Norway: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves

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


  • Beatles (Lars Saabye Christensen, 1984). Four Beatles fans grow up in Oslo in the '60s and '70s.
  • Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (Neil Price, 2020). Drawing on extensive archaeological and textual evidence, this is an engaging guide to the Viking world.
  • A Doll's House (Henrik Ibsen, 1879). Ibsen's classic play questions marriage norms and the role of women in a 19th-century man's world.
  • Growth of the Soil (Knut Hamsun, 1917). This epic tale of a man living in backcountry Norway helped Hamsun win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.
  • A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland (T. K. Derry, 2000). This comprehensive tome weaves together the history and common heritage of these five countries.

  • The Ice Palace (Tarjei Vesaas, 1993). Two young girls become unlikely friends — until a tragic disappearance shatters one of their lives.
  • Into the Ice: The History of Norway and the Polar Regions (Einar-Arne Drivenes and Harald Day Jolle, 2006). This comprehensive overview details expeditions, research, and the history of the polar region from the 19th century to the present.
  • Kon-Tiki (Thor Heyerdahl, 1948). Heyerdahl chronicles his historic 1947 journey from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa-wood raft. Norwegian filmmakers have catalogued his exploits in two films called Kon-Tiki: an Academy-Award-winning documentary (1950) and a blockbuster historical drama that was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (2012).
  • Kristin Lavransdatter (Sigrid Undset, 1920–1923). This trilogy (also a 1995 movie) focuses on the life of a Norwegian woman in the 14th century.
  • My Struggle (Karl Ove Knausgaard, 2012). This six-part autobiography of a father and writer from Oslo is hugely popular in Norway and has gained worldwide recognition.
  • Out Stealing Horses (Per Patterson, 2005). A widower in remote Norway meets a neighbor who stirs up memories of a pivotal day in 1948.
  • 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.
  • The Winter Fortress (Neal Bascomb, 2016). Bascomb uses letters, diaries, and once-secret documents to flesh out the story of the WWII Norwegian commandos who destroyed the heavy water plant at Vemork, striking a blow to the Nazi atomic bomb program.

Films and TV Shows

  • The Heavy Water War (2015). This six-part miniseries recounts the sabotage of the heavy water plant at Vemork, part of Hitler's atomic bomb program, and touches on morality and collaboration in wartime.
  • Insomnia (1997). The midnight sun plays a role in this Norwegian thriller about a police detective investigating a small-town murder.
  • The Kautokeino Rebellion (2008). Based on the true events of 1852, the Sami people of Norway revolt against their exploitation by Norwegian authorities.
  • The King's Choice (2016). During the German invasion of April 1940, King Haakon and the royal family escape from Oslo and refuse to surrender to the pursuing Nazis.
  • Lilyhammer (2012–2014). This dark and humorous Netflix series follows a Sopranos-style New York mobster who, under the witness protection program, relocates to Lillehammer and adjusts to Norwegian society the only way he knows how.
  • Max Manus (2008). Based on real events in the life of WWII resistance fighter Max Manus, this film recounts the exploits of Manus and his comrades in Oslo during the Nazi occupation of Norway.
  • Nobel (2016). In this eight-part thriller, a Norwegian soldier returns home from Afghanistan only to be entwined in a web of political intrigue and murder surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Occupied (2015–2019). A twisty-turny political thriller in which Norway, after discovering a clean source of energy and shutting down oil production in the North Sea, is occupied by Russia with backing from the EU (Netflix).
  • Trollhunter (2010). Trolls wreak havoc in modern-day Norway in this fun fantasy/thriller that explains the real purpose of those power lines in the Norwegian mountains.
  • Vikings (2013–2020). This History Channel series centers on the adventures of mythological Vikings Ragnar and Lagertha Lothbrok and their sons.