Summer reading picks
From The Norwegian American staff!
Spring 2020 was completely redefined by COVID-19. With all the extra book, film, and TV recommendations you’ve likely seen, it may seem strange to add even more to the mix. But summertime—no matter the circumstances—is a special time for books, with bright days and long, light evenings. Indeed, there are few things finer than summer reading. So, as is our tradition at The Norwegian American, our staff put together a list of favorites that we’re reading this season. Find a cozy nook outside and nestle in with one of these picks. They’re bound to make you think, feel, and wonder!
When We Dead Awaken
By Henrik Ibsen
In The Master Builder and Other Plays
During turbulent times, I return to the classics for inspiration. When We Dead Awaken (1899) was Ibsen’s last drama, a final statement on his own life and literary career. Posing the existential question of whether work and art are more important than life and love, with his famous quote, “When we dead awaken…. We see that we have never lived,” Ibsen admonishes us to stick to our ideals and live life to its fullest.
By Hanne Ørstavik
Archipelago Books (2017)
Hanne Ørstavik’s 1997 novel Kjærlighet (Love) follows the parallel narratives of a mother and son who have just moved to an isolated village in northern Norway. The story takes place during a single winter day in which the lines between day and night—and between self-care and selfishness—begin to blur. Martin Aitken’s 2017 translation (the book’s English-language debut) captures the haunting but beautiful writing.
Sports and Business Editor
A Good Neighborhood
By Therese Anne Fowler
St. Martin’s Press (2020)
A Good Neighborhood takes place in an integrated town in North Carolina, the story of Valerie, a Black professor, and her biracial teenage son. A white family moves in next door, having built a house that infringes on Valerie’s oak tree. She files a lawsuit, but her son starts secretly seeing one of the neighbor’s daughters. This well-written narrative underlines many of the social issues we face today.
Becky Kruse Gjendem
So You Want to Talk About Race
Seal Press (2018)
I listened to this in the car with the kids on a very long road trip. Ijeoma Oluo, who lives in Seattle, discusses the issues Black people face every day that most white people don’t think about or discuss. And it’s time we all do.
Taste of Norway Editor
Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the
History of Their Common Fate
By Mark Kurlansky
Mark Kurlansky’s Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. He combines history, biology, anthropology, folklore, gorgeous photography, and more to share the story of this extraordinary fish. I learned so much about Norway’s history with salmon and aquaculture, and around the world too. Highly, highly recommend this one.
Scandinavian Design & the United States: 1890-1980
Edited by Bobbye Tigerman and Monica Obniski
DelMonico Books, Prestel (2020)
A wonderful addition to any coffee table, this heavily illustrated tome examines design exchanges between the United States and the Nordic countries over a century and explores why Nordic design continues to resonate in America. Many short essays deal with the contributions of immigrants to their adopted America. I particularly enjoyed “Per Lysne and the Birth of Norwegian American Rosemaling.”
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk
By Ben Montgomery
Chicago Review Press (2016)
With a sack over her shoulder and sneakers on her feet, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood tells her family that she is going on a walk and proceeds to hike the entire 2,000-mile-plus Appalachian Trail. Inspired by an article touting the ease of the trail (hah!), she instead found a poorly marked and maintained trail in dire need of restoration. Mrs. Gatewood’s amazing story is an enjoyable summer read.
By Erlend Loe
Canongate Books (2005)
A refreshingly honest self-reflection on the existential question of “the meaning of life” and finding purpose in a modern world. (Such an impactful read that it has been translated into 19 different languages since its original publication.) Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former presidential candidate, said he even learned Norwegian so that he could read the original text.
This article originally appeared in the July 10, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.