Summer reading guide 2015: staff picks

We hope you enjoy these summer reading recommendations from the Norwegian American Weekly staff!


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The first of the Flavia de Luce detective stories, this is a delightful light summer read. Flavia de Luce is a precocious eleven-year-old girl with a passion for chemistry. A series of unusual events around her family’s English country manor in the 1950s propel her on a quest to solve the mystery. Norway and Stavanger get a shout-out in the book.
Recommended by Patricia Barry

memory boy 2

Memory Boy by Will Weaver
Through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Miles Newell, Minnesota author Will Weaver paints a picture of survival, determination, and hope in this YA novel. Escaping the chaotic aftermath of global volcanic eruptions in the city, Newell and his family head to a cabin in the north. In the process they discover that people are not always what they seem.
Recommended by Heidi Håvan Grosch

hunting dogs

The Hunting Dogs by Jorn Lier Horst
Horst is one of Norway’s best crime novelists. The Hunting Dogs is a real page-turner as Inspector Wisting races against time to find a young woman who has gone missing.
Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni

silent land

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
A couple returns from surviving an avalanche on the ski slopes to learn that they’re the only people left in the entire alpine village. As they remain alone—and unable to leave—they begin to notice other strange things and face uncomfortable truths. Beautifully written, this novel will probably make you cry.
Recommended by Emily C. Skaftun

if you lived here 2

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende
A terrific book about life in the small town of Haines, Alaska. Heather writes for Haine’s Chilkat Valley News and is also a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and NPR’s Morning Edition. It is filled with real news from small-town Alaska.
Recommended by David Moe


Cod by Mark Kurlansky
A biography of the fish that changed the world. Were the Basques of northwestern Spain fishing for cod off the coast of today’s Massachusetts and salting it, rather than drying it to a tough bark as the North Atlantic Scandinavians did? The impact of this one, protein-rich fish in the Catholic world was extraordinary.
Recommended by Rolf Kristian Stang

dancing fish

Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir by Penelope Lively
This delightful and engrossing memoir by the 80-year-old award-winning novelist Penelope Lively accomplishes everything one could wish for in autobiographical writing. It is thought-provoking, evocative, masterly, deeply human, and—at a mere 234 pages—also succinct.
Recommended by Melinda Bargreen


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
After a childhood spent in the foster care system, Victoria finds it difficult to get close to anyone. But she realizes she can help others (and herself) through the flowers she understands so well. A compelling, engaging, romantic story from start to finish.
Recommended by Rosalie Grosch

bel canto

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
This imaginative novel of hostages and terrorists discovering their better sides while spending four months together in a small fictional South American country, was inspired, the author says, by the real-life 1996 Lima crisis, when terrorists took over an embassy building there. Unlike the real event, the “glue” of this novel is a famous, irresistible, talented European opera singer, one of the hostages. Resisting the urge to find out what happened in Lima, I allowed myself to be absorbed into this charming story to the bitter end.
Recommended by Carla Danziger

edge of the world

The Edge of the World by Michael Pye
A book full of surprises about the emergence of modernity in northern Europe, from the Vikings to beginnings of modernity. Was it on the shores of the North Sea that our way of thinking changed from medieval to modern? A true revelation about the revolution that was going on up in “our” corner of the globe, the book is beautifully written, with the eye of a journalist and the authenticity of an historian. You’ll be saying to yourself, “Oh, that’s how that got started.” And it was in the North!
Recommended by Judith Gabriel Vinje

hidden child

The Hidden Child by Camilla Läckberg
While digging through her late mother’s possessions, crime writer Erica Falck finds a Nazi medal. She consults a WWII historian, but when he is found murdered and Erica learns he was her mother’s childhood friend, she realizes she’s uncovered something far more dangerous than she realized. With her detective husband, Erica works to solve these mysteries—past and present. I admit it: this crime novel is Swedish, but the WWII plot and Norwegian storylines will undoubtedly intrigue Norwegian-American readers.
Recommended by Molly Jones

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Melinda Bargreen

Melinda Bargreen is a Seattle-based writer and composer whose career at The Seattle Times began in 1977. Her choral works include the “Norwegian Folksong Suite.” Melinda contributes to many publications and is the author of Seattle Opera’s forthcoming 50-year history book. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a doctorate in English from the University of California, Irvine.