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!

Lori Ann Reinhall


When We Dead Awaken

By Henrik Ibsen

In The Master Builder and Other Plays

Penguin (2015)

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.

Andy Meyer

Assistant Editor


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.

Michael Kleiner

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

Copy Editor 

So You Want to Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

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.

Christy Olsen Field

Taste of Norway Editor

Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the
History of Their Common Fate

By Mark Kurlansky

Patagonia (2020)

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.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Travel Editor

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.”

Deborah Stoner-MA

Business Manager

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.

John Erik Twedt

Design Editor

Naïve. Super.

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.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit;