Marianas Variety

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BC’s Tales of the Pacific | Good books for Pacific folks

LAST week’s column featured websites that will help increase your knowledge and awareness of the Pacific.  Some readers asked for a similar list of books on the culture and history of the Pacific family.

With limited space we can only get started here, but I recommend these:

Books by islanders

Tales of the Tikongs — The tiny island of Tiko faced an unwelcome wave of development. This short book is a treat of humor, compassion and mockery. Start with this one.

Pacific Island Legends — Bo Flood compiled oral and written stories from around the Pacific, most of which have never been heard by outsiders.

Marianas Island Legends — After the success of the previous book, Bo Flood and company focused their eyes and ears on the Marianas specifically

Books about islanders

Oceania — A broad overview of the history of island settlement, Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia are all included.

Where the Waves Fall — The history of island settlement from the beginning through European colonization. One of the excellent Pacific Islands Monograph Series or PIMS put out by the University of Hawaii.

The First Taint of Civilization — The first in the PIMS and authored by the remarkable Francis Hezel, it is a history of Micronesia before the arrival of Europeans.

Strangers in Their Own Land — Also PIMS, this book picks up the history of Micronesia during the colonial period: Spanish, Germans, Japanese, Americans, also written by Hezel.

An Honorable Accord — PIMS again (just read the whole series), it is the story of the relationship between the Northern Mariana Islands and the United States, primarily the Covenant,

Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire — Islanders are not cast as helpless victims of greed and aggression but as intelligent bargainers trying to gain advantage from the new technology and knowledge.

Summoning the Powers Beyond — History of traditional island religions of Micronesia, mainly since European contact.

Books about Pacific history

Exploration and Exchange — History of the period of European colonization, with sections devoted to Adventurers and Explorers, Beachcombers and Missionaries, and Writers.

Nanyo — PIMS again. A history of the Japanese period in Micronesia, 1885-1945.

Pacific Tales — Louis Becke traveled the Pacific in the late 1800s and wrote incredible stories about it. Sometimes sympathetic, sometimes dispassionate, but always insightful.

Captain James Cook — The greatest of all Pacific explorers, I recommend Richard Hough’s book. It is newer and shorter than the massive book by Beaglehole. Follow it up with The Bounty Trilogy about the most famous mutiny in Pacific history.

The Great Ocean — Good history of the Pacific over the last two hundred years.

The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex — The true story that led to Melville’s Moby Dick.

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.