The best books about Sweden

6 authors have picked their favorite books about Sweden and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Markings


By Dag Hammarskjöld, W.H. Auden (translator), L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg (translator)

Why this book?

Markings consists of profound thoughts, quotes, and poems of the Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld was a successful man yet his reflections in the book depict that if success is not motivated by a higher purpose it can’t provide genuine fulfillment. I enjoy the fact that the passages in the book are contemplative and can be read during quiet hours to ponder over.

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Book cover of Sidetracked


By Henning Mankell,

Why this book?

Police Inspector Kurt Wallander is called to a rapeseed field where a girl is hanging around. He arrives just in time to see her pour gasoline on herself and put herself on fire. The next day Sweden’s former Minister of Justice is killed and scalped. Wallander is desperate to find the murderer before he strikes again.

Henning Mankell has been called ‘the dean of Nordic Noir,’ and his novels about policeman Kurt Wallander shows why; Sidetracked, being one of my personal favourites. Frightening crime and a very human policeman with an old-fashioned moral code strives to solve them and…

From the list:

The best of Nordic noir from a Nordic noir fan

Book cover of With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman Among the Sami, 1907a 1908

With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman Among the Sami, 1907a 1908

By Emilie Demant Hatt, Barbara Sjoholm (translator),

Why this book?

If you’re curious about the woman who collected the Sami folktales, you’ll want to read Emilie Demant Hatt’s story of living in a tent with a Sami family in a community in Northern Sweden. You’ll be fascinated by her grueling journey with a group of Sami herders and their hundreds of reindeer over the icy mountains in the spring of 1908 to find summer pastures on the Norwegian coast. I’ve long loved the adventure, humor, and visual feast in this book, first published in 1913, and was eager to translate it and share it with readers curious about the high…

From the list:

The best books about the Sami and Sápmi

Book cover of The Wild Baby Goes to Sea

The Wild Baby Goes to Sea

By Barbro Lindgren, Eva Eriksson (illustrator),

Why this book?

Make-believe was one of my favorite pastimes as a little girl. When I wasn’t writing a story, chances were, I was off with a sister in a world of imagination. And when I was there, it was as if my fancy was reality. I think that’s why I identify with this charming picture book so much. The main character’s potent imagination pulls his surroundings into his play reality. But the ending leaves us to ponder, along with Baby Ben’s mama…can his imagination conjure things into the tangible world? This translation from the original Swedish expertly converted the rhymes, and the…

From the list:

The best picture books that capture children’s imaginations

Book cover of Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric

Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric

By Veronica Buckley,

Why this book?

Christina of Sweden, known today primarily through Greta Garbo’s portrayal of her in the 1933 film, became queen at age six when her father was killed in battle; she received the education of a prince, including the study of statecraft, for which she read the Latin biography of Elizabeth I. Initially deemed a boy at birth, Christina’s habit of crossdressing, her refusal to marry, and her romantic attachments to both women and men bespeak her ambiguous sexuality. Veronica Buckley’s biography does justice to this idiosyncratic and controversial figure who abdicated her throne, converted to Catholicism, and moved to Rome. Although…

From the list:

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Book cover of Beartown


By Fredrik Backman,

Why this book?

You could describe Fredrik Backman’s Beartown as the story of a broken Swedish forest town whose fate is tied to the success of a kids’ hockey team. This is accurate but woefully incomplete. In fact, I’m confident you’ll feel all the anger, empathy, and tenderness Backman has woven into a sports story that transcends pucks and goals. You will be ushered forward and backward in time. You’ll feel carried ahead even as the author freezes moments that deliver depth and perspective. The pivotal event will make your heart race. And in the end, you will wind up missing the people…

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Book cover of The Troubled Man

The Troubled Man

By Henning Mankell,

Why this book?

I love good writing, and I love the escapism provided by detective and spy thrillers. Choosing between so many quality authors: Le Carré, Dexter, James, Rankin, Nesbo, etc. is almost impossible and completely unfair. However, the series of Wallander novels by Mankell is one of my favourites. I have chosen the final book in the series – but obviously you should start with the first! As with most detective stories, Mankell’s hero has a messy life, his father doesn’t understand him (and vice-versa), his wife has left him, he has a hit & miss relationship with his only daughter, but…
From the list:

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Book cover of Let the Right One in

Let the Right One in

By John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ebba Segerberg (translator),

Why this book?

I am not impressed by vampire novels as I always feel as if I am being gypped into reading romance. First off, this book is not that book, although it involves a vampire. A twelve-year-old vampire to be exact, the best kind. I will admit that it will not leave you sleeping with the lights on or weaving a garlic necklace. It is understated when it comes to jump scares but manages to evoke dread nonetheless. What I loved about the book is its fresh take on vampires, the morose setting, and the no holds barred gruesomeness. So many things…

From the list:

The best books of Nordic horror guaranteed to get rid of “hygge”

Book cover of The Emigrants: The Emigrant Novels: Book I

The Emigrants: The Emigrant Novels: Book I

By Vilhelm Moberg,

Why this book?

If you like your historical fiction to have sweep, this is the series for you! Four novels that take their characters from Sweden to eastern Minnesota in the 1840s, through the Civil War, and onto the cusp of the modern age. Karl-Oscar and Kristina, their children, and their companions undergo incredible hardship as they make the journey and establish their new life in Taylors Falls. It’s the great American emigration story of struggle, achievement, and compromise, just as relevant today as ever. 

From the list:

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Book cover of Dark Pines

Dark Pines

By Will Dean,

Why this book?

Welcome to wild and snowy Gavrik (aka “Toytown”), a rural village in Sweden where an unsolved murder may be linked to a modern-day crime. Deaf newspaper reporter Tuva Moodyson is afraid of the forest, yet she’s forced to follow a breadcrumb trail into the woods that leads her from one strange local to another – including a pair of sisters who craft troll dolls so unimaginably creepy they gave me nightmares. Dark Pines has a remarkable sense of place and drips with Nordic noir atmosphere. 

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