What I’ve Been Reading Lately (March 2023)

Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately”. The past month has been a ride around the world with visits to Albania, Colombia, and a dystopian, apocalyptic Scandinavia. Coincidentally, I went straight from reading about one country (Albania) during a turbulent decade to a totally different country on the other side of the world (Colombia) in the same decade, also a turbulent one, which is actually not an uninteresting thing to do. The first was a memoir; the second was a novel based on the author’s own experiences. Both were coming of age stories from the perspective of a young girl and provided interesting insight into a country I was not very familiar with at all.

This year’s 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge is underway. I recently completed a Finnish longlist nominee for the Dublin Literature Award from 2016. I continue to research and decide on selections for the other categories and welcome suggestions.

And finally, I’ve joined the reading challenge Diversity Across Genres hosted by @booksonadventures and @reading.and.roaming on Instagram. They’re challenging me to read more diversely both in terms of authors and genres. I’m beginning with the Bingo option and will expand as time allows.

What have you been reading lately?

Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi 📖🎧
(Narrated by Rachel Babbage and Lea Ypi)

Albania is a country I feel I should have known more about than just its location, so this was an eye-opening read. And it’s always interesting and inspiring to read about women’s experiences and contributions, whether small or large, here or abroad. In this memoir, Lea Ypi recounts her childhood in Albania in the 1980s and 1990s as the country went from being an isolated, communist regime to embracing a free market economy, and then in 1997 collapsing into civil war. Experiencing Albania’s tumultuous history through the eyes of Lea as a child and later a teenager was unique. The book was at times very philosophical. I enjoyed it more as a window into an unfamiliar country during recent history and as a coming of age story during said time and place.

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 📖

Colombia in the 1990s was a time of unrest and violence when the country was under the influence of drug lord Pablo Escobar. In this novel, the main character, 7-year-old Chula, and her older sister are safe in their gated community in Bogotá, but their world begins to unravel when a live-in maid, 13-year-old Petrona from the city’s guerilla-occupied slum, begins to work for them. The story is told in alternating perspectives by Chula and the maid, a structure that I really enjoyed. It was a bit slow to begin with but the pace did pick up as the story went on and I finished quickly. Once again, another eye-opening glimpse into a country whose history I had little familiarity with.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta 🎧
(Narrated by Amy Landon)

Fascinatingly, the English and Finnish editions of this book were written simultaneously by the author. “I had to write in English initially, because I was submitting the early chapters as coursework for my university degree in the UK. However, I soon discovered that it was quite useful to get feedback from my Finnish writing group, so I ended up writing each chapter in parallel in English and Finnish.” (Source)

This story is set in the Scandinavian Union years in the future in a Europe ruled by China where climate change and rising seas have destroyed cities and fresh water is extremely scarce and controlled by the military. Noria is a seventeen-year-old girl who has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a tea master. When her father dies, the responsibilities and secrets that came with that role become harder to maintain, and Noria has to make difficult decisions. Noria is a likable and engaging character, and the world building is interesting and creative (though there are some holes and unanswered questions about how their world really came to be in such a way). In particular, I enjoyed the scene of the Moonfeast, when a viewing of the Northern Lights was infused with Chinese culture and ocean-themed references. I could see it being a beautiful scene in a movie (which was released in the fall of 2022).

What have you been reading lately?

By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit my Scandinavian Ebook Deals page. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.crime

Introducing Reading Challenge 2023: Nordic Literature

My passion project, the yearly Scandinavian Reading Challenge, “celebrated” its fifth year in 2022. I started it for myself (and anyone else who wanted to join) as an incentive to get to know Scandinavian authors better and to read Scandinavian books on a more regular basis. Every year I read 12+ Scandinavian (plus some other Nordic) books checking off various prompts.

This past year was the most intensive and focused year of them all. Inspired by the Book Girls’ Decades Reading Challenge, I read through the decades of the last century in Norway. A major component of this challenge was researching Norway’s history and finding books for each of the decades. It was enjoyable and satisfying but extremely time-consuming, and it took a toll on researching and reading books from other parts of the world, also a great passion of mine.

This past month has been an opportunity to evaluate how my reading was in 2022, in particular how it compared to my actual reading intentions for 2022. There were certainly some worthwhile highlights!

Highlights of 2022:

  • Learning about Norway’s 20th century history through books taking places all over Norway
  • Discovering Roy Jacobsen’s The Barrøy Chronicles series and loving it
  • Finally reading Norwegian authors Zeshan Shakar and Simon Stranger and looking forward to reading more of their work

Goals for 2023:

  • Read more new-to-me Nordic authors
  • Read more books in translation, especially women in translation, from around the world
  • As always, read off my shelves, both physical and digital
  • And also as always, try to share reading on Instagram more regularly

Reading Challenge for 2023 – Join Me!

In 2023, with my goals in mind, I’m taking a wider but less labor-intensive approach with the reading challenge. First of all, I’ve expanded the scope of the reading challenge to cover the whole Nordic region: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden which includes the autonomous territories of Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Åland, as well as Sápmi, the land of the indigenous Sámi people (which overlaps northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Kola Peninsula of Russia). Secondly, I’m limiting myself to a “mini challenge” with only six prompts, one for each of the Nordic countries plus Sápmi.

I invite you to join me in the 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge by reading six unique Nordic books. For each of the five Nordic countries, match it with a different prompt, as listed below. For the Sámi selection, the prompt is free choice. Any book by or about the Sámi people and their history and culture, fiction or nonfiction, is fine.


The Nordic Council’s Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962 and is awarded to a work of fiction written in one of the Nordic languages. It can be a novel, a drama, a collection of poems, a collection of short stories or a collection of essays that meet high literary and artistic requirements. View a list of winners with English translations.

The Dublin Literary Award has been presented annually since 1996 to a novel written in English or translated into English. The Award promotes excellence in world literature and is solely sponsored by Dublin City Council and administered by Dublin City Libraries. Nominations are submitted by libraries in major cities throughout the world. See a catalog of all nominees.

  • By or about a marginalized group in the Nordic region — indigenous, immigrant, minority, etc

  • Nonfiction — by a Nordic author or about a Nordic region

  • Nordic Noir — crime fiction by a Nordic author set in the Nordic region

  • Sámi Literature free choice

This year I still want to expand my Scandinavian reading, but I also want more opportunity and time to venture beyond those borders. I want to enjoy books in a more relaxed way and read more of what I already have on my shelf, both physical and digital shelves, both for this challenge and the wider world.

Will you join me in adding some Nordic books or authors to your reading list this year?

Virtual Nordic Events for October 2020

Virtual events continue to flourish. There are author talks and panels, film and documentary screenings, cooking workshops, art talks and craft workshops, and festivals on the schedule for October that can all be experienced from the comfort of your own computer. Be sure to visit last month’s Virtual Scandinavian Events for events that happened in September. Many of them are available to view after the fact as saved recordings.

For me, September was a busy month of virtual events. I particularly enjoyed the launch event for Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn’s new psychological thriller The Seven Doors which translator Rosie Hedger also joined. I found the Dual Citizenship Webinar hosted by Norwegian Honorary Consulate General, Minneapolis, MN, very informative and helpful. Of particular interest to me were the discussions on reinstating Norwegian citizenship (for me) and retention of Norwegian citizenship (for my kids). If either of these topics are of interest to you and you missed the webinar, you can view a recording of the webinar.

I hope you find something of interest for October. Among other things, I’m looking forward to the October Family Norwegian Language Adventure – Friluftsliv with Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center‘s Folk Art School in Decorah, Iowa. I signed up during the registration period in September and received my “special adventure kit” in the mail the other day and am eagerly awaiting October 1 to open it (per the instructions). In it we’ll find language activities, reference sheets, a hands-on craft activity, snack (!), and directions for using the Goosechase app.

Don’t forget that October 4 is Kanelbullens dag or Cinnamon Bun Day. Seize this opportunity to make your own cinnamon buns! I can recommend Daytona Strong’s Scandinavian Cinnamon Buns.

I would love to hear about any events or activities you attend in October!

Ongoing Events

The Painter and the Thief at BFI London Film Festival (Starting October 8)

Winner of the Creative Storytelling Prize at Sundance, Norwegian documentary filmmaker Benjamin Ree’s “expertly plotted, genre-blending documentary explores the personal repercussions of an extraordinary art heist… The sheer audacity of the theft of artist Barbora Kysilkova’s enormous paintings from the windows of an Oslo gallery immediately piqued documentarian Benjamin Ree’s interest. Neither he, Kysilkova nor the perpetrators could have predicted what happened next.” Available starting October 8 on BFI Player. Visit BFI London Film Festival’s film page for details.

Virtual Cinema: Out Stealing Horses (Norway)

Scandinavia House in New York, NY, is hosting a virtual cinema presentation of Out Stealing Horses, a film based on the award-winning novel by Norwegian author Per Petterson. Immediately following the film there will be a pre-recorded discussion between Stellan Skarsgård and filmmaker Hans Petter Moland. Half of proceeds will go to support American-Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavia House. For more information and to purchase access, visit Scandinavia House’s event page. An end date has not yet been set for film screenings.

Virtual Cinema: A White, White Day (Iceland)

Scandinavia House in New York, NY, is also hosting a virtual cinema presentation of the hit Icelandic film A White, White Day with Film Movement. A White, White Day is an emotionally complex exploration of the ravages of loss set across the hypnotic landscape of Iceland. Half of proceeds will go to support American-Scandinavian Foundation and Scandinavia House. For more information and to purchase access, visit Scandinavia House’s event page. An end date has not yet been set for film screenings.

Baldishol: A Medieval Norwegian Tapestry Inspires Contemporary Textiles
(Virtual Exhibit at Norway House, Minneapolis, MN)

The medieval Baldishol tapestry from 1180 is the oldest known Norwegian tapestry and one of the oldest in Europe and is a national treasure familiar to most Norwegians. This exhibit features 26 works by local, national, and international fiber artists who draw inspiration from the Baldishol. Enjoy the Baldishol exhibit, along with accompanying artist statements and bios, in this virtual exhibit.

Date-Specific Events

Virtual Nordic Stories (for Kids): The Fat Cat (October 1, 10:00 a.m. PST)

Join National Nordic Museum in Seattle, WA, for story time and a craft with their special guest, librarian Sara Jensen. Listen to the Danish folk tale The Fat Cat by Jack Kent, and then after the story Sara will teach kids how to make their own cat with items found at home.

Virtual Book Talk: The Bell in the Lake with Lars Mytting (October 1, 6:00 p.m. ET)

This online event is hosted by ASF (American-Scandinavian Foundation) and Scandinavia House in New York, NY. “Norwegian author Lars Mytting joins us for a virtual book launch event on The Bell in the Lake, an engrossing epic novel and #1 bestseller in Norway about a young woman with a mystical fate, available in English translation from The Overlook Press beginning September 29.” For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Scandinavian Fest: Virtual Fall Folk Festival (October 2-4)

Scandinavian Fest brings Nordic shops and businesses from around the globe together in one online location during the absence of in-person festivals. Friday, October 2, – Sunday, October 4, join Virtual Fall Folk Festival to discover unique Nordic products, take advantage of discounts, and win give-aways! For more information, visit Virtual Fall Folk Festival on Facebook.

Leif Eriksson International Festival (October 2-11)

The Leif Eriksson International Festival was formed in 1987 to establish an annual festival to celebrate Nordic cultural roots in the United States. Over the years, the events have brought top-ranked Nordic talent to Minneapolis. This year’s event will be virtual and feature a variety of programming including both live-streaming and pre-recorded musical performances, online worship services, and daily “destinations of the day”. Click here for the 2020 LEIF Program.

Scandinavian Crisp Bread Baking Workshop (October 3, 11:00 a.m. PST)

Ever wonder how that extraordinary crisp bread is made? Join Scandinavian School in San Francisco and native Dane Leda Jessen for a traditional baking event and get the chance to learn the secrets to how the bread gets its crisp. You will be sent a list of ingredients needed prior to the event, and together with Leda you will bake the day away. For more information and to register, visit The Scandinavian School & Cultural Center’s event page.

Virtual Documentary Screening: We Carry It Within Us (October 4-18)

We Carry it Within Us by director Helle Stenum investigates collective memory and different perspectives on the shared colonial past between Denmark and U.S. Virgin Islands. In We Carry It Within Us, the legacy of slavery, the memory of the Danish presence, the sale of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, and the relationship of the islands to the U.S., are told through interviews conducted on St. Croix, in New York, and in Copenhagen. You can view the movie online October 4–18.

Virtual Nordic Art Crash Course: Discovering Artists Emil and Dines Carlsen (October 4, 2:00 p.m. PST)

National Nordic Museum’s Director of Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs Leslie Anne Anderson will trace the career of Danish-American artists Dines Carlsen (1901-66) and his son (Søren) Emil Carlsen. This behind-the-scenes virtual talk will share the plans for an upcoming exhibition devoted to the artist and display selections from the Museum’s newly acquired collection of 943 drawings by Dines Carlsen. For more information and to register visit National Nordic Museum’s event page.

Virtual Panel: Icelandic Authors You Should Know (October 6, 2:00 p.m. ET)

“Nordic Authors You Should Know” at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on Icelandic literature with The Imposter Poets, a poetry collective made up of members Thórdís Helgadóttir, Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir, Fríða Ísberg, Ragnheiður Harpa Leifsdóttir, Sunna Dís Másdóttir, and Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, moderated by author and translator Larissa Kyzer. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both English and in Icelandic, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Icelandic literature today. For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Virtual Cinema: The Blinding Sea (October 9 – November 5)

This October, Scandinavia House is excited to present virtual screenings of The Blinding Sea, a new film by George Tombs that explores the life and loves of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). “The Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen hungered for ice-choked seas and desert places — but more than that, he had a passionate interest in acquiring new knowledge… Shot on locations including an icebreaker wintering in the Beaufort Sea, a tall ship on the Southern Ocean, on dog-team in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, as well as the glaciers of Antarctica and Norway, the film combines factual accuracy with bold story-telling, a cross-cultural approach, oral histories, a focus on physical and psychological health, and the refreshing eye-witness perspective of an acclaimed biographer.” Director George Tombs will join a virtual film talk to accompany the release on October 13. For more information, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Leif Erikson Day with Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation (SACHF) and Norseman Lodge, Sons of Norway (October 9, 7:00 p.m. PT)

Dr. Samuel Claussen, Assistant Professor of History at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA, will examine Leif Erikson’s activities and family in light of the intersections of law, feud, and vengeance. The Erikson family members, especially Leif’s father, were encouraged in their exploring lifestyle due to problems with the law and society in which they operated. Also, Howard Rockstad will briefly discuss the history of Leif Erikson Day and the annual presidential proclamations, including the southern California Leif Erikson Association responsible for congressional authorization of the presidential proclamations. Join the Zoom meeting on October 9.

Kransekake Class with Norway House in Minneapolis, MN (October 10, 10:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. CT)

A kransekake is the commanding centerpiece dessert at Norwegian weddings, graduations, baptisms, and other major life events. Made with ground almonds and consisting of tiers of wreath-shaped layers, the cake has a rich taste and texture that is uniquely its own. Learn to make this impressive cake with Brenda Lewis. Brenda will walk you through the steps of making a kransekake in this hands-on class and give you the confidence to bake one on your own. On Saturday, October 10, Brenda is teaching two sessions of the same class. For more information, visit Norway House’s event page.

Virtual Panel: Finnish Authors You Should Know (October 13, 2:00 p.m. ET)

“Nordic Authors You Should Know” at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on Finnish literature with Selja Ahava, Rosa Liksom, Johanna Sinisalo, and Antti Tuomainen, moderated by author and translator Lola Rogers. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both English and in Finnish, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Finnish literature today. For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Virtual Film Talk: The Blinding Sea with Director George Tombs (October 13, 7:00 p.m. ET)

In coordination with the virtual cinema presentation of The Blinding Sea, a new film exploring the life and loves of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), director George Tombs joins for a discussion on the film on Tuesday, October 13. Tombs will discuss the explorer as well as the making of this film, which was shot on locations ranging from icebreakers in the Beaufort Sea to glaciers of Antarctica and Norway, as well as his focus on incorporating a cross-cultural approach, oral histories, a focus on physical and psychological health, and eye-witness perspectives to the film. Registration is required; visit Scandinavia House’s event page for more details.

IWR An Introduction to Icelandic Authors (October 14, 9:00 a.m. PDT)

Hosted by Iceland Writers Retreat and Reykjavík Bókmenntaborg UNESCO, this panel will feature writer, poet and former IWR faculty Gerður Kristný, crime writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir, poet and former IWR volunteer Fríða Ísberg, and writer and poet Mazen Maarouf. Moderated by IWR Co-Founder Eliza Reid. Co-presented with Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature. The event will be broadcast on the Facebook page of @Icelandwritersretreat.

Braid and finish a beautiful bracelet inspired by the Sámi art of tenntråd, or pewter wire art. Students will receive a kit with all the materials to make a bracelet out of natural materials including pewter wire, reindeer leather and an antler button, plus a reusable clamp for future braiding projects. This is a live virtual class taught over Zoom. This is a participatory class and spots are intentionally limited to allow interaction between students and the instructor. The class is currently sold out, but you may call to be added to a waitlist. Please visit American Swedish Institute’s event page for more details.

Meet the Author—A Nordic Book Series: The Man Who Played with Fire (October 18, 12:00 p.m. PST)

Join National Nordic Museum in Seattle, WA, for an intimate series of virtual book talks where you get to “meet the author”! Each talk is moderated by Dr. Elizabeth DeNoma and will include an opportunity to ask questions to the authors. For the first talk meet Jan Stocklassa who will discuss his book The Man Who Played with Fire, translated by Tara F. Chace. For details about the book and registration information, visit the National Nordic Museum’s event page.

Virtual Panel: Faroese Authors You Should Know (October 20, 2:00 p.m. ET)

“Nordic Authors You Should Know” at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on literature from the Faroe Islands with Rakel Helmsdal, Carl Jóhan Jensen, and Marjun Syderbø Kjælnes, moderated by translator Kerri Pierce. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both the original language and in English, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Faroese literature today.

Vesterheim Bokprat (Book Group): Jo Nesbø’s The Redbreast (October 21, 7:00-8:15 p.m. CDT)

Dr. Maren Johnson, Luther College’s Associate Professor of Nordic Studies and Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies Director, facilitates a monthly bokprat, discussing Scandinavian authors and Scandinavian life. Join in October to discuss The Redbreast, the third book in the Harry Hole detective series by Jo Nesbø. For more information and to register, visit their event page.

Virtual Crafts & Cocktails (October 22, 6:00 p.m. PST)

Recharge from your day with an evening of creativity and fun! Join National Nordic Museum’s virtual Crafts & Cocktails event to learn a cocktail recipe and make a Nordic craft using supplies you have around the house. For registration information, visit the National Nordic Museum’s event page.

Virtual Panel — Norwegian Authors You Should Know (October 27, 2:00 p.m. ET)

“Nordic Authors You Should Know” at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, continues with a focus on Norwegian literature with Jan Grue, Roy Jacobsen, Kaja Kvernbakken, and Ruth Lillegraven, moderated by author and translator Karen Havelin. The event will begin with short readings of each of the authors’ work in both English and Norwegian, followed by interviews with the authors and a conversation on Norwegian literature today. For more information and to register, visit Scandinavia House’s event page.

Online Nordic Book Club at Scandinavia House in New York, NY

The Nordic Book Club at Scandinavia House in New York, NY, selects novels from some of the best Nordic literary voices. It now meets bi-weekly online. Here are their upcoming meetings. Click the dates for more information and to register.

  • October 6: The Family Clause by Jonas Hassen Khemiri (translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies)
  • October 20: The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting (translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin)
  • November 3: Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen (translated from the Finnish by David Hackston)
  • November 17: Companions by Christina Hesselholdt (translated from the Danish by Paul Russell Garrett)

I hope you found something of interest for the month ahead. Feel free to reach out to me if you have events to share.