Insights & Stories

The Hawaii Book & Music Festival: Fun for the Whole Family

Reading time: 5 Minutes

May 3rd, 2018

Since the digital revolution has taken place over the past few decades, many book lovers have raised concern over the decline of physical bookstores and paper books. But rest assured, the love of reading books and the art of storytelling is very much alive and well.

Book festivals around the world—like our upcoming Hawaii Book & Music Festival—have taken off and become proudly well-attended.

  • More than 800,000 visitors attend India's ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival every year, which has almost 2,000 speakers.
  • Tens of thousands attended the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington last year.
  • Our own Hawaii Book & Music Festival hosted a whopping 30,000 visitors in 2017—a big number relative to the size of our state.

We are fortunate to have the two-day Hawaii Book & Music Festival, designed to celebrate and honor books, storytelling and music in ways that are fun and accessible to everyone. This will be its 13th year.

The free event will be held on the grounds of Honolulu Hale under a village of tents on Saturday, May 5th and Sunday, May 6th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On both days, panels of Hawaii's prominent speakers—from newspapers, radio, television, academia, music and the arts—will present on interesting topics from Hawaii's homeless epidemic to the Malama Honua Voyage by Hokulea and Hikianalia.

One of the writers on the lineup is Honolulu author and motivational speaker Rusty Komori, who notes that the proliferation of ebooks and consequential closing of bookstores are ironically the likely cause of why people are appreciating printed books more than ever.

Komori coached Punahou School's boys' varsity tennis team to win an unprecedented 22 consecutive state championships, which is the longest streak in U.S. history in any sport.

Clearly knowledgeable about leadership and achievement, he retired in 2015 to write the book Beyond the Lines, creating a leadership culture to achieve extraordinary resultspublished by Watermark Publishing in Honolulu. “There are many books about leadership and achieving success,” he says, “but my book is one of the rare ones that details how to sustain success.”

The book, which lays out a game plan that a leader can follow to inspire achievement, has proved popular, selling 4,000 copies in a few short months, which is “phenomenal” according to Roger Jellinek, esteemed writer, editor and HBMF Executive Director.

Other literary greats who will also be speaking at the complex's Mission Memorial Auditorium, include Adam Johnson, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Orphan Master's Son; New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan, whose memoir Barbarian Days: a Surfing Life about growing up in Kaimuki won a Pulitzer Prize; and the New York Times-bestselling author Julia Quinn, whose historical romance novels have won numerous awards.

On Sunday, the Honolulu actor and playwright Moses Goods will perform his original play “My Name is Opukahaia” at the auditorium.

Little ones can sit on the grass for storyteller sessions or enjoy entertainment on the Keiki Stage that is just for kids. Uncle Wayne & The Howling Dog Band is one of 28 high-energy musicians and musical groups performing for children. Quite a few celebrities will read at Kristi Yamaguchi's Reading Corner, including First Lady Dawn Amano Ige, Miss Hawaii 2017 Kathryn Teruya, and the U.S. figure skater and Olympic gold medalist herself.

On Saturday, Nicola Yoon, author of the bestselling and award-winning young adult novel Everything, Everything, will be at the State Library's special showing of the MGM movie made from her book.

New this year, there will be stages where music-lovers can listen to legendary ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, as well as Pandanus and other Hawaiian musicians. There is a singer-songwriter competition on the schedule, as well.

For Hawaiian culture aficionados, Kailua-based Halau Mohala Ilima dances hula on Saturday. Author Jennifer Allen, who has written for Rolling Stone and The New York Times magazine, and former Surfer magazine photographer John Bilderback will speak about their book Malama Honua: Hokulea - A Voyage of Hope. Altogether, there are 28 authors and panels in the Alana Hawaiian Culture program, speaking on history, fiction, language and the “second Hawaiian renaissance.”

In the food and cookbook program, 28 authors, cooks and celebrity chefs will present about local food, dumplings, Chinese food, fish and “cowboy caviar.” There will be a keiki fish activity, as well.

Twenty-eight doctors, practitioners, activists, and policy experts are scheduled to speak on wellness panels about homelessness, opioids, anxiety, climate change, Blue Zones, breast cancer, dementia, Obamacare and more. Former President Obama's sister and Oahu resident Maya Soetoro-Ng will speak on a panel about anxiety, depression, and teenage suicide.

There will be other meet-and-greets, readings and book signings by authors of biographies, memoir, business, sales and archaeology, to name just a few.

Know before you go: If you bring five gently-used books to the festival, you can exchange them for five new ones at Bank of Hawaii's highly popular book swap tent. There will be a Friends of the Library book sale, and national and local authors will be selling and signing their books, too.

And if, after all that, you still need a book to read, Honolulu magazine will present its list of 50 Essential Hawaii Books at the festival, and 10 of those authors will be present and doing readings.


The mention of any individuals, events or businesses is not an indication of affiliation or endorsement by Bank of Hawaii. The individuals named and owners of any trademarks, logos, brands or other designations of origin shown, named or mentioned herein did not sponsor, endorse or preview this article.

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