Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recommend Your Favorite Swedish Reads, If You Dare (Also where I admit that I don't really dig Steig)

OK, first things first. I am a big reader. A huge reader. And this makes me a little bit of a reading snob. I don't think this makes me elitist. I just think that books that appeal to someone who reads a lot are not the same books that appeal to some who doesn't read a lot (and god bless the poor soul who gave me a copy of The Divinci Code, and then asked me eight times what I thought of it, before I exploded in a long rant about that).

That said, summer is coming up, and I need to work on building my Swedish vocabulary. So I'm going in for another try at Swedish literature. Because I have tried before, and nothing really tickles my fancy. So here it is, I dare you to recommend a Swedish writer or book for me to try out this summer. I promise I won't hang you out to dry if I don't like the book. And if I like it, and I have time, I promise to post about it on here.

My likes:
I'm a lit fic reader, most of the time. Some of my favorite books include: Middlesex, The Corrections, anything by Margaret Atwood.

The rest of the time I love historical fiction (The Terror by Dan Simmons is one of my all-time favorites) and sometimes books with a little magical twist (Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand).

And I do read pretty much anything Steven King writes, because I think he is good.

Swedish authors I have read and not hated: Ulf Lundell, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ibsen (ok not Swedish, but close)

My dislikes:

I'm not big on crime fiction or shallow characters for the sake of action.

I'm not big on books where all of the characters are unlikable (Brett Easton Ellis, I'm talking to you), I like to cheer for someone, even if it is the bad guy.

I can stomach violence, but really only tolerate it if it is forwarding the story.

And I will admit, on this blog, for once and for all. I haven't managed to make it through Man som hatar kvinnor, or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have tried on numerous occasions, but I found it is just so full of backstory that it made my eyes bleed and by page 147 I gave up. So now when people ask what I think about Steig Larsson, I just say, 'I haven't read that yet.' I know I know I know I am in the minority on this. I know. Everyone else LOVES it. Forgive me on this one, please.

The books I have on my possible reading list so far:

Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann Jonas Jonasson

Sirila Gentlemän Sökes Karin Brunk Holmquist

So, seriously, if I haven't scared you away or bored you to tears yet. And you have a great book you are just dying to recommend. Please! Do so! (And really, I'll take English books, too. Because really I am aiming to read 100 books this year).


  1. I haven't read a ton of Swedish books, but these two authors were not bad:

    Louise Boije af Gennäs
    Marie Hermanson

    Non-Swedish you might be interested in: Diana Gabaldon, Elizabeth Kostova.

  2. Ahh, I had the same problem as you with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! I just couldn't read the whole thing. Maybe I would have if I had more free time, I don't know. You should cheat like I did and watch the movie! It was a lot more fast-paced than the book, I enjoyed it. :)

  3. A must-read: The Stockholm-suite by Per-Anders Fogelström, a series of five books:
    Mina drömmars stad
    Barn av sin stad
    Minns du den stad
    I en förvandlad stad
    Stad i världen

    And of course Vilhem Mobergs emigrant-suite:
    Sista brevet till Sverige

    I've read these books several times over 45 years and they are just as amazing every time.

  4. I have to reinforce antropologa's suggestion to read Diana Gabaldon. Not at all Swedish, but her Outlander series is wonderful historical fiction, in my opinion. And as you say, you read a lot of books, these will keep you busy for a while as they are difficult to simply burn through. =)

  5. I'll recommend Camilla Läckberg if you like crime stories. :)

  6. I second the suggestions from Micke, the books by Per-Anders Fogelström are really great! They tell the story of Stockholm becoming a modern city, but they do it while tellig the story of a boy who comes to Stockholm for work and then follows his famliy and children and childrens children through the years. It's relly hard to put those books down!

    The same goes for the books by Vilhelm Moberg, where you get to follow a bunch of people leaving Sweden for a new life in America.

  7. Doktor Glas och Den allvarsamma leken by Hjalmar Söderberg are two favourites I recommend!

  8. I think I may have the cure.

    Händelser vid vatten - Kerstin Ekman

    Dvärgen - Pär Lagerkvist

    Livläkarens besök - P.O. Enquist

    Röda Rummet - August Strindberg

    The vocabulary and prose in these books is the s***.

  9. Oooh Thank you thank you thank you! This is all very inspiring.

    I have not tried Per-Anders Fogelström at all, so I will have to check that out. And Soderberg as well. Sounds intriguing. And, ooh, Enquist, I forgot about him - time to give it a try. And Kerstin Ekman and some of the other women on the list because I can't remember having read too many lady Swedish writers (as Norman Mailer might say)

    As for Strindberg and Moberg I've been a little intimidated, but I think you are right, it is time to bite the bullet and go for the good stuff. I am a firm believer that most classics are classics because they are awesome - even if they are little scary on first approach.

    I will write down the others and check them out at my local bookshop and library. I'll be commuting a bit longer this summer, for a few weeks, which will mean optimal reading time!

    Thanks also for the Gabaldon suggestion, I've heard that name a lot, but always forget it when at the bookstore. I think it is time to give Outlander a try.

    Thanks again, and if you have any more - keep them coming!

  10. Hi, I recommend Carl-Johan Vallgren - Den vidunderliga kärlekens historia, 2002.

    Marianne Fredriksson - Anna Hanna och Johanna, 1996

    Mikael Niemi - Populärmusik från Vittula, 2000

    Check out for readers reviews of books.

  11. Definitely seconding Moberg - all of his books are amazing, but especially utvandrarsviten. Also recommending Moa Martinsson two most well-known groups of work, Kvinnor och äppelträd/Sallys söner and Mor gifter sig/Kyrkbröllop/Kungens rosor.
    If you're looking for something lighter (100 books in one year is a bit of a lot), do some YA. My personal favorite in Swedish is Maria Gripe's Agnes Cecilia.

  12. @anon3 thanks, I forgot about popularmusik, it was one of the first books I read in Swedish and I kicked it. Thanks for reminding me, I'll check out the others

    @t-Anna thanks! You actually guessed my strategy, reading a bit of YA. But I didn't even think about Swedish YA. Will look for that book and let me know if there is anything else that shouldn't be missed.

  13. Oooh, let's see.
    Well, Gripe is awesome in all cases, other than Agnes Cecilia, there's also Skuggsviten in what I know three parts; Skuggan under stenbänken/Skugggömman/De mörka skuggorna i skogen.

    I am also fond of Astrid Lindgren's first published work, although the term YA didn't exist then, it's known as a "girl's book", Britt-Marie lättar sitt hjärta. It's quite funny and witty and gives some insight into the life of a teenage girl in a small Swedish town mid-century.

    If you don't want to reign yourself in with the old classics, I'd recommend Det är så logiskt, alla fattar utom du by Lisa Bjärbo. Johanna Thydell is also an awesome YA author, her I taket lyser sjärnorna and Det fattas en tärning are really quite amazing. She has a new one out I haven't read too, called Ursäkta att man vill bli lite älskad. And the BIG thing happening in Swedish YA right now is Cirkeln, by Mats Strandbeg & Sara Bergmark Elfgren. Oh dear. I may gave to get back to you when I think of even more stuff :)

  14. @t-anna - that is great THANKS!

    @anon3 - by kicked I mean liked - thank you autocorrect, I will stop commenting on my phone now!

  15. On the subject of YA books, you should give the Kula-Gulla series a try. It's kinda sappy and silly mostly. But i think most women in sweden have read it when they were younger. ;)

    Also since no one has said it yet, Karin Boye. She's one of the most famous female poets/writers in sweden and her book Kallocain is in the same genre as George Orwells 1984.

  16. You absolutely have to read Torgny Lindgren, especially "Pölsan". And "Rövarna i Skuleskogen" by Kerstin Ekman, and "Gösta Berlings saga" by Selma Lagerlöf (much easier than Strindberg, despite belonging to the same generation).

    I would also like to recommend some more poets: Dan Andersson (wonderfully interpreted by singer Sofia Karlsson), Carl Michael Bellman (frankly an incomparable genius), Gustaf Fröding (the greatest of the last 150 years) and Erik Axel Karlfeldt. Oh, and Edith Södergran, who lived a short and sickly life outside Saint Petersburg but who wrote marvellously strong feminist poetry around the time of WWI.