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Finland: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves

To learn about Finland past and present, check out a few of these books and films. (And see our similar lists for elsewhere in Europe.)

Books

  • The Adventurer (Mika Waltari, 1950). An orphan drifts through historical events in Europe during the Middle Ages.
  • A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland (T. K. Derry, 1979). This comprehensive tome weaves together the history of these five countries.
  • Kalevala (Elias Lönnrot, 1835). Regarded as Finland's national epic, Kalevala is a compilation of Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and poetry.
  • My Childhood (Toivo Pekkanen, 1966). Toivo Pekkanen chronicles his family's working-class life in early-20th-century Finland.
  • Purge (Sofi Oksanen, 2010). Finnish author Sofi Oskanen explores the Soviet occupation of Estonia and postwar suffering in this powerful novel about two women who reconcile their violent pasts.
  • Scandinavia Since 1500 (Byron J. Nordstrom, 2000). Nordstrom presents a readable account of the region's history.
  • Scandinavian Folk and Fairy Tales (Claire Booss, 1988). This collection of Scandinavian folklore includes illustrations by local artists.
  • Seven Brothers (Aleksis Kivi, 1870). In this Finnish classic, young brothers must learn to work hard and become productive members of society.
  • The Unknown Soldier (Väinö Linna, 1957). This iconic Finnish book candidly captures native soldiers' responses to World War II by delving into each character's psyche.
  • The Vikings (Else Roesdahl, 1987). Roesdahl offers a Scandinavian perspective on this complex Nordic society.

Films

  • Hellsinki (2009). Two criminals get caught up in a neighborhood black-market liquor business in 1960s Finland.
  • The Man Without a Past (2002). In this Academy Award-nominated film, a man is beaten up shortly after arriving in Helsinki, loses his memory, and must start his life anew.
  • Mother of Mine (2005). A young Finnish boy is evacuated to Sweden during World War II.
  • Road North (2012). An estranged father and son reunite for a road trip to northern Finland.
  • Uuno Turhapuro (1973–2006). Many Finnish politicians and celebrities make appearances throughout these 19 classic Finnish comedies about good-for-nothing Uuno, who disrupts and undermines his father-in-law in outlandish situations.