‘Cannibals and Converts: Radical Change in the Cook Islands’ by Maretu

This is probably the best book to read if you want to learn about the Cook Islands’ past. Written by Maretu in the Rarotongan language (translated into English by Marjorie Tuainekore Crocombe), it tells the story of the archipelago immediately before the arrival of Europeans.

The author wonderfully describes how and in what ways the Westerners changed the local culture, and how the native inhabitants had to adjust to the new order established by those who had suddenly appeared on their shores. Fantastic, enlightening publication well worth your time and attention!

‘Mātini’ by Rachel Reeves

In 2014, Rachel Reeves was commissioned to write a book that would document the stories of Cyclone Martin survivors. She was given seven months. And she created a masterpiece.

‘Mātini’ is a detailed account of the tragic events that took place in the Cook Islands on November 1st, when the tropical cyclone nearly destroyed Manihiki Atoll. Although the author portrays the catastrophic occurrences in a rather matter-of-fact manner, the book is deeply touching and emotional. It is also extremely thought-provoking and surprisingly revealing. Simply put, it is a true gem you should have on your bookshelf.

‘Don’t Walk Under the Coconuts’ by Robert Borden

I don’t think any other book conveys the tranquil atmosphere of the Cook Islands better than Robert Borden’s memoir. His words paint a vivid picture of Aitutaki, where Robert and his wife Mary Lou used to spend the winter months.

If you wish to experience life in the tropics – get to know the locals, discover their culture, ‘do’ what they do every single day – this is a perfect title for you. It will transport you to one of the most beautiful places on planet Earth the moment you start reading the first chapter. Fantastic way to enjoy the Cooks from the comfort of your home!

‘The Book of Puka-Puka’ by Robert Dean Frisbie

This is a classic of the South Seas genre and a must-read for anyone interested in the Cook Islands. Samoa had Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cooks had Robert Dean Frisbie.

‘Ropati’ knew the archipelago probably better than any other sailor that has ever visited it. His wonderful memoir about the years he spent on the atoll of Puka-Puka is not only an extremely entertaining piece of literature but also a gold mine of information that offers detailed, often humorous descriptions of island life in the Pacific. The book was written in the 1920s, but some of the Frisbie’s observations are still relevant today.

‘Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka: The Autobiography of a South Sea Trader’s Daughter’ by Florence Johnny Frisbie

Robert Dean Frisbie’s book is a classic, but his daughter’s autobiography – although incomparably less known – is equally worthy of note. Written from a young girl’s perspective, it shows a different side to life in the Cook Islands.

In this fascinating memoir, Florence Johnny Frisbie tells her version of the story. It is simpler than her father’s, definitely not as thorough and sophisticated. And this is exactly why it makes for such an unusually interesting read. Puka-Puka may be just a small atoll. However, for little Miss Frisbie it was a whole world packed with delightful adventures… Just try to imagine how delightful her reminiscences are.



  1. Thank you for your reviews. As a Rarotongan, Manihikian and Pukapukan I am so proud to be from both islands. I was born and raised in New Zealand but was very fortunate that my parents have taken me to their home islands as a child and in my adulthood I took my daughter back, to experience her culture and meet family.

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