Sweden: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves

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


  • 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.
  • Faceless Killers (Henning Mankell, 1990). This is the first of a string of popular mysteries featuring inspector Kurt Wallander.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson, 2005). The first book in Larsson's Millennium trilogy, about a punky computer hacker and a disgraced journalist, put Swedish crime fiction on the map. The Swedish film and Hollywood film versions of these books are as compelling as the novels.
  • Hanna's Daughters (Marianne Fredriksson, 1994). This moving novel follows the lives of three remarkable Swedish women from the 1870s through World War II.
  • 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.
  • A History of the Swedish People (Vilhelm Moberg, 2005). Written by a novelist, this popular history of Sweden is both revealing and entertaining.
  • In the Heat of the Moment (Viveca Sten, 2018). This who-done-it and the others in the popular 10-book Sandhamn Murders series unfold on the tiny Swedish archipelago island of Sandhamn.
  • A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman, 2012). This dark comedy centers on a cranky widower whose life is devoid of joy — until some lively neighbors move into his neighborhood (also an Oscar-nominated motion picture).
  • Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1945). Kids of all ages love reading about the adventures of the strong-willed and unconventional nine-year-old living in Sweden.
  • The Red Room (August Strindberg, 1879). This biting satire on Stockholm society made Strindberg a literary giant.
  • 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 Wonderful Adventures of Nils (Selma Lagerlöf, 1906). In this fantastical children's novel (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature), Nils loves nothing more than eating, sleeping, and tormenting animals — at least until he is shrunken down to their size.

Films and TV Shows

  • As It Is in Heaven (2004). A famous conductor returns to his village in Sweden, where he finds love and the key to happiness.
  • Dalecarlians (2005). After living in Stockholm, Mia returns home to her small village and must adjust to the life she left behind.
  • The Emigrants (1971). A Swedish family faces a rough transition as they move from Sweden to Minnesota in this film starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann (based on the novels by Vilhelm Moberg). The sequel The New Land (1972) continues the family's journey.
  • My Life as a Dog (1985). This bittersweet tale from director Lasse Hallström focuses on a young boy in 1950s Sweden.
  • The Seventh Seal (1957). In this Ingmar Bergman film (set in Sweden during the Black Death), a knight questions the meaning of life. Other masterpieces from the Oscar-winning Swedish director include Smiles of a Summer Night, a turn-of-the-century frolic (1955), and Fanny & Alexander, about two children overcoming their father's death (1983).
  • Together (2000). This satirical view of socialist values is set in a 1970s Stockholm commune.
  • Wallander (2005–2013). Based on the characters in Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander detective novels, this Swedish crime series is a study in the Scandinavian temperament and culture.
  • Welcome to Sweden (2014–2015). In this NBC comedy series starring Greg Poehler (who coproduced the show with his sister Amy), an American accountant follows his girlfriend back to her home in Stockholm, where he embarks on crazy adventures with her quirky family.