Learning Norwegian in order to read specific Norwegian books is probably more common than you might think. Author James Joyce, who spoke 17 languages, decided to learn Norwegian because he wanted to be able to playwright Henrik Ibsen’s works in their original language. South Bend, Indiana Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg studied Norwegian for a similar reason: he wanted to read books by Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe in their original language. One of Loe’s novels appears in our list below.
But it can also work the other way around. If you’re already learning Norwegian (or would like to), reading Norwegian books can serve as a helpful supplement to your language studies. We’ve compiled a list of five Norwegian books for beginner and intermediate learners, as recommended by our language experts. Crack one open and enjoy!
Norwegian Books For Language Learners
1. Naiv.Super. (Beginner)
This novel by Erlend Loe is a great starting point for learners who are fairly new to the Norwegian language. It’s about a young man who has an existential crisis when his brother beats him in croquet. Published in 1996, the humorous story uses simple, straightforward language but explores complex ideas, like the meaning of life.
2. Herman (Beginner)
Lars Saabye Christensen’s 2005 novel is the coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old boy named Herman. Living in Oslo, Herman struggles with growing up and the fact that he’s already losing his hair. The language is pretty easy for beginners, partially because the narrator is a pre-teen and so has a simpler vocabulary.
3. Noe som hjelper (Beginner)
This short novel by Mona Høvring tells the story of a young girl named Laura. In direct but poignant language, the book takes readers through Laura’s sexual awakening, as well as her relationships with her friends and family. Noe som hjelper, which translates to “Something that helps,” is a good choice for beginners who want to read something short and poetic.
4. Ut og stjæle hester (Intermediate)
A contemporary classic, this novel by Per Petterson is about an older man who moves to a small house by a lake and reflects on the dramatic events of the summer when he was 15. This book is classified as intermediate because it deals with different time periods and uses some difficult descriptive language about nature. The English title is Out Stealing Horses, which you can use as a companion book if you’re struggling with only the Norwegian.
5. Sofies verden (Intermediate)
This innovative novel takes readers on a journey into the history of philosophy, all through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl named Sofie. Josten Gaarder’s international bestseller is written for young adults, but the complex language surrounding philosophy make it better for intermediate Norwegian learners.