From Vikings to Scandinavian noir to LEGO to WWII, these books about Denmark will take you to this “Happiest Country in the World” and help you dive into their history and culture. We have a whole spectrum of books here: You can learn about hygge and happiness or you can get caught up in a dark thriller. If you are dreaming of traveling to Denmark, there are so many books you can read before you go!
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Fiction Books Set in Denmark
The Land of Short Sentences by Stine Pilgaard, Translated by Hunter Simpson
In this sparse novel, a young mother moves to rural Denmark with her child and husband and works as an advice columnist. But even as she is doling out advice to others, she struggles with basic tasks like learning to drive and conversing with her neighbors. For fans of literary fiction and succinct writing.
Echoland by Per Petterson, Translated by Don Bartlett
Petterson is a Norwegian author, but here he sets his novel in Denmark. This is a coming-of-age novel set over a single summer as Avrid Janssen visits his grandparents in Denmark on the cusp of becoming a teenager. For fans of coming-of-age stories.
To Siberia by Per Petterson, Translated by Anne Born
In this historical novel, a teenage brother and sister in a small Danish village are pulled in opposite directions. The sister dreams of escaping to Siberia while the brother becomes involved with the Danish resistance to the Nazis. For fans of historical fiction, especially set during WWII.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors, Translated by Misha Hoekstra
This short translated book from Denmark focuses on a woman named Sonja who is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. She is learning to drive in Copenhagen but also missing her old life in rural Denmark. The publisher describes this as a novel about “one woman in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.” For fans of literary fiction and slice-of-life novels.
The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
In this Copenhagen based thriller, a serial killer is on the lose and leaving chestnut dolls at his crime scenes. When one of these is investigated, the fingerprints of a girl who had been murdered the year before are discovered. This is for fans of dark thrillers and suspense (aka not me).
Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg, Translated by Tiina Nunnally
When a small boy falls from the top of a building, Smilla is sure it wasn’t an accident and she sets out to prove it with her scientific and math-focused sense of the world. This is for fans of slow-burn mysteries that lean towards literary fiction.
We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, Translated by Charlotte Barslund and Emma Ryder
You can’t have a list of books about Denmark without somehow mentioning the everpresent sea. This sprawling historical novels tells the story of the town of Marstal, Denmark and the generations of seafarers that have played a part in its history. Full of adventure and history (and definitely with some content warning for brutal life situations), this book is for people who love seafaring novels.
The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner
When Joe Allston receives a letter from an old friend, he recalls his past and a trip he and his wife took to Denmark after their son died. There, they met Astrid, and became entwined in her life. I love Wallace Stegner, so this is definitely going on my TBR. For fans of modern classics.
Copenhagen Tales Edited by Helen Constantine, Translated by Lotte Shankland
This collection of short stories features fiction from a variety of Danish authors, including Hans Christian Andersen, Tove Ditlevsen, Karen Blixen, and more. This collection would be a great way to get a taste of Danish literature from a multitude of voices. For fans of literary fiction and short stories.
Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen
For more books about Scandinavia, check out our list of Books Set in Norway!
Non-Fiction Books About Denmark
The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood; Youth; Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen, Translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman
First published between 1969 and 1971, these three books were groundbreaking for their time and have become more popular recently with their 2021 release in the United States. This memoir of sorts traces Ditlevsen’s life from her childhood through her adulthood as she becomes addicted to drugs and has disastrous marriages. Her writing is often compared to Elena Ferrante or Karl Ove Knausgaard, so this is for fans of literary memoirs.
The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
When Helen Russell, a Brit, moves to rural Denmark so her husband can go to work for Lego, she is determined to find out what makes Danes so dang happy. This is a fun and lighthearted book that still dives deep into Danish society and may just give you a few tips to make your life a little happier. For fans of memoir and books about year-long projects.
After living in Copenhagen for over a decade, Booth isn’t so sure that the idea that Scandinavians are the happiest people in the world is everything it’s cracked up to be. Here, he explores every Scandinavian country to uncover some of their darker sides that don’t fit the ideal narrative. For fans of narrative non-fiction and books about cultures around the world.
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
A few years ago, hygge became all the rage — the Danish word for coziness and togetherness. It’s associated with candles and warm blankets and relaxing with your friends and family, and here Wiking gives us tips on how we can incorporate hygge into our everyday lives. For fans of personal growth books.
How to be Danish: A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark by Patrick Kingsley
The world really can’t get enough of Danish culture. In How to be Danish, readers get an examination of all kinds of aspects of Denmark—from education to food to design. For fans of travel books and books about culture.
Children’s Books About Denmark
Fat Cat: A Danish Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Cat and Mouse live together, but Cat eats all the pies Mouse bakes. Then Cat goes on to eat everything from the wash lady to the army until Mouse decides to do something about it. Recommended ages: 4-7 years.
An Illustrated Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Illustrated by Anastasiya Archipova
We all know Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are a little darker than the Disney-fied versions. But this collection finds a middle ground. While these may be shortened from the original tales, if you have a child interested in Andersen’s fairy tales, this is a great place to start. Recommended ages: 5-10 years.
The Dragon’s Hoard: Stories from the Viking Sagas by Lari Dan, Illustrated by Cate James
If we’re going to talk about books about Denmark, we of course would be remiss to leave out Vikings. In this books with whimsical illustrations, we get Viking tales not only from Denmark, but from other Scandinavian countries too. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Henri Sorensen
In this Danish legend, a king during WWII comes up with a creative way to protect the Jewish Danish population when the Nazis tell them they must wear the infamous yellow stars. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Middle Grade and YA Books Set in Demark
The Inventors of LEGO Toys by Erin Hagar, Illustrated by Paige Garrison
LEGO, the largest toy company in the world, was invented and is based in Denmark. Here, kids who love LEGO will be able to learn about the history of the toy along with all kinds of interesting facts. Recommended ages: 7-12 years.
Winterfrost by Michelle Houts
On Christmas, Bettina’s family forgets to put out rice pudding for the nisse, Scandinavian mythological creatures. But when Bettina wakes up and discovers her baby sister is missing, she must travel into the world of the nisse to find her. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
So You Want to be a Viking by Georgia Amson-Brandshaw, Illustrated by Takayo Akiyama
Three kids love learning about Vikings. But they find new challenges when they are transported back in time and must actually learn how to become Vikings. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad
In this heartwarming book for middle grade readers, Inge is sent to a Danish island to live with her stern grandmother. But she can’t help and bring trouble and adventure with her wherever she goes. This is for fans of spunky heroines and is recommended for ages 9-12.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This children’s classic won the Newbery Medal and tells the story of Annmarie and her family during WWII, as they take in Annemarie’s best friend, who is Jewish. This is a story of bravery and resistance, and is recommended for ages 10 and up.
Nothing by Janne Teller, Translated by Martin Aitken
When Pierre Anthon decides there is no meaning to life, he leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. But his classmates are determined to prove him otherwise by giving up things of significance. But things may take a darker turn than expected. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
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