The Best Books to Read Before Going to Norway 

Whether you are planning a trip or just dreaming of fjords and Vikings, we have gathered the best books to read before going to Norway. In this post, we’ll explore a curated collection of books about Norway that will transport you there, even before you pack your bags. 

From engaging novels and insightful histories to delightful children’s books and cookbooks, there’s something for every traveler and book lover. Each book we’ve selected not only tells a story or shares knowledge about Norway but also enhances your upcoming trip, making your experience more enriching and immersive.

I was finally able to travel to Norway myself this summer and, as the founder of Trip Scholars, I spent time learning a lot about the country before I left. Here I’ve gathered some of the best Norway books and asked other travel writers to share their favorites too. So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, get cozy, and let’s dive into these pages that promise to take you on an enticing Norwegian adventure, one book at a time! 

Novels Set in Norway

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson

Norway’s rugged beauty and the depth of human emotion intertwine in Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses. This poignant novel tells the story of Trond Sander, a man who, in his later years, moves to a remote part of Norway to live a life of solitude. He reflects on his past, particularly the summer of 1948 that changed his life forever. We are transported to Norway’s breathtaking landscapes and tumultuous history.

The book is more than a journey through Norway’s past. It’s an exploration of the human spirit, of loss, and of the bond between father and son. Petterson’s prose brings the story to life and makes this one of the best books about Norway.

Reading Out Stealing Horses before going to Norway enriches the experience by providing a deeper understanding of the country’s history and the Norwegian people. As you traverse the same landscapes described in the book, you’ll find yourself connecting with the story on a more intimate level, appreciating Norway’s reflective culture that values natural beauty.

Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder is not just a novel; it’s an exploration into the world of philosophy. Set in Norway, this internationally acclaimed book takes readers on a journey through philosophical thought and history through the eyes of a young girl, Sophie Amundsen. The story unfolds as Sophie receives mysterious letters from an unknown philosopher. Each one takes her deeper into philosophical questions and theories.

The novel masterfully blends a coming-of-age story with a crash course in philosophy, making complex ideas accessible and engaging. It’s a reflection on life, existence, and the universe, set against the backdrop of a quaint Norwegian town. I have taught philosophy to young people and recommend Sophie’s World to adults, teens, and tweens who are looking for an engaging way to learn more about one of humanity’s most interesting pursuits.

Sophie’s World is one of the best books to read before visiting Norway because it engages the mind in rich philosophical thought. As you travel, you may find yourself pondering the same existential questions as Sophie. It’s a book that not only educates but also transforms the way you view the world, making it an ideal companion for the intellectually curious traveler.

The Snowman, by Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman is a thrilling journey into the darker side of Norway. This crime novel introduces readers to Detective Harry Hole, who is investigating a series of chilling murders in Oslo. Each victim disappears on the day of the first snowfall, and a snowman is found at every crime scene. Nesbø masterfully weaves a tale of suspense and intrigue that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The book’s setting in the urban landscapes of Norway, particularly Oslo. It is vividly rendered, giving readers a sense of the contemporary Norwegian life and culture. The dark, cold winters and the stark contrast with the country’s otherwise peaceful reputation play a key role in the story.

Before visiting Norway, The Snowman offers a gripping, albeit fictional, perspective on Norwegian society. While exploring Oslo, you can’t help but recall scenes from the book, adding a layer of intrigue to your journey. It’s a way to connect with the city beyond its tourist spots.

Trollstigen, Norway photo by Megan at Megan and Arron

The Best Guidebooks About Norway

Fodor’s Essential Norway

Fodorʻs Travel Essential Norway is a travel guidebook published in February 2020 that covers the entire country. It highlights the best attractions, things to do, hotels, and more across various regions of the country. 

The guidebook is broken down into different chapters putting each region into focus. I actually co-authored this book and wrote all of the Arctic Norway chapters! You will find everything from the best restaurants in the Lofoten islands to canʻt-miss festivals in Oslo. 

Essential Norway has maps and practical information that makes planning your trip a breeze. As I covered the Arctic Norway section of the book, I can say I visited the many places I talked about in the guide. Some of the main destinations covered in the book are Tromsø, Bergen, Trolltunga, Stavanger, Svalbard, Flåm, Oslo, the Lofoten islands, and Trondheim. 

Another special feature of the book is that it contains useful words and phrases in Norwegian. These can help you get to know the locals (although they speak stellar English).

While I think there are many great books about Norway out there, sometimes you need a travel guidebook to really get to know the place before diving into other pieces of literature about the country.

Contributed by Megan at Megan and Arron

Lonely Planet Norway 8, by Anthony Ham, et al.

Lonely Planet books are widely known to be the best travel guidebooks for pretty much any city and any country in the world, and this applies to Norway too.

The latest version for Norway is Norway 8, the 8th edition travel guide to Norway from Lonely Planet. It is jam-packed with information on travelling to Norway, and quite literally tells you everything you need to know.

From what to expect in each month of the year, to the best restaurants, things to do and even some local tips and tricks, you won’t have any questions left afterwards. Plus, the Lonely Planet books are known for helping people travel on a budget and that is no different for their Norway travel guide. The book even teaches you how to explore Norway Fjords for free. 

I always get a Lonely Planet book when I’m planning a trip, even if it’s just the pocketbook. Even though it sometimes feels expensive, it’s always worth it. You simply can’t get the insight that Lonely Planet books offer anywhere, even online. 

The travel guide will help your trip to Norway go smoother, no doubt about it. 

Contributed by Josh at A Backpacker’s World

Rick Steves Scandinavia, by Rick Steves

Rick Steves Scandinavia is another excellent guide for any traveler looking to explore Norway, from its vibrant cities to its serene fjords. Renowned for his practical and accessible travel advice, Rick Steves offers a comprehensive guide that covers all the essentials of traveling in all of the Scandinavian countries, including tips on accommodation, dining, transportation, and sightseeing. This is the primary guidebook we used on our recent trip to Norway.

The book is filled with insightful commentary on Nordic culture and history, making it more than just a guidebook. Detailed itineraries help travelers maximize their time, while Rick’s personal recommendations lead you to authentic experiences and hidden gems across the country.

Reading Rick Steves Scandinavia before your trip will enhance your Norwegian adventure. It prepares you with practical tips and cultural knowledge, ensuring a smoother and more enriching travel experience. From navigating the streets of Oslo to cruising the fjords, this guide helps you connect more deeply with the places you visit. It’s an indispensable resource that empowers you to explore Norway confidently and meaningfully, just as a well-informed friend would.

Photo by Josh at Backpacker’s World

The Best Nonfiction Norway Books

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way, by Lars Mytting

Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting is an engaging read about the art and tradition of wood chopping in Norway, making it one of the best nonfiction Norway books. . It’s a beautiful blend of practical guide and cultural exploration, delving into how the Norwegians have turned wood chopping into both a necessity and an art form.

The book not only teaches about different types of wood, tools, and techniques but also explores the historical and cultural significance of wood in Norwegian society. Mytting’s writing is warm and engaging, turning what could be a mundane topic into a fascinating journey.

Reading this book before visiting Norway offers a unique perspective on a key aspect of Norwegian life and tradition. It will give you a deeper appreciation for the simple yet profound elements of Norwegian culture. Imagine walking through Norwegian forests or rural landscapes with a newfound understanding and respect for the woodlands that have shaped much of the country’s history and lifestyle. This book is a tribute to the Norwegian way of life, connecting you to the land and its people in a unique way.

History of Norway, by John Yilek

History of Norway by John Yilek is one of the best books on Norwegian history. It is an essential read for anyone interested in delving into the rich tapestry of Norway’s past. This book provides a comprehensive yet accessible overview of Norwegian history, from its ancient origins through the Viking era, and into modern times. Yilek skillfully narrates the evolution of Norway, highlighting key historical events, cultural shifts, and influential figures that have shaped the nation.

For travelers planning a visit to Norway, this book is invaluable. It is a great addition to making a history timeline before you travel. It offers context to the historic sites, museums, and cultural landmarks you’ll encounter. As you wander through ancient Viking grounds or gaze upon medieval stave churches, the stories and facts from this book will come to life, transforming your trip into a more meaningful journey through time. Reading “History of Norway” before your trip will deepen your connection to the landscapes and people of this fascinating country.

North: How to Live Scandinavian, by Brontë Aurell

North: How to Live Scandinavian by Brontë Aurell is a delightful exploration of Scandinavian culture. This book covers everything from design and fashion to food and traditions, offering a comprehensive and entertaining guide to understanding what it means to live like a Scandinavian.

As a traveler to Norway, this book will enrich your experience by providing context to the design, cuisine, and lifestyle you will encounter. It’s like having a friendly insider explain the essence of what you see, taste, and experience. Reading this book before your trip will add an extra layer of enjoyment and understanding as you immerse yourself in the Norwegian way of life.

Nordic Baking, by Magnus Nilsson

Nordic Baking by renowned chef Magnus Nilsson is a delightful journey through the rich and varied baking traditions of the Nordic region. This comprehensive cookbook is much more than a collection of recipes; it’s a deep dive into the heart of Nordic culture and its baking heritage. Nilsson beautifully presents a wide array of breads, pastries, cakes, and traditional holiday treats, each recipe steeped in tradition and regional flavor. The color photographs taken by the author make the book a visual delight.

For travelers heading to Norway, Nordic Baking offers a unique approach to explore the country. The act of baking and the breads and pastries themselves are integral to Norwegian daily life. Understanding this culinary tradition enhances the travel experience, whether you’re savoring a skillingsbolle in Bergen or enjoying a slice of kransekake at a local festival. This book not only guides you through baking your own Norwegian treats but also enriches your appreciation of Norway’s cuisine.

Jostedal Glacier, Norway, photo by Trip Scholars

The Best Norwegian Folktales

Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark, Illustrated by Ulla Thynell

Nordic Tales is a beautifully illustrated collection of folktales from across the Nordic region, including Norway. These stories, rich in mythology and folklore, are a tapestry of tales about trolls, giants, and mythical creatures. They reflect the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Nordic people.

The illustrations by Ulla Thynell add a magical touch, bringing these tales to life in a visually stunning way.

For travelers to Norway, Nordic Tales is an enchanting primer to the mythical backdrop of the country. Reading these stories will deepen your connection to the Norwegian landscape. You’ll find yourself looking at the fjords, mountains, and forests through a mythical lens. The stories will enrich your understanding and appreciation of Norwegian culture and history, making your travel experience more meaningful and multilayered.

Photo by Josh at Backpacker’s World

Best Books About Norway: Plays

A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen, a towering figure in Norwegian literature, penned A Doll’s House, a play that is essential reading for anyone interested in Norwegian culture and history. This groundbreaking work, written in the late 19th century, challenged the traditional roles of men and women in society, particularly within marriage.

Reading A Doll’s House offers insight into the social and cultural transformations that have shaped modern Norway. As you visit museums or interact with locals, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the progressive values and feminist roots that are an integral part of Norwegian society. The play is not only a window into Norway’s past but also a reflection of its present.

Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo, Norway, photo by Trip Scholars

Children’s Books About Norway

If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World, by Carole P. Roman

Carole P. Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway is a charming and educational book. It takes young readers on a delightful journey to explore the daily life, culture, and traditions of Norway. This book is part of a series that introduces children to different cultures around the world. It is a perfect pick for families preparing for a trip to Norway or simply exploring global cultures from home.

Through vivid illustrations and engaging writing, Roman presents aspects of Norwegian life such as popular names, foods, and activities, making it relatable and fascinating for children. The book helps young readers imagine what it would be like to live in Norway, introducing them to concepts like the midnight sun and traditional celebrations.

For families traveling to Norway, this book is an excellent way to prepare children for the trip. It provides them with a foundational understanding of Norwegian culture, making the travel experience more meaningful and educational. Kids will enjoy recognizing elements from the book in real life, creating a connection that enhances their travel adventure.

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The Best Books to Read Before Going to Norway

I hope you found the perfect books to read before your trip to Norway and that they help you make the most of your travels! Trip Scholars is committed to helping you learn more through travel, both about your destinations and about yourself. Here is a great collection of films to watch before your trip to Norway. We also have a wide range of articles to support your particular travel interests. Find advice and engaging activities on ancestry travel, family travel to Norway, to visiting stave churches and museums. We even have suggestions for crafting your trip around your favorite books!

Do you plan to visit Norway or have you in the past? Do you enjoy reading books before you travel? Have you have any favorites in this article? Tell me about it in the comments, I would love to hear!

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