Three Scandinavian Books: The Bell in the Lake, Norwegian Wood, and Jellyfish Age Backwards

To be a writer is to be a reader, and much of my work as an MFA student involves reading widely and studying elements of craft in the books that I choose. Of course, as a writer who specializes in all things Scandinavian, there’s plenty of Scandi influence here too. As January draws to a close, here are the Scandinavian books and other titles I finished reading this month.

Books: The Bell in the Lake, Norwegian Wood, Jellyfish Age Backwards

Books by Scandinavian authors, in translation

The Bell in the Lake
by Lars Mytting
My favorite book in recent memory, this first-in-a-trilogy novel involves mythology and folklore in Norway as the people of an isolated village face changes brought in by the outside world. I’ll share a longer report on The Bell in the Lake soon; subscribe to my free weekly newsletter to be notified.

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way
by Lars Mytting
An international bestseller, this book had caught my eye for years, and I’m glad I finally read it. Much more than a guide to the chopping, stacking, and drying of wood, it’s also a celebration of wood’s importance in Scandinavia and the way that providing heat for one’s home is at the heart of a culture.

Jellyfish Age Backwards: Nature’s Secrets to Longevity
by Nicklas Brendborg
A new release by a Danish molecular biologist, this book explores the discoveries that scientists have made from the natural world about how we might be able to someday combat aging and increase lifespans in notable ways.

Additional January reading

A Wild Sheep Chase
by Haruki Murakami
Recommended by my MFA mentor, this book by the bestselling author touches on the surreal as it tells the story of an advertising executive who meets a young woman with ears so exquisite that seeing them transforms experiences into the sublime—and from there he literally goes on a wild sheep chase.

I’m Glad My Mom Died
by Jennette McCurdy
A selection for one of my book clubs, this memoir is about a former child star whose development as a child star under her controlling, abusive mother wrecked her childhood. Breaking through drinking and years of eating disorders, McCurdy has managed to reclaim her life and shares her struggles and successes with honesty.

The Violin Conspiracy
by Brendan Slocumb
Author Brendan Slocumb was advised by his agent to write what he knows, so he drew from his own life as a black classical musician in a field that’s predominantly white to tell the story of a young violinist on the path to international stardom when his $10 million Stradivarius violin is stolen. The audiobook narrated by JD Jackson is fantastic.

Olga Dies Dreaming
by Xochitl Gonzalez
The selection for my other book club, this multilayered book involves a wedding planner to New York’s wealthiest families who finds herself in the center of her congressman brother’s politics and radical mother’s schemes when Hurricane Maria strikes Puerto Rico.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by V.E. Schwab
The Faustian tale, oversimplified here for brevity, goes like this: Adeline wants more to life so makes a deal that allows her to live for centuries. Only, she didn’t expect the consequence: Everyone forgets her the moment she’s out of sight. Her deal with the “devil” sends her through lonely centuries until she meets someone who might just remember her.

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