Read The World: 10 Books About Stockholm

Swedish literature is a lot more than just Scandinavian noir (though, admittedly, there is a lot of that).

Stockholm is situated in an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. Because of its unique geographic placement, the city extends across 14 islands, connected to each other by bridges. It should come as no surprise, then, that the city’s filled with diverse stories. Whether you want to explore the city yourself or simply learn more about it, one of the best ways to do so is by diving into some of the books about Stockholm. The only question is, where do you start?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer to that. You could start by reading one of the classics of Scandinavian Noir — a genre so prevalent in Stockholm that it seems a fictional murder has happened nearly everywhere. Or, you could read a more straightforward nonfiction account of the Swedish capital. To give you a little guidance, we collected 10 of our favorite books about Stockholm, which transcend time and genre to give you several unique perspectives. No matter what your reading preferences are, something here is bound to spark your interest.

While many of the books on this list were originally written in Swedish, each of them is currently available in English. That said, if you’re learning Swedish, we encourage you to give them a shot in their original language.

Nonfiction Books About Stockholm

Stockholm nonfiction books represented by the covers of Stockholm, War Diaries, Six Days in August, The 1912 Stockholm Olympics and Lagom

For The Historian: Stockholm By Tony Griffiths

If you’re looking for an overview of the city, Stockholm is a worthwhile place to start. Subtitled “A Cultural History,” the book tells the story of Sweden’s capital from the days of the Vikings to the present (or 2009, at least, as that’s when the book was published). Tony Griffiths, as tour guide through this book, is a bit more opinionated than your average history writer. This may turn off certain readers, but it’s still one of the most comprehensive books on the city available.

For The Memoir Lover: War Diaries, 1939-1945 By Astrid Lindgren

If the name Astrid Lindgren rings a bell, it’s probably because of her most famous creation: Pippi Longstocking. Before that, however, she was living in Stockholm through the events of World War II and keeping a diary the whole time. In them, she gave an account of what life was like in the city during the war, as well as insights into the formation of her beloved children’s book character. Lindgren’s diaries weren’t discovered until the 21st century, but fortunately they were collected into War Diaries, 1939-1945, giving readers a firsthand account of an unsettling time in history.

For The True Crime Reader: Six Days In August By David King

To those who only have a passing familiarity with Stockholm, their first thoughts when hearing about it might not be the beautiful harbor city, but instead, Stockholm syndrome. Loosely defined, this is when people start to sympathize with their captors. This syndrome earned its name because of a bank robbery that led to a six-day hostage situation, and it’s been a major cultural touchstone ever since. In Six Days in August, David King tells the true story of the robbery, and explores why Stockholm syndrome has become such a popular concept despite being exceedingly rare in reality.

For The Sports Fan: The 1912 Stockholm Olympics By Leif Yttergren And Hans Bolling

Since the modern era of the Olympic Games started in 1896, Sweden has only hosted them a single time. In The 1912 Stockholm Olympics, an anthology of essays, writers look back on the games on the 100th anniversary of their being held. The various writers take different approaches to the games, showing how the event affected not just the athletes and spectators but the city as a whole.

For The Lifestyle Explorer: Lagom By Linnea Dunne

There’s something about Scandinavia that appeals to the rest of the world. Perhaps the Danish term hygge has gotten the most press, but it’s certainly not alone. In Sweden, there’s lagom, which roughly means “just the right amount.” While that may sound like a simple concept, it is also the basis for a whole way of living. In Lagom, Swedish-born author Linnea Dunne dives into the Swedish lifestyle and how lagom is used in food, design, free time and more. It’s an oversimplification to say that every Swedish person adheres to this concept, but there are things to learn about Swedish culture from this book. 

Fiction Books About Stockholm

Stockholm Fiction Books represented by the covers of City of My Dreams, Let The Right One In, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Laughing Policeman and Are U 4 Real?

For The Voracious Reader: City Of My Dreams By Per Anders Fogelström

City of My Dreams is the first in a series of five novels by Per Anders Fogelström, all of which feature Stockholm as the central setting. This book begins the story in the 19th century, focussed on an impoverished child named Henning Nilsson, who builds his working-class family and watches his fortunes rise along with his adopted city. The book series as a whole spans decades, ending in 1968, and each book serves as a study of a different era in Stockholm’s past.

For The Horror Enthusiast: Let The Right One In By John Ajvide Lindqvist

Before it became a hit movie, Let the Right One In was a bestselling novel. If you’re looking for hot, romantic vampires, then you’ll want to search elsewhere. This story takes place in a suburb of Stockholm, where a boy obsessed with murder befriends a strange girl with superhuman abilities and a strange condition. We won’t spoil the book for you, but it’s not one to read if you’re at all squeamish.

For The Thriller Seeker: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo By Stieg Larsson

Arguably the biggest literary sensation to come from Sweden in the 21st century is the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo kicked off the series with journalist Mikael Blomkvist being sent to live with a wealthy family while secretly trying to solve a murder that happened decades before. Along the way, he teams up with Lisbeth Salander, who has become an icon (she’s fictional, but you can visit “her apartment” if you’re in Stockholm). The series was originally supposed to be 10 books, but Larsson died after completing only three. However, they’re so popular that other authors have taken up the mantle and continue publishing books about Blomkvist and Salander.

For The Noir Fan: The Laughing Policeman By Maj Sjöwall And Per Wahlöö

While Stieg Larsson is a more famous name internationally, the crime fiction of duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö is probably a more ingrained part of Swedish literature. The Laughing Policeman is the fourth in a series of novels about Martin Beck, a police officer who in this story is chasing after a man who killed nine people on a bus. A completionist might want to start with the first in the series (Roseanna), but this one sticks out for its thrilling plot, and also because it’s set entirely in Stockholm.

For The Young Adult At Heart: Are U 4 Real? By Sara Kadefors

One way to get a look at a culture is to get into a book that’s commonly assigned reading. One popular Swedish example is Are U 4 Real?, an early internet novel about two teens who meet online and fall in love. When they meet in person, however, things don’t go exactly to plan. The version of the novel published in the United States takes a lot of liberties with the original story — changes the main character’s names, relocates the plot to San Francisco, removes some of the sex — so if you can, you might prefer reading the Swedish original, Sandor Slash Ida. Because it’s written for young adults, it could make for an approachable start to your Swedish reading goals.

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