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Ten Swedish books to read in 2022

a man reading a book and there's a dog on the floor
First New Year's resolution: read more books about Sweden. Second resolution: get a dog. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to read more? Here’s a list of book recommendations from Sweden or about Swedish life from writers and readers of The Local. 

The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life – Emma Löfgren & Catherine Edwards

Sweden is more than lifestyle trends and Ikea. It’s also the country of fredagsmys (cosy Friday), kosläpp (release of the cows), lillördag (little Saturday… or Wednesday), and where the average citizen dreams of a villa, Volvo and a vovve – or do they?

If you enjoy The Local’s Swedish Word of the Day column, then this book is for you. This is a great book to help you explore the Swedish lifestyle beyond the cliches, with the help of more than 100 uniquely Swedish words, translated into English. Learn more about the country where yes is just another word for no, where the word for poison is the same as for married, and where words without meaning are mashed snow.

In Every Mirror She’s Black – Lola Akinmade Åkerström 

For anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world, this novel follows the stories of three Black women in search of a better life who end up in Sweden. It explores racism, tokenism, and more, through the nuanced experiences of Black women living in a white-dominated society. Akinmade Åkerström, a Nigerian-American author and travel writer, pulls no punches in her debut novel. 

You might recognise her name from the popular coffee table book, Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, and the many travel articles she has written about Sweden. 

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See also on The Local:

50 Words for Love in Swedish – Stephen Keeler

From bageri (bakery) to vitsippa (wood anemone) via Björn Borg, Saab and smörgåsbord, Keeler takes us on a journey through the objects, places and people that made him fall in with Sweden. This book, recommended to us by a reader of The Local, charts his life after moving to Mariestad to teach English in the 70s; a delightful love affair with the country he calls home.

They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears – Johannes Anyuru

The plot of this novel surrounds a Swedish writer who is invited to a high-security psychiatric unit to interview a young former terrorist who claims to come from the future. She hands him a bundle of papers that tell the story of an alternate Sweden where populist nationalists have seized power.

According to Sweden.se, the novel “artfully combines speculative fiction with a nuanced exploration of harsh political realities, all written in a pulsating, rhythmic prose”. It was awarded the August Prize for fiction – one of the most prestigious literary awards in Sweden. Anyuru is a Swedish-Ugandan poet and author and “one of the leading writers of his generation”.

Everything I Don’t Remember – Jonas Hassen Khemiri

In this novel the narrator anticipates being asked “How Swedish do you feel?”

Sometimes, it can be a lighthearted question, for example when you go for lunch at 11.30am or start taking your coffee black and joke that you’ve now earned citizenship. But it is often a very loaded, difficult issue; in the book and in reality, it’s a question tied up with race, discrimination, and the challenge of integration. This is a politically engaged novel with a lot to say on immigration.

Jonas Hassen Khemiri is a multi award-winning playwright and author. This novel has been sold in over 20 countries.

Beartown – Fredrik Backman

This is a story about a small town’s junior ice hockey team, the first in a series of novels. The team is the pride of Beartown, a small and struggling community in rural northern Sweden. A lot of hopes are pinned on the prospect of their championship victory, from the players, parents, and villagers who all hope a win would bring them just what they need. But a violent act by their star player changes everything.

You need not be a hockey fan to read this book, or even have experience of small town life in Sweden. It’s about community, conformity, trust, and right and wrong – topics that resonate with anyone, anywhere in the world.

Fishing in Utopia – Andrew Brown 

Brown, a British journalist, tells a semi-autobiographical story of a misfit Englishman who moves to Sweden in the 1970s and becomes absorbed in and by the country.

He marries a Swedish woman and works in a timber mill outside Gothenburg, but Sweden is not the Utopia he was promised. Prime Minister Olof Palme is assassinated. The country falls apart. The protagonist yearns for the Sweden he loved and searches the length of the country to find it again. 

Easy Money – Jens Lapidus 

Easy Money quickly became a bestseller when it was published in 2006, selling over 3.8 million copies worldwide. The author is a criminal lawyer with access to stories from the grittier underworld of Sweden rarely seen before. The first of his Stockholm Noir trilogy follows the lives of three characters entwined with Stockholm’s dark underbelly, whose main driver in life is the quest for easy cash. 

It’s full of Stockholm slang, but if you want to try reading it in Swedish you can get a version in Lätt Svenska, where the language is pared down for those still learning the language. There is also a trilogy of films based on the series, and a Netflix series.

Popular Music from Vittula – Mikael Niemi 

Niemi tells a fantasy version of his upbringing in the north of Sweden during the 1960s and 70s. With humorous and ironic depictions of the people in the town he describes their communist views, family feuds, machismo, hard drinking, and local superstition. Recommended by a reader of The Local, it’s an important account of an upbringing in rural parts of northern Sweden, which also won the August Prize for fiction.

The Emigrants – Vilhelm Moberg

In a series of novels written in the middle of the 20th century, Moberg describes the long and strenuous journey of a party of poor Swedes from Småland to Minnesota in 1850. Religious persecution, poverty and poor land persuade Kristina, Karl-Oskar and their neighbours to make the perilous voyage at the beginning of the first significant wave of immigration to the US from Sweden. The series sold nearly two million copies in Sweden and has been translated into more than 20 languages. A new film adaptation has just come out this Christmas.  

What’s your favourite book set in Sweden? Let us know in the comments!


Member comments

  1. Hej!
    I love all of Fredrik Backman’s books incl. Beartown and just finished Anxious People. It is absolutely brilliant, set somewhere outside Stockholm. Just loved it!

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