To find Swedish books is easy. To find books in Swedish that you as a language learner actually understand is another thing (depending on your level of Swedish, of course). There are a lot of books out there that are tailor-made for learners, either classical stories that are adapted to non-natives, or stories written for this particular aim (such as Swedish4Real, coincidentally).

But at some point you may want to get into reading “real books”, i.e. books that are written in Swedish for Swedes. Then it’s not always easy to know where to start. You’ve probably heard of some of the great Swedish authors, such as August Strindberg and Selma Lagerlöf, and perhaps you want to give them a try one day. However, if you’re not already at a pretty high intermediate level of Swedish, those authors will probably just stifle your confidence, which is counterproductive.

So how do you know which level to start at? You’ll need to figure that out by trying different books, but here’s what we think:

If a book is to help you on your Swedish learning journey, it needs to be comprehensible – but not one hundred percent. If you read the first page and realise you only understood one sentence, then that’s too difficult. If, on the other hand, you understood every single word, then it’s probably too easy. You want to read at a level where you get the jist of most of the sentences, but where you also need to look up words here and there. You need to be challenged, yet not exhausted. A new word only makes sense in context, and so if every word in a sentence is alien to you, you’re not going to learn much from reading that book. Learning Swedish will then feel like a gruelling marathon.

Here’s a rule of thumb: when reading a book you should understand more than you don’t. Does that make sense?

All this said, here are a few books that we think are great for you if you know some Swedish but consider yourself far from fluent. We list them both because they’re fun to read and because they’re not extremely difficult. Don’t be put off by the fact that they happen to be children’s books. They’re still great, you know. We’ve tried to sort them in order of difficulty level (although this is admittedly highly subjective). And, well, they’re all by Astrid Lindgren.

To read Astrid Lindgren is to tap into the Swedish collective unconscious – her stories reflect and indeed have formed Swedish culture to an unparallelled extent. If you haven’t read her books, now is the time to get started – and if you have already read her books but in another language, do read them in Swedish:

Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn

Madicken

Lillebror och Karlsson på taket

Ronja Rövardotter

Mio, min Mio

Bröderna Lejonhjärta

Do you want us to list other types of books? Comment below if you know what genre or difficulty level you want, and we’ll try to give you a few tips. Or, for that matter, send us an email at info(a)swedish4real.com. You can be as specific or general as you like.

By Jacob Sundberg

Want to learn Swedish? Try out Swedish4Real!

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