Scandinavia Books: The Best Reads on Northern Europe

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Many people about the world are in love with the idea of Scandinavia, even if they’ve never visited. If you want to dig a little deeper into what the region is really like, here's our recommendations for the best Scandinavia books.

Are you a Scandiphile? Millions of people around the world are lovers of Scandinavian design and Nordic lifestyle trends. But how much do you really know about the region?

Girl reading a Scandinavian book by a fjord.

Here at Life in Norway, we often cover stories from around the region. We have so much in common with our Nordic neighbours, after all!

Check out out our Scandinavia blog for plenty of stories from all over Northern Europe. But for a deeper dive into the region, nothing beats a book. In this article, we take a look at the best non-fiction books about Scandinavia.

Some of the book recommendations contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may receive a small commission to help with our running costs but the price to you is exactly the same.

Best Scandinavia non-fiction books

First off, we'll start by taking a look at the leading non-fiction titles. These titles are a fantastic way to take a look at the region’s history, lifestyle and culture from a broad perspective.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth

The 2014 book’s subtitle ‘Behind the myth of the Scandinavian utopia’ suggests it takes a negative perspective on the north, but it’s first and foremost a witty travelogue.

It seeks to answer whether Nordic people really are as happy as the surveys suggest, visiting the five main Nordic countries on the way.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

The Almost Nearly Perfect People book cover.

Viking Economics by George Lakey

“How the Scandinavians got it right—and how we can, too” is a tempting subtitle for anyone interested in the Nordic model of economics.

Lakey accepts that the Nordic model cannot be used as-is in other parts of the world, but argues that there are still things other countries (in particular the US and UK) can learn.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

Viking Economics book cover image.

The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen

Many books on places are written by outsiders who have moved there. Not so here. This book is by a native Finn who has become an American citizen.

Partanen asks her now fellow Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

The Nordic Theory of Everything book cover.

Best Norway books

We've covered the best crime books from Norway before, so here's a selection of some non-fiction books you might enjoy.

How to Find a Job in Norway

Of course, we have to start out with one of our own products!

As the title suggests, this book is packed with helpful advice on finding employment as an English-speaker in Norway.

We cover the job-seeking strategy and required mindset, where to find relevant vacancies, and the all important interview technique.

Buy: AmazonAdlibris NorwayeBok.no (eBook in Norway)

How to Find a Job in Norway book cover

A Frog in the Fjord by Lorelou Desjardins

A two-time guest on the Life in Norway Show, Lorelou sets out to discover the truth about Norway while giving herself one year to figure out whether she wants to live in Norway for good. It doesn't start well, as making local friends and dating are proving to be much harder than she thought…

The book is available in English, Norwegian and French.

BuyAmazon – Norwegian version from ARK NorwayDirect from author

A Frog in the Fjord book cover

The Cabin in the Mountains by Robert Ferguson

A true pursuit of a dream. In 2016, Ferguson and his wife bought some remote land and built a wooden cabin.

Such cabins are an integral part of Norwegian culture. In this book, Ferguson reflects on his own journey while exploring the cultural significance of this simple structure.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

The Cabin in the Mountains by Robert Ferguson book cover

Best Sweden books

Now let's take a closer look at our neighbours, Sweden.

Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola A. Åkerström

The Nigerian American author explores the Swedish ethos of lagom, which she says “pretty much defines what it is to be and think like a Swede.”

The five letter word may be short but it has a whole host of meanings, including “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, “just enough”, “ideal” or “suitable”.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

Lagos book cover image

The Little Book of Fika

An essential part of Swedish lifestyle, fika is the simple art of taking a break with friends, a warm beverage and a sweet treat.

Packed with facts, quotes, tips, and recipes, this little book is big on value and makes the ideal gift for the Scandinavia fan in your life.


Little Book of Fika book cover

A Year in Kronoberg by Geoff Bunn

What is life really like in Sweden? That's the question the British author seeks to answer in the style of Peter Mayle's ‘Year in Provence'.

The Observer says the book “completely lifts the lid on a country we all secretly admire even though we know surprisingly little about it.”


A Year in Kronoberg book cover.

Best Denmark books

Now let's take a closer look at other Scandinavian neighbours, Denmark.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Another author keen to discover the secrets of happy Scandinavia, Helen Russell takes what the Guardian called “a hugely enjoyable romp” through Denmark to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.

She uncovers the truth about childcare, education, food and interior design, SAD and taxes, realising what Denmark does right and what it doesn't.

BuyAmazon – ARK Norway

The Year of Living Danishly book cover.

How to be Danish by Patrick Kingsley

This book was born when the author wondered how much we really know about Denmark, despite the popularity of Danish TV, Lego and other Danish cultural exports.

An entertaining introduction to contemporary Danish culture including politics, television, food, architecture and design.

Buy: Amazon

How to be Danish by Patrick Kingsley book cover.

Of course, this is just a selection of Scandinavia books. There are loads out there, so perhaps we've missed off one of your favourites? Let us know in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “Scandinavia Books: The Best Reads on Northern Europe”

  1. I’ve read most of these books: they all are very similar in tone, being written by well-educated wealthy middle class journalists. Such people are the best equipped to get the most out of any country they live in – you’d have to read the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen to get the other side of the story. Even Aftenposten does the occasional labour exploitation story in its Sunday magazine.
    I prefer reading contemporary historical books about the Nordic countries, so here are three I would recommend about the post-war Norden:-
    The World of the Norseman – Odd Hölaas. Written in 1949, it is about Norway’s post-WWII recovery, how collaboration with the Nazis was dealt with, and how the country united to rebuild herself as a social democracy in the pre-oil years.
    The Scandinavians – Donald S Connery. This 1966 book uses the old definition of the Nordic countries, visiting all five of the main ones. This was written at what was arguably ‘Peak Scandinavia’ – the high point of the social democratic years: before either the oil money kicked in; the demands on welfare systems became too great; the region became less isolated to global problems such as the drug epidemic and mass migration/demand for semi- and unskilled labour in wealthy countries; climate and environmental concerns etc etc.
    To get a real look at the ‘Dark side of the Scandinavian Dream Society’ featured in Nordic Noir novels, read ‘The New Totalitarians’ by Roland Huntford, written in 1972 about the affects of four decades of the government of Sweden by the Social Democratic Party.
    Huntford is better known for revisionist accounts of polar expeditions carried out in its ‘Golden Age’ of exploration, but this lesser known book is that rare, or probably unique thing: a nearly completely negative account of life in a Nordic country. It’s readable and entertaining enough, but as one-sided as his book about Scott and Amundsen’s ‘race to the Pole.’


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