Friday Reads: Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here.

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Does this arctic cold turn your thoughts to Nordic lands like it does for me?  Do you wonder what it must be like to live there with long, frigid, dark winters?  One way to learn about a culture is to read its literature, “to ponder the profound social, political, economic and cultural issues they present,” states Mitzi M. Brunsdale in the introduction to Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction.

Well, if you have an interest in Nordic culture, reading its crime fiction is one sure-fire way to learn aspects of it that you won’t find in guide books or the recent New York Times bestseller, The Little Book of Hygge:  Danish secrets to happy living.   In the Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction, which is divided into five sections, one for each country: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, Brunsdale opens with an in-depth essay on cultural context for crime fiction in that locale, followed by a list of awards given since 1967. Those are followed by a parallel chronology of that country’s literature and world events. She then provides a biography of each contemporary author, a bibliography of their works, major awards and their web addresses.

So if you like Norwegian author Jo Nesbø you can read that in addition to being “king of Nordic crime writing,” he is also a soccer player, journalist, rock music singer, financial analyst, rock climber and children’s author. You can see a list of what he has written to date (13 novels from 1985 – 2013 published in 24 million copies, translated into forty-seven languages) and who his fellow Norwegian crime writers are (Anne Holt, Vidar Sundstøl and Kjell Ola Dahl, to name only three) and their works.  For the best in Norwegian crime fiction, check out the list “Dagbladet’s Twenty-Five Best Norwegian Crime Novels of All Time (2009) which includes the original title and translation information.  What is the #1 Norwegian crime novel you ask?  Elskede Poona, by Karin Fossum (tr. as The Indian Bride, 2007; also titled Calling Out for You.)

Whether you are an avid reader of Nordic crime and want to get more cultural context to deepen your understanding or you are just starting out and don’t know what to read first, the Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime is sure to provide fascinating guidance all along the way.  You can find this book in the reference room with call #809.3872 BRU, or ask a reference librarian.

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