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In recent years, Swedish authors such as Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell have become internationally known. Before them came a parade of literary notables including two Nobel laureates (Selma Lagerlöf and Pär Lagerkvist) and timeless favorite Astrid Lindgren, whose Pippi Longstocking series has made her one of the most translated children's authors in the world.
Note that Swedish has also been used for many great works of Finnish literature, so be sure to visit both lists for reading ideas.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Few books have captured international audiences as those starring gifted yet socially stunted Lisbeth Salander, the antiheroine of three novels written by the original author. The first in the crime-thriller series chronicles her meeting journalist Mikael Blomkvist as they uncover the dark secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families. In 2008, four years after his sudden death, Larsson was the second best-selling author in the world, just behind the Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini.
Let the Right One In
In a working-class Stockholm suburb in 1981, a relationship develops between a 12-year-old human and a centuries-old vampire. The subtle, understated horror movie was so popular in its native Sweden that it spawned a film in its homeland and the U.S., a stage production in England, and even a fan Wiki. Note to Morrissey fans: Watch for references in all the author’s works; the title of this book is a nod to Moz’s song “Let the Right One Slip In.”
A Man Called Ove
The international phenomenon remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 42 weeks, thanks to the charisma of its curmudgeonly title character. Almost all of Backman’s novels have been bestsellers in his homeland, with several turned into films.
Nearly 50 authors from all five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) provide essays on Northern life, including the environmental business practices that have made the region an economic powerhouse and one of the regions with the happiest residents and best quality of life in the world. (Recommended by H.E. Björn Lyrvall, Swedish ambassador to the U.S., in CN Traveler.)
Pettson and Findus
Although not as internationally famous as Finland‘s Moomins or England‘s Peter Pan, Pettson and Findus enjoy notoriety throughout Europe’s under-12 population, thanks in part to the anthropomorphic antics of Findus the cat. The children’s series has enjoyed such success worldwide that it has been translated into no less than 55 languages.
Long before there was Katniss Everdeen, Pippi was kicking butt from Sweden to the South Seas, teaching kids of all genders the meaning of self-empowerment and independence — while being delightfully quirky (and downright sassy). In 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Institute listed the novel as one of the “Top 100 Works of World Literature.” Go, redheads!
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