Archive for the ‘Books’ category

Better Hawaii’s best books of 2020

January 5, 2021

Books are my favorite hobby, and the stay-at-home orders gave me time to catch up on my reading (though there’s never enough time for good books).

In 2020, I indulged in escapist fiction and was drawn to books about coping with adversity, doing the right thing, loyalty, and fighting for those you love.

Here are 5 of the best books that I read in 2020:

* “Inspiring Women of Hawai’i” (2019) by Dr. Loretta Chen
A collection of honest, inspiring interviews with 24 women in Hawai’i, including politics, entrepreneurs, pioneers, artists, activists, and social services. Interviewer Dr. Loretta Chen explains that she knew from experience that “some of our biggest trials and tribulations are our own best teachers, and that most illuminating conversations were not always the most comfortable.” Three common themes: the understanding that women can have a career and be a mother if they have a strong support system; the importance of scholarship pageants (formerly called beauty pageants) in giving women support for higher education, experience with public speaking, and opportunities for community service; and the power of saying “yes” to new opportunities.

“Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” (2019) by Malcolm Gladwell
An attempt to understand what really happened by the side of the highway that day in rural Texas, July 10, 2015, between police officer Brian Encinia and Sandra Bland, who committed suicide in her jail cell three days later, to identify the strategies we use to translate one another’s words and intentions, and figure out how to fix them. The two challenges we face: First, why can’t we tell when the stranger in front of us is lying to our face? Second, why are the people who are deceived the ones you’d expect not to be while those who see the truth are the ones you’d think would be deceived?

* “Crescent City” (House of Earth and Blood #1) by Sarah J. Maas
A romantic urban fantasy about fighting for freedom, redemption, survivor’s guilt, seeing who people really are, believing that “through love, all things are possible,” self-sacrifice, redemption, and holding on to the people you love, and trusting that things happen for a reason.

* “Network Effect” (Murderbot #5) by Martha Wells
A science fiction novel about the family you choose (“my humans”), treating all beings as individuals with rights and free will, learning what you want, accepting that change can be terrifying, self-sacrifice, and of course the importance of watching media.

* “Age of Deception” (Firebird Chronicles #2) by TA White
A romantic science fiction adventure about making the most of your talents, trust, choosing what affects you in life, finding where you belong, doing the right thing, loyalty, secrets that are not yours to share, and protecting those in your care.

Which books engaged you in recent months? Which books do you plan to read this year?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Summer learning: commemorating the end of World War II

August 4, 2020

If you want to learn more about Hawaii’s history, or if you’ve signed up for the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS)’s Summer Reading Challenge, there’s another summer reading challenge for you: The 75th Commemoration of the End of World War II.

From August 1, 2020 through September 5, 2020, you can read books and articles, watch videos, and listen to music and recordings that will give you a glimpse into the people, time period, and events leading up to the end of World War II. Sign up at

You can earn badges when you complete activities in each of the three sections: Participate in the Commemoration, People of WWII, and Place in Time – 1945.

Here are just a few of the activities:

* Reflect of General MacArthur’s speech. He said, “It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world will emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.” What do these words mean to you?

* View one of the aerial parades over Oahu on August 29 and 30, 2020, 1 pm HST. You can attend by watching the event in person, or you can tune in anywhere in the world via a live stream of the parades.

* Leave a Message for a Veteran. The Friends of the National World War II Memorial is calling on everyone to Remember our “Greatest Generation” during this challenging time for our nation, and the world.

* Tour the Might Mo’ from the comfort of your own home! This virtual 3D tour will take you through this historic battleship.

* Celebrate Women Workers of Hawaii. A photo of Miss Mildred Luke, Honolulu, Hawaii, receiving her record of service in the Women’s Army Volunteer Corps is just one of the many fascinating photos of Women Workers during WWII in Hawaii.

* Learn about the Varsity Victory Volunteers, a group of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa ROTC students who formed the core of the most decorated combat unit in U.S. military history. The Varsity Victory Volunteers were the origin of the U.S. Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the famed all-Japanese American fighting unit in World War II. Learn more about the 442 in the book “Go For Broke”.

* Listen to the #1 hit song of 1945, Perry Como’s “Till the End of Time”.

* Watch “So ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and USO,” a clip from a longer documentary at the National WWII Museum that highlights Bob Hope’s contributions to entertaining the troops.

What have you learned about World War II? What surprised you or inspired you about our “Greatest Generation”? What does World War II mean to you today?

Summer reading challenges 2020

June 23, 2020

It’s time for summer reading challenges! Whether you read books to spark your imagination, increase your knowledge, or learn useful skills, there are books for everyone.


Right now, you can get rewarded for reading by Hawaii public libraries and Barnes and Noble. (I’ve already gotten started with “Smoke Bitten” by Patricia Briggs. You’ll have to catch up.)


* A 1,000 minutes Summer Reading Challenge for all ages. Join the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge with the Hawaii State Public Library System (HSPLS), June 15 to August 31, 2020. Register online at For every 100 minutes of reading you log online, you’ll receive a virtual badge, a downloadable activity, and an entry into a grand prize drawing for four round-trip tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies! Hawaii’s goal is to read for 1,000,000 minutes.

You can also download a printable Reader’s Log and turn it in to your local library by August 31, 2020.


Share your photos and videos of your completed activities by tagging @hsplshigov and #srphawaii2020.


* Summer Reading Challenge for kids in grades 1-6. Just read any eight books and record them in your Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal. Then take your completed journal to Barnes and Noble in Honolulu between July 1 and August 31, 2020 to receive a free book from the book list. You can earn your own copy of “Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights” by Malala Yousafzai, “I Survived the Japanese Tsunami” by Lauren Tarshis, or “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle.


What books will you read this summer? Will you beat the 1,000 minute reading challenge?

Best books of 2019

December 24, 2019

Reading books is my favorite hobby, and I make time to read almost every day – and sometimes late into the night.

Last year, I was drawn to books about coping with adversity, leadership, and finding meaning at work. This year, I indulged in books about living in interesting times and hold-on-for-the-wild-ride adventures.

Here are 6 of the best books that I read in 2019:

* “Kingdom of Ash” by Sarah J. Maas immerses us in a world of magic where a queen spins intricate plots to free her people and protect others from slavery. It’s an epic fantasy about refusing to yield; choosing who you will be; fighting for your belief in a better world; and self-sacrifice for the greater good.

* “The Merciful Crow” by Margaret Aven sinks us into a plague-ridden world where an outcast caste bargain to save a prince in exchange for protection. It’s a young adult fantasy about birthright privilege and persecution; longing to live without fear; and doing something better with your life than die.

*  “Rules of Redemption” by TA White catapults us into a future of alien wizards, space travel, and an ex-soldier who is still fighting a hidden war. It’s a science fiction soap opera about making your own path; learning who you really are; and needing to be understood.

*  “Cry Pilot” by Joel Dane launches us into a future where criminals can be redeemed by surviving a life-threatening sacrifice. It’s a thrilling military science fiction novel about atonement (“Debt’s don’t disappear because there’s nobody left to collect them”); acknowledging that hardships make us more brittle, not harder; and the balance of individual independence and political stability.

* “Nameless” by Dean Koontz sucks us into the life of a man with no name, no memories, and no desire to remember his past. It’s a collection of six episodic short thrillers about living with mystery and purpose; confronting the darkness in humankind; and the comfort of not knowing.

* “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (2014) by Atul Gawande is a deeply personal, somber, and honest reflection about the modern experience of mortality. Gawande shares his story as a surgeon and his father’s experience with a spinal cord tumor, reflecting on how old age has changed, American veneration of the independent self, and our shifting mindset away from fixing problems to supporting quality of life.

Which books have kept you reading late into the night? Which books would you recommend?

Happy reading and happy new year!

Three summer reading programs in 2019

June 4, 2019

“Did you know the summer reading program started?” I asked my 12-year old son. “We could win a trip somewhere.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere,” he said disinterestedly.

I tried a “big challenge” approach. “They want to reach 13 million minutes this summer.”

There was a small spark in his eyes, but he wasn’t ready to commit yet. “What other prizes are there?”

“Does it matter?” I asked. “Just tell me your title, author, and number of minutes.”

“Okay,” he said.

Whether you’re interested in winning prizes, winning books, or just challenging yourself to read, there are three free summer reading programs to choose from.

A Universe of Stories: Hawaii Public Libraries

Children, teens, and adults can explore a Universe of Stories. That’s the theme of the 2019 free Summer Reading Program at the Hawaii Public Libraries, which runs June 1 through July 13, 2019. There will be six weeks of free space-themed movies, entertainment, and activities for all ages. Register today at to track your minutes for you and your family. The more minutes you read, the more you’ll help us reach our goal of reading 13 million minutes in Hawaii – and the more chances you’ll earn to earn entries into a grand prize drawing: a trip for four anywhere Alaska Airlines flies, courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

Summer Reading Adventure: Barnes & Noble

For grades 1-6, Barnes & Noble’s free Summer Reading Program gives young readers the opportunity to earn a free book! Just read eight books this summer, record them in the Summer Reading Journal, and write down which part of the book is your favorite and why. Then turn in your completed journal to Barnes and Noble at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. You could pick a book about the Mount Rushmore Calamity, My FANGtastically Evil Vampire Pet, or the Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff.

Summer Reading Challenge: Scholastic Read-a-Palooza

If you think 13 million minutes isn’t challenging enough, kids can participate in the free Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge. Between May 6 and September 6, 2019 kids can enter log their reading minutes, unlock digital rewards, and access exclusive videos and book excerpts. Plus, when participating kids collectively read 25 million, 50 million, and 100 million minutes, Scholastic will donate books to kids in need in the United States. On May 29, kids already reached the first milestone of 25 million minutes and unlocked the first book donation!


What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? How many minutes will you read?

Have a wonderful summer filled with books!