The Most Underrated Books on Hawaiʻi

Because the Hawaiʻi publishing industry is dominated by a few presses, many books on Hawaiʻi fall through the cracks. Hereʻs a biased and unscientific list of some of them from a self-described “book Hawaiian” – me. This is quite different from the list of the “greatest” Hawaiian books, as many are written by non-Hawaiians and published outside of Hawaiʻi.

Moolelo no Kamehameha, Joseph Poepoe

As I said previously: So apparently Desha plagiarized (if such a concept exists in Hawaiian thought) from Poepoe, whose work is yet to appear in published form. It is still a valuable supplement to Kamakauʻs account of Kamehamehaʻs conquests. The Kamehameha Schools Press English translation is called Kamehameha and His Warrior Kekūhaupiʻo.

Turning Tide: The Ebb and Flow of Hawaiian Nationality, Niklaus Schweitzer

This is one of the most underrated, and hard-to-find gems on Hawaiian history and contemporary politics. Mainly because it was published in Switzerland, it didnʻt get anything like the circulation it deserved.

Schweitzer writes what many think, or wish they had thought: about the state of suspension that the Hawaiian Kingdom finds itself in. I still quote one of his phrases in my writing: “The Hawaiian movement is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary” – that is, it is building the infrastructure of a nation within the current paradigm, rather than trying to topple it.

Inventing Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Yuri Mykkannen

Mykkannen was, like me, a PhD student in Political Science at UH Mānoa. Unlike me, he was a complete outsider, who quietly dug through archival documents, summarizing what seems like thousands of pages, and synthesizing them into some of the more cogent thoughts on the Kingdomʻs legal and intellectual infrastructure in the nineteenth century.

No ke Kalaiaina, William Richards

This is not exactly underrated among scholars, but I have yet to find a complete copy in the UH system. This was more than a translation of Francis Wayland’s Elements of Political Economy; it was a conceptual translation of the system of capitalism for the chiefs in the 1830s.

Change we Must, Nana Veary

One of the most unlikely books to appear in print, Veary, a full-blooded Hawaiian who looks like my grandmother, shows the insights of, and connections between Hawaiian culture and Zen Buddhism. This unusual synthesis of East and Pacific offers an alternative to Christian syncretic efforts.

The Water of Life: a Jungian Journey through Hawaiian Myth, Rita Knipe

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.26.13 PM

Knipe compares two of the traditions Iʻm most interested in: Hawaiian culture and the  psychological work of Carl Jung. (My post on Jung is consistently one of the most read on the umiverse). Like Joseph Campbell, Jung showed the deeper psychic meanings of mythologies – and psyche, everyone seems to have forgotten, means soul.

 Pacific Gibraltar, William Morgan

Makana Chai reviewed the book, saying:

Although there are problems with the book, beginning with the title, sub-title, and cover, the strength of this book is as a compendium of primary source documents particularly on the movements of the USS Boston and its troops, the correspondence of U. S. minister John Stevens, the Blount and Morgan reports, and the Congressional debates about annexation. Written by a professor at the U. S. Marine War College, this book changed my understanding of history.


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3 responses to “The Most Underrated Books on Hawaiʻi

  1. Pingback: The Most Underrated Books on Hawaiʻi | Polynesia

  2. Ralph Yanagawa

    Hi Umi:

    Small point of information: if anyone is looking for the book “Turning Tide”, they will find it under Niklaus R. Schweizer (no “t” in his last name).

    Ralph Yanagawa


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