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.)

Books

  • Beatles (Lars Saabye Christensen, 1984). Four Beatles fans grow up in Oslo in the '60s and '70s.
  • A Doll's House (Henrik Ibsen, 1879). Ibsen's controversial play questions marriage norms and the role of women in a 19th-century man's world. (Ibsen explores similar themes in Hedda Gabler.)
  • Growth of the Soil (Knut Hamsun, 1917). This epic tale of a man living in back-country Norway helped Hamsun win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.
  • 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.
  • 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 is quickly gaining 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.
  • Sophie's World (Jostein Gaarder, 1994). A 14-year-old Norwegian girl becomes embroiled in a metaphysical mystery wrapped in the history of philosophy.
  • The Vikings (Else Roesdahl, 1987). Roesdahl offers a Scandinavian perspective on this complex Nordic society.
  • 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

  • Cool & Crazy (2001). In this uplifting documentary, a group of Norwegian men find companionship and success when they join an all-male choir.
  • Elling (2001). After his mother passes away, an autistic man — with a new oddball roommate — struggles to function in society.
  • 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 (2015–2016). 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 (two seasons on Netflix).
  • Pathfinder (1987). Around 1000 A.D., a boy in Lapland must survive and fight against other Norse tribes.
  • Song of Norway (1970). This musical is based on the life of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
  • 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–). This History Channel series centers around the adventures of mythological Viking Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons as they become renowned Norse heroes.
  • The Wave (2015). A collapsing mountainside sends a 250-foot tsunami roaring down the Geirangerfjord toward the town of Geiranger, leaving residents just 10 minutes to escape.