Swedish literature has given us some of the best tales of all time. From children’s stories to crime, romance to comedy, these are just 10 of the must-read books written by Swedish authors.
- Hanna’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- Depths by Henning Mankell
- Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson
- The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
- Pippi Langkous by Astrid Lindgren
- Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg
- The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg
- Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard
- The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf
Hanna’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson
If you would like to learn some of the history of Sweden, but don’t fancy reading a long-winded history book, read Hanna’s Daughters. Marianne Fredriksson explores the love, loss, and sacrifice of family life through the eyes of three generations of women. With the ever-changing backdrop of Sweden, this novel will educate you on how Sweden has changed in 100 years, and how that change affected the lives of a grandmother, mother, and daughter.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
You will have likely heard this title before, as the novel was made into a box office hit in 2011. The book was released in 2005 and is the first novel of the Millennium Series by Steig Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is a dark psychological thriller, following journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander as they investigate the murder of Harriet Vanger. More than 100 million copies of the novel have been sold worldwide and it was ranked in The Guardian’s list of ‘100 Best Books of the 21st Century’.
Depths by Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell was a notorious crime author in Sweden, best known for his Wallander series. Depths is a step outside of the usual for Mankell, as he explores historical fiction through the tale of a Navel engineer in the first world war. The story begins with the naval engineer becoming dangerously obsessed with a beautiful woman, and quickly spirals into a warning tale of the dangers of deception.
Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson
Winner of the August Prize 2013, Wilful Disregard is a boy-meets-girl story quite like no other. The tale begins when writer Ester Nilsson is invited to give a lecture about artist Hugo Rask. The two meet for long dinners where they talk extensively, to the point where Ester falls in unrequited love. Despite Ester yearning for his love, Hugo gives her just enough hope to think he may fall for her, before taking it away. In this novel, Lena Anderson dissects the theme of love and passion and retells the classic boy-meets-girl tale in a brutally honest way.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window, was the bestselling novel of 2010 in Sweden. The story begins on Allan’s 100th birthday, which he celebrates by breaking out of the old people’s home he resides in. He is determined to fill his final days with adventure and, as he does, we learn of the adventures he has had in his past. This piece of hilarious comedy fiction is bound to make you laugh out loud. Once you have finished reading the book, watch the 2013 film adaptation of the same name.
Pippi Langkous by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Langkous, or Pippi Longstocking, has been an icon of children’s literature since her first appearance in 1945. She is a 9-year-old girl who lives alone with her pet monkey, horse, and a suitcase full of gold. She has superhuman strength and an anarchic attitude, which leads her on a multitude of fun adventures and mishaps. Pippi Longstocking is still widely read, and the character has been developed for TV and film and is still inspiring children to have fun adventures today.
Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Söderberg
When Doctor Glas was first published in 1905, it quickly became one of the most controversial books of the 1900s. Söderberg was a novelist, playwright, poet, and journalist, but Doctor Glas nearly ruined his career. The novel tells the story of the titular character and his love for one of his married patients. As his lover begins to confide in him about her failed marriage with a clergyman, Doctor Glas begins to ponder on whether to murder her husband, and what the repercussions of this act may be. With themes such as murder, abortion, and women’s rights heavily featuring throughout the book, it was heavily criticized when it was first published but is now considered a Swedish classic.
The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg
The Emigrants is part history, part drama, and 100% gripping. Split into 4 volumes, it tells the history of the crushing poverty that forced 1.5 million Swedes to emigrate to North America in the 1800s. The tale focuses on Kristina and Karl-Oskar and their family, friends, and enemies, but serves as a representation of the history of millions. It perfectly explains why so many Swedes have a complicated relationship with both Swedish and American history.
Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Autumn is one of the four books that Ove Knausgaard wrote with a seasonal title. It is autobiographical, and begins with a letter written by Knausgaard to his unborn child. The book itself is an introspective account of Knausgaard’s daily life with his wife and children in rural Sweden. Despite its mundane content, the way Knausgaard writes is reflective, and made Autumn a New York Times bestseller.
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf
This dark, yet geographically educational, children’s book has been a young reader’s staple since it was first published in 1906. The book begins with Nils mistreating animals on his family’s farm. When Nils is turned into an elf, he mounts a goose and flies across Sweden. As Nils travels from province to province, tales are told of characters in each province. This book is adventurous and fun and has taught children about the country of Sweden since it was first published.
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