12 Best Norwegian Authors You Must Read

There’s no doubt about it–Norwegian authors have made their mark in literary history. Discover our guide with the best Norwegian authors of all time.

Learning more about Norwegian, Australian, and German authors can be a fantastic way to expand your literary knowledge, allowing you to travel the world one story at a time. Norwegian literature started more than a millennium ago, with roots in the country’s pagan past. As a result, Norwegian novels are often closely linked with Danish and Icelandic literature.

1. Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun
Knut Hamsun via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Knut Hamsun was born in 1859 and enjoyed a storied life and career until he died in 1952. Hamsun was one of the first authors to offer stream-of-consciousness style writing, in which the reader gets to experience the protagonist’s innermost thoughts. Hamsun is known to influence many great novelists, including Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, and John Fante.

Hamsun wrote in a style that allowed readers to get to know characters on a new level by using literary devices, including flashbacks and fragments. Hamsun’s work today is controversial, as he was a well-known supporter of Hitler during WWII. The author was accused of treason following Hitler’s death and was found not guilty because of impaired mental faculties. You might enjoy our round-up of the best Somali authors.

“I suffered no pain, my hunger had taken the edge off; instead I felt pleasantly empty, untouched by everything around me and happy to be unseen by all. I put my legs up on the bench and leaned back, the best way to feel the true well-being of seclusion. There wasn’t a cloud in my mind, nor did I feel any discomfort, and I hadn’t a single unfulfilled desire or craving as far as my thought could reach. I lay with open eyes in a state of utter absence from myself and felt deliciously out of it.”

  • Hamsun, Knut (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 11/17/2003 (Publication Date) - Dover Publications (Publisher)

2. Henrik Ibsen

Playwright and theater director Henrik Ibsen was born in 1828 and died in 1906. The Norwegian author is known for various works, including A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck, Ghosts, and The Master Builder. Isben is known for going into self-imposed exile, leaving Norway in 1862 and living in Germany and Italy for the following 27 years.

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?”

An Enemy of the People
An Enemy of the People
  • Ibsen, Henrik (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 76 Pages - 01/24/2019 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

3. Jo Nesbo

Oslo novelist Jo Nesbo has sold more than 3 million copies, and his work has been translated into more than 50 languages worldwide. In 1960, Nesbo was born in Olso and grew up in Molde. He worked as a stockbroker and freelance journalist before he began working as a novelist. The author is known for several works, including the Olav Johansen, Harry Hole, and Doctor Proctor children’s.

“I have problems with a religion which says that faith in itself is enough for a ticket to heaven. In other words, that the ideal is your ability to manipulate your own common sense to accept something your intellect rejects. It’s the same model of intellectual submission that dictatorships have used throughout time, the concept of a higher reasoning without any obligation to discharge the burden of proof.”

The Redeemer, The Harry Hole series
The Redeemer: A Harry Hole Novel (6)
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Jo Nesbø (Author) - John Lee (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 05/21/2013 (Publication Date) - Random House Audio (Publisher)

4. Per Petterson

Born in 1952 in Olso, Per Patterson is known for both his novels and short stories. The author was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature prize in 1998 for his novel Siberia. In addition to writing novels, Petterson is a librarian and has worked as a literary critic and translator.

“It may be all very well in Dickens, but when you read Dickens you’re reading a long ballad from a vanished world, where everything has to come together in the end like an equation, where the balance of what was once disturbed must be restored so that the gods can smile again. A consolation, maybe, or a protest against a world gone off the rails, but it is not like that any more, my world is not like that, and I have never gone along with those who believe our lives are governed by fate.”

Out Stealing Horses
Out Stealing Horses
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Per Petterson (Author) - Richard Poe (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/23/2008 (Publication Date) - Recorded Books (Publisher)

5. Tarjei Vesaas

Tarjei Vesaas was born in 1897 and passed away in 1970. However, the Norwegian author is considered to be one of the country’s most significant writers of all time. Vesaas won several awards for his work during his lifetime, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 1963 for The Ice Palace. He also won the Dobloug Prize in 1957 and the Gyldendal’s Endowment in 1943.

“The darkness at the sides of the road. It possesses neither form nor name, but whoever passes here knows when it comes out and follows after and sends shudders like rippling streams down his back.”

The Ice Palace
The Ice Palace
  • Vesaas, Tarjei (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 06/26/2018 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classic (Publisher)

6. Erlend Loe

Erlend Loe
Erlend Loe via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Known for his dark humor, Loe was born in Norway in 1969 and often took a satirical view of society in his writing. Early in his career, Loe worked as a freelance journalist and eventually co-founded an office community for screenwriters called Screenwriters Olso. The author writes both adult novels and children’s books, both of which show off his unique humor.

“It’s good for me to see so many other people who are not me. That there are so many others. I feel affection for them. Most of them are doing the best they can. I am also doing the best I can.”

Naive. Super
Naïve. Super
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Erlend Loe (Author) - Matthew Lloyd Davies (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/18/2019 (Publication Date) - Tantor Audio (Publisher)

7. Jostein Gaarder

Born in Olso in 1952, Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder is known for writing children’s books, short stories, and novels. He uses the literary technique of metafiction to create worlds within worlds in his novels.

Gaarder is best known for his 1991 novel Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy. For six years, Gaarder and his wife Siri Dannevig awarded up-and-coming authors with the Sophie Prize, named after the main character in his hit novel.

“How terribly sad it was that people are made in such a way that they get used to something as extraordinary as living.”

The Solitaire Mystery
The Solitaire Mystery
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8. Jon Fosse

Jon Fosse is a dramatist and author known for plays including Lilia, Shadows, and many poetry collections. Born in 1959, Fosse’s writing has been acclaimed by many critics and has been awarded several honors, including the Dobloug Prize (1999), the Brage Prize (2005), and The Swedish Academy Nordic Prize (2007).

“Can you be happy when you are unhappy?”

Nightsongs (Oberon Modern Plays)
  • Fosse, Jon (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 104 Pages - 09/01/2002 (Publication Date) - Oberon Books (Publisher)

9. Sigrid Undset

Born in 1882, Sigrid Undset is one of the most prolific writers in Norwegian history. Undset received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. The author was born in Denmark, but her family emigrated to Norway during her childhood. She’s best known for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, through which readers get to follow the experience of a woman from birth to death during the Middle Ages.

“It’s a good thing when you don’t dare do something if you don’t think it’s right. But it’s not good when you think something’s not right because you don’t dare do it.”

The Wreath, The Kristin Lavransdatter series
Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath (Penguin Classics)
  • Undset, Sigrid (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 12/01/1997 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

10. Helga Flatland

One of Norway’s newest prolific authors, Helga Flatland, was born in 1984 and attended the University of Olso. Her writing often tackles the complex subjects of family, parenting, relationships, and womanhood. Flatland has won several literary prizes, including the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize and Mads Wiel Nygarrd’s Endowment.

“I don’t need to know where she spent last night, for example, not as long as she seems happy in herself. Mia, for her part, is still working out where the line is, occasionally she shares uncomfortably intimate details with me about her newly discovered and constantly expanding adulthood, while other weeks she’s silent and stand-offish with me. I want her to be able to tell anything, I thought to myself when she was a child, that’s the sort of mother I want to be, and to remain, but in practice a line has appeared when it comes to Mia.”

One Last Time


One Last Time
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Flatland, Helga (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 276 Pages - 04/24/2021 (Publication Date) - Orenda Books (Publisher)

11. Maja Lunde

Born in 1975, Maja Lunde is one of today’s most successful Norwegian authors. She’s well known for several novels, including the children’s novel Across the Border, which tells the tale of two Jewish children working to escape Nazis by crossing the border from Germany to Sweden in 1942.

“Without knowledge we are nothing. Without knowledge we are animals. After that I became more focused. I did not want to learn solely for the sake of learning, I wanted to learn to understand.”

The History of Bees


The History of Bees
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Maja Lunde (Author) - Joy Osmanski, Steve West, Gibson Frazier (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/22/2017 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster Audio UK (Publisher)

12. Roy Jacobsen

Short story author and novelist Roy Jacobsen was born in Olso in 1954. The writer was awarded The Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature. As a teenager, Jacobsen was a member of a criminal group entitled The Arvoll gang. He was arrested at age 16 and was kept in solitary confinement for more than a month. Many surmise that Jacobsen’s unique younger days have informed his intense writing style today. If you are looking for more, check out our round-up of the best English authors.

“I want to say thank you,’ he said with earnestness, after which he drew his right hand out of the bear-glove and held it out to me, and as we shook hands and looked at each other, I knew that from now on this man would be willing to die for me, as no one had ever been before, with the possible exception of my parents, but I could not remember any of that and oddly enough, this was such a huge change between us, it was almost impossible to bear, I could see into him, we were now one person, I didn’t even think of him as Russian and of myself as Finnish, or that this was not peace, but war, as I ought to have done.”

The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles
The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Roy Jacobsen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 12/27/2007 (Publication Date) - John Murray (Publisher)

FAQs About The Best Norwegian Authors

Who is the No one bestselling Norwegian author?

Jo Nesbo is the best-selling Norwegian author of all time. As of 2021, the author sold more than 50 million copies of his novels worldwide, and his work has been translated into more than 50 languages.

Who is the Number 1 author in the world?

Dame Agatha Christie holds the crown for the best-selling author of all time. The writer was born in 1890 and passed away in 1976, and is known for selling more than two billion copies. Christie is also the most-translated author of all time.

Who is the greatest novelist of all time?

This question is hotly debated. Many literary experts agree that J.D. Salinger is the best novelist. In contrast, others argue that Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, or Mark Twain are more deserving of the best novelist title.