Books / The New York Times recently reported that Makiki native (and President of the United States) Barack Obama has been reading Netherland, a novel by Joseph O’Neill set in post-9/11 America. That got us wondering what other well-known local folks had on their bookshelves, so we asked around. (We also asked the President for another book recommendation, but apparently he’s a little busy these days. Go figure.)
Novelist, 2009 Cades Literary Award honoree, Punahou School English teacher
“I’m half way through Patricia Hampl’s memoir The Florist’s Daughter, which is poetically written about her father’s service in floral arts and capturing, through anecdote, her family and the midwestern ethos of Minnesota society. One scene: her father is standing, in stillness, above the design table before a random heap of cut flowers, meditating; Hampl says, ‘he held the the belief, amounting to religious faith, that there is an underlying something–a law, rule, an innate recognition of rightness–that exists in matter itself and is understood as elegance. It is not something we make but something we reveal–or even acquiesce to when it is revealed. Then in a flash he puts together an impeccably beautiful bouquet, which is also one way to write.’”
Disc Jockey, KTUH
“I’m reading Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War, by Wallace Terry. My father’s a Vietnam vet, so I’m always interested in Vietnam, especially from a soldier’s perspective. I just re-read it actually, and was a little harder to swallow, because the graphic detail really started to steep in. The guys they interviewed didn’t hold much back.”
Communications Director Hawaii House of Representatives
“I just finished The Third Angel by my favorite novelist, Alice Hoffman. She’s known for a genre called “magical realism,” contemporary stories with a touch of fairy tale. I’m reading two excellent books on writing by Patricia O’Connor, Words Fail Me and Woe is I. Finally, there’s Runaway, a beautiful collection of short stories by Canadian writer Alice Munro.”
“I’m reading Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. It was a gift from James Koshiba of Kanu Hawaii. Thought provoking and full of ideas. McKibben says it all when, referring to a year of eating locally, he writes, ‘The time I spent getting the food and preparing it was not, in the end, a cost at all. In the end it was a benefit, the benefit. In my role as eater, I was part of something larger than myself that made sense to me-a community. I felt grounded, connected.’ That is why I do what I do.
Columnist, Honolulu Advertiser
“I’ve been on a Carl Hiaasen kick lately. He’s a longtime Miami Herald columnist who writes really loose, romping fiction. His work is a good palate cleanser between weightier nonfiction or darker fiction. He must enjoy writing because his stories are wickedly funny and the bad guys meet terrible fates. I just finished Skin Tight, which was published in 1989 and started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell but I’m not sure I like it. Waiting in the wings I have Tourist Season which was Hiaasen’s first novel.”
“Aside from the regular magazines that I read–ESPN and Sports Illustrated–I’m also reading Donald Trump’s book Think Like A Champion. The essays are especially relevant for people who may be working through hard times. In general, I like Trump because he speaks his mind and he does just that in this book.”
President and General Manager
Hawaii Public Radio
“I usually try to have two books on the go, one fiction, one non. Just now the novel is Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, set in various real and imaginary locales in the 15th century. Ultimately it’s about the manipulation and misuse of power. I’m only halfway through, but I understand Niccolo Machiavelli takes a starring role toward the end. And of course the writing is beautiful…few alive can paint sentences like Mr. Rushdie.
The non-fiction at the moment is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I’ve long puzzled over the phenomenon of organized religion (in all its forms) and Mr. Dawkins, while making the case for his own atheism, is taking me on a wonderful journey through the thinking on the issue, from St. Augustine to Bertrand Russell. I love this one so much I’ve got it in book form and on my Kindle.”
Kaui Hart Hemmings
“I’m reading Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead, an autobiographical coming-of-age novel about privileged black boys with beach houses. It’s 1985 and 15-year-old Smiths-loving Benji Cooper is on summer break. Think Jonathan Lethem and Zadie Smith. It’s a bit sprawling and unscripted, but always entertaining, new, refreshing and enviably ground-breaking.”
City & County of Honolulu
“I’m reading American Lion by Jon Meacham. It’s about Andrew Jackson in the White House. I’m a history buff and am enjoying the story of the American President who was a champion of the little guy. I’m also reading Changing Metropolitan America by the former mayor of Indianapolis, Bill Hudnut. It’s about cities planning for a sustainable future, the challenges mayors across the country face today, and, more importantly, some solutions.
One more: The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. I missed this one as a kid, but my wife Gail recommended it. A modern adventure fantasy full of witty word play and puns, where the main character, Milo, embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason!”