about Hawaii and its people. Until we finished writing it, we didn’t realize the common theme with all of them (minus the guidebook) is the resiliency of the human spirit. These stories make us proud to live in Hawai’i.
1. “Three-Year Swim Club” by Julie Checkoway
Published in 2015, this best seller tells the true story of the fabled Three-Year Swim Club, a group of “ditch kids” who learned to swim in the irrigation canals of the sugar mill and their seemingly off-his-rocker Maui swim coach, Soichi Sakamoto. Sakamoto had dreams of leading this group of scrawny kids to the 1940 Olympics. If this rags-to-riches story wasn’t true, you wouldn’t believe it could ever happen. “Three-Year Swim Club” is an inspirational gem that will have you cheering from the edge of your seat.
2. “Under the Blood Red Sun” by Graham Salisbury
Set during the start of WWII, this fictional Young Adult book explores the attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a 13-year old, Japanese-American boy. It’s an emotionally difficult book, but it somehow manages to send a positive message. It’s on the reading list of most public schools in Hawaii.
3. “Eddie Would Go” by Stuart Holmes Coleman
When traveling in Hawaii, you’re bound see bumper stickers, t-shirts and signs proclaiming “Eddie Would Go.” If you’re curious about what the saying means, look no further than this book. While to some, “Eddie Would Go” is simply the tag line to the annual big wave surf contest named in Eddie Aikau’s honor, the story behind the man is fascinating. Aikau was the first lifeguard on Oahu’s famed North Shore. Beyond that, he was a legendary surfer and waterman, who gave up his life while trying to save his peers from a sinking, double-hulled voyaging canoe by attempting to paddle a surfboard 12 miles to shore. While the crew on the canoe was ultimately rescued by the Coast Guard, Aikau never made it back. “Eddie Would Go” expertly captures Aikau’s Aloha Spirit and what it means to be a Hawaiian waterman.
4. “Moloka’i: A Novel” by Alan Brennert
When seven-year old Rachel Kalama wakes up one morning with a rose-colored spot on her skin, her life, and the lives of those who love her, are forever changed. The spot turns out to be leprosy, and thus begins her new life in Kalaupapa, the leper colony on the island of Moloka’i. While Rachel’s story is most certainly tragic, this historical fiction novel brings to life her determination to live a “normal” life and is inspirational to even the hardest cynics.
5. “Maui Trailblazer” by Jerry and Janine Sprout
We’ll end our list with our favorite guidebook about Maui. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you’re planning on doing any hiking or are looking for fun water activities, “Maui Trailblazer” will point you in the right direction. Its trail coverage for hikes and nature walks is excellent. The book also reviews snorkel locations big and small, as well as surf spots. We prefer this book to the popular Maui Revealed book because we find it’s far more respectful of the land and Maui customs.
What are you favorite books about Hawaii? Leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject and tell us what you love to read.