Summer reading guide 2021: staff picks

summer reading guide 2021
One of the most delightful parts of summertime is the chance to slow down, kick back, and take some time to read. As per our summer tradition, the staff of The Norwegian American is excited to offer you some recommendations of some of the books we’ve been reading this summer. With such an eclectic list, we’re sure there is something for everyone here. Grab a copy, a cool drink, and dive in. We hope you enjoy our summer reading picks!

The Last Viking book cover for 2021 summer reading guideLori Ann Reinhall, Editor-in-Chief

The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen

Stephen Brown

Da Capo Press, 2012

Heroes can be complicated, as I learned when I interviewed Espen Sandberg about his epic film about Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, Amundsen (2019). This led me to the 2012 biography, The Last Viking by Stephen R. Brown. Amundsen was the first man to sail the Northwest Passage, the first to reach the South Pole, and the first to see the North Pole. For decades, he made the international lecture circuit, spending more nights in NYC’s luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel than at his home in Norway. If you read this book, you will learn more about what drove this Norwegian superstar to his amazing feats—perhaps with some surprises.

The Mercies book cover for 2021 summer reading guideCourtney Olsen, Assistant Editor

The Mercies

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Little, Brown and Company, 2020

A story of disaster, grief, and friendship set against the backdrop of the 1621 witch trials in Vardø, Finnmark, The Mercies follows the developing relationship between two young women, Maren and Ursa, while engaging with the persecution of the Sámi by the witch-obsessed religious and political leadership of the 17th century. A fascinating historical novel with heart, Hargrave’s writing is as striking and rich as the real-life events she takes inspiration from, and I was completely spellbound from page one. 

A Man Called Ove book cover for summer 2021 summer reading guideMichael Kleiner, Business & Sports Editor

A Man Called Ove

Fredrik Backman

Washington Square Press, 2014

Can’t a man commit suicide without being interrupted? Ove is a 59-year-old curmudgeon, stickler for rules, prone to saying something inappropriate and disliking new ways. His mother died when he was young, his father when Ove was 16, leaving him with a house and a Saab, beginning Ove’s devotion to the brand. He learned to live independently. His beloved wife, Sonja, the only person who understood him, has died. He wishes to reunite with her. Though he might complain, he always does considerate things. We see Ove change through interactions with new neighbors, but also development of community and its value.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota book coverChristy Olsen Field, Taste of Norway Editor

The Lager Queen of Minnesota

J. Ryan Stradal

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2019

This is a delightful novel about pie, family dynamics, Midwest values, and the art of making really good beer. The Lager Queen of Minnesota is the second book I’ve read by Stradal (I love his debut novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest), and I just love his characters and writing style. It’s impossible to not cheer on the protagonist Diana and her unlikely team of brewers.

Scandinavian Design and the United States book coverCynthia Elyce Rubin, Travel Editor

Scandinavian Design & the United States, 1890–1980

Edited by Bobbye Tigerman and Monica Obniski

Prestel, 2020

This hardcover exhibition catalog examines design exchanges between the Scandinavian countries and the United States over nearly a century and explores the reasons why Nordic design continues to resonate with Americans. The complex topic of the varied Scandinavian countries is described in individual essays about specific themes. With the traveling exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum postponed because of the COVID-19, the book makes for fascinating interim reading.

Finding the Light Within book coverMattea Bertling, Design Editor

Finding the Light Within: My Journey of Healing after the Holocaust

Mary Friedmann Berges

Keokee Books, 2018

Finding the Light Within: My Journey of Healing After the Holocaust is an intriguing and inspirational autobiography. Mary Friedmann Berges describes fleeing Belgium during the Holocaust when she was a small child and then her life immigrating to the United States in captivating detail. I had the honor of meeting her a couple years ago at her home in my own hometown of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, which is mentioned in the story. Meeting her before reading her book made everything she went through even more amazing; she is a ray of light that brightens the people around her. A great read for a weekend or even an afternoon.

Brenda Bard, Subscriptions & Business Manager

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, With Recipes for Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats

Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall

Ten Speed Press, 2015

Smögåsbord: The Art of Swedish Breads and Savory Treats

Johanna Kindvall

Ten Speed Press, 2017

These are two books that I read this winter and had fun with. I felt that they were pretty spot on to depicting life in Sweden as I experienced it as an exchange student. Fika was broken between strictly commonplace recipes and techniques and then a little more outside of the lines. 

Smörgåsbord was the same way. Both books were very easy to consume. Someone new to the practice could easily be successful and then after gaining confidence could explore more. 


Pakkis book coverKell Knutsen, Summer Intern


Khalid Hussain

Tiden Norsk Forlag, 1986
Nordic Studies Press, 2014 (English translation)

The author of this book, Khalid Hussain, is a Norwegian-Pakistani writer who immigrated to Norway without his parents in 1975, giving Hussain a unique perspective on Norway, one that is often not mentioned. Pakkis follows a teenage boy whose situation is somewhat similar to the author’s. Following Sajjad through his everyday life, the reader gets a sense of the problems faced by immigrants in Norway. The book faces this challenging topic as Sajjad struggles to find himself, a common feeling that comes with growing up. This novel was written by Hussain in his later teenage years. The writing style is not sophisticated, making it an easy read for people who are beginning their Norwegian journey. Along with this the story is brilliantly told and provides excellent insight into the lives of working-class immigrants in Norway.

This article originally appeared in the July 9, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.