Books Set in Denmark: Danish Novels
This list of books set in Denmark, spans from classics through to contemporary fiction. There are a wide range of genres included, from classic fairy tales through to Nordic noir (aka Scandinavian crime fiction). Many of the titles are set in the beautiful capital of Copenhagen, while some are in the countryside and others cross outside of the countries borders. 🇩🇰
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Books Set in Denmark: An Introduction
Many works by notable Danish authors are included in this list of books set in Denmark, such as Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard, Winters Tales by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), Smilla’s Sense For Snow by Peter Høeg and One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart. I most recently read (and loved) the touching Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.
I hope this list of books set in Denmark will transport you around the country, and inspire you to choose some Danish literature for your next read! 📚
Books Set in Denmark: The Shortlist
If you want to skip the longer list below, these are my personal picks for books set in Denmark:
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
- Smilla’s Sense For Snow by Peter Høeg
- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
- The Midnight Witness (Louise Rick #1) by Sara Blaedel
- The Quiet Girl by Peter Høeg
- The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q #1) by Jussi Adler-Olsen, 2007
- The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg #1) by Lene Kaaberbøl, 2008
- The Killing by David Hewson
- Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl
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Books Set in Denmark
1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare, 1603
Hamlet is the story of the Prince of Denmark who learns of the death of his father at the hands of his uncle, Claudius. Claudius murders Hamlet’s father, his own brother, to take the throne of Denmark and to marry Hamlet’s widowed mother. Hamlet is sunk into a state of great despair as a result of discovering the murder of his father and the infidelity of his mother. Hamlet is torn between his great sadness and his desire for the revenge of his father’s murder.
2. The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, 1835
Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are like exquisite jewels, drawing from us gasps of recognition and delight. Writing in the midst of a Europe-wide rebirth of national literature, Anderson broke new ground with his fairy tales in two important ways. First, he composed them in the vernacular, mimicking the language he used in telling them to children aloud. Second, he set his tales in his own land and time, giving rise to his loving descriptions of the Danish countryside.
3. The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, 1836
For as long as she can remember, the little mermaid has yearned for her 15th birthday, when she will finally be old enough to explore the world above the waves. Awash with the evocative colors of the sea, Hans Christian Andersen’s bittersweet tale comes to life.
4. Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard, 1843
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, and religious author interested in human psychology. He is regarded as a leading pioneer of existentialism and one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th Century. In Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard wanted to understand the anxiety that must have been present in Abraham when God commanded him to offer his son as a human sacrifice.
5. Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, 1891
Opposites attract, and Helmut Holk and Christine Arne, the appealing married couple at the center of this engrossing book by one of Germany’s greatest novelists, could not be less alike. Christine is a serious soul from a devout background. She is brooding and beautiful and devoted to her husband and their two children. Helmut is lighthearted and pleasure-loving and largely content to defer to his wife’s deeper feelings and better wisdom.
6. Stolen Spring by Hans Scherfig, 1940
The Stolen Spring’s main theme is the solidarity of a group of boys in a school with harsh discipline. It is highly critical of the Danish educational system in the 20th century, a system Scherfig himself was a product of, and it is considered to be broadly based on some of his own experiences as a student at Metropolitanskolen.
7. Winters Tales by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), 1942
In Isak Dinesen’s universe, the magical enchantment of the fairy tale and the moral resonance of myth coexist with an unflinching grasp of the most obscure human strengths and weaknesses. A despairing author abandons his wife, but in the course of a long night’s wandering, he learns love’s true value and returns to her, only to find her a different woman than the one he left. A landowner, seeking to prove a principle, inadvertently exposes the ferocity of mother love. A wealthy young traveler melts the hauteur of a lovely woman by masquerading as her aged and loyal servant.
8. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner, 1976
Joe Allston is a cantankerous, retired literary agent who is, in his own words, “just killing time until time gets around to killing me”. His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, has not been his choice. He has passed through life as a spectator, before retreating to the woods of California in the 1970s with only his wife, Ruth, by his side. When an unexpected postcard from a long-lost friend arrives, Allston returns to the journals of a trip he has taken years before, a journey to his mother’s birthplace where he once sought a link with his past.
9. Copenhagen Connection by Elizabeth Peters, 1982
A strange twist of fate brings Elizabeth Jones face to face with her idol, the brilliant, eccentric historian Margaret Rosenberg, at the Copenhagen Airport. An even stranger accident makes Elizabeth the esteemed scholar’s new private assistant. But luck can go from good to bad in an instant – and less than twenty-four hours later, the great lady is kidnapped by persons unknown.
10. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, 1989
Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.
11. Echoland by Per Petterson, 1989
Twelve-year-old Arvid and his family are on holiday, staying with his grandparents in Denmark. Confused by the underlying tension between his mother and grandmother, Arvid is grappling with his own sense of self. He’s on the cusp of becoming a teenager, feeling awkward in his own skin. Echoland is a subtle and truthful snapshot of growing up, with an emotional depth that lingers long after its final pages.
12. Absolution by Olaf Olafsson, 1991
Expatriate businessman Peter Peterson left behind the trappings of a seemingly charmed life: a vast fortune, two children, and a stately Park Avenue address. But he also left behind another legacy: a secret from long ago that shadowed his accomplishments and estranged him from his loved ones—a crime of passion, committed in the throes of unrequited love, that became a lifetime’s burden. Note: this is set in Iceland, Denmark and New York.
13. Smilla’s Sense For Snow by Peter Høeg, 1992
It happened in the Copenhagen snow. A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building. While the boy’s body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident. But Smilla knows her young neighbor didn’t fall from the roof on his own. Soon she is following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow. For her dead neighbor, and for herself, she must embark on a harrowing journey of lies, revelation and violence that will take her back to the world of ice and snow from which she comes, where an explosive secret waits beneath the ice.
14. Borderliners by Peter Høeg, 1993
Strange things are happening at Biehl’s Academy when this elite school opens its doors to a group of orphans and reform-school rejects, kids at the end of the system’s tether. The school is run by a peculiar set of rules by which every minute is regimented and controlled. Soon, they suspect they are guinea pigs in a bizarre social experiment and that their only hope of escape is to break through a dangerous threshold of time and space.
15. Silence in October by Jens Christian Grøndahl, 1996
After eighteen years of marriage, an art historian wakes up one morning to find his wife standing in the bedroom doorway with her bags packed, leaving him with no explanation. Alone in his Copenhagen apartment, he tries to make sense of his enigmatic marriage and life. Memories of driving a cab, quiet walks in the snow, and intense sojourns in Paris and New York pass through his mind in fleeting images. The more he thinks of his wife, however, the more mysterious she becomes to him.
16. To Siberia by Per Petterson, 1996
A brother and sister are forced ever more closely together after the suicide of their grandfather. Their parents’ neglect leaves them wandering the streets of their small Danish village. The sister dreams of escaping to Siberia, but it seems increasingly distant as she helplessly watches her brother become more and more involved in resisting the Nazis.
17. Music & Silence by Rose Tremain, 1999
Peter Claire is an English lutenist summoned to Denmark to join King Christian IV’s royal orchestra. Designated the king’s “Angel” because of the purity of his physical beauty, Peter falls helplessly in love with the lovely companion of Queen Kirsten, the king’s adulterous wife. The young musician finds himself dangerously torn between loyalties, ensnared in the deep-seated unrest of a royal court where the forces of good and evil, of harmony and dissonance, are ensconced in a battle to the death.
18. The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist, 1999
The Royal Physician’s Visit magnificently recasts the dramatic era of Danish history when Johann Friedrich Struensee – court physician to mad young King Christian – stepped through an aperture in history and became the holder of absolute power in Denmark. His is a gripping tale of power, sex, love, and the life of the mind, and it is superbly rendered here by Sweden’s most acclaimed writer.
19. The Torso (Inspector Huss #3) by Helene Tursten, 1999
Part of a human torso washes up on a beach near Göteborg, Sweden. It is so mutilated that gender is only established by DNA testing. A similar crime, now several years old, remains unsolved in Denmark. Detective Inspector Irene Huss is dispatched to Copenhagen to liaise with police. Then a third corpse is discovered. This time it’s identified.
20. Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, 2000
Using details of the ancient Scandinavian legends that were the inspiration for Hamlet, John Updike brings to life Gertrude’s girlhood as the daughter of King Rorik, her arranged marriage to the man who becomes King Hamlet, and her middle-aged affair with her husband’s younger brother.
21. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, 2000
Loosely inspired by a true story, this tender portrait of marriage asks: What do you do when the person you love has to change? It starts with a question, a simple favor asked by a wife of her husband while both are painting in their studio, setting off a transformation neither can anticipate.
22. The Exception by Christian Jungersen, 2004
A bestseller throughout Europe, The Exception is a gripping dissection of the nature of evil and of the paranoia and obsessions that drive ordinary people to commit unthinkable acts. Four women work together for a small nonprofit in Copenhagen that disseminates information on genocide. When two of them receive death threats, they immediately believe that they are being stalked by Mirko Zigic, a Serbian torturer and war criminal, whom they have recently profiled in their articles.
23. The Midnight Witness (Louise Rick #1) by Sara Blaedel, 2004
A young woman is found strangled in a park, and a male journalist has been killed in the backyard of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Detective Louise Rick is put on the case of the young girl, but very soon becomes entangled in solving the other homicide too when it turns out her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind, knew the murdered man. Louise tries to keep her friend from getting too involved, but Camilla’s never been one to miss out on an interesting story. Note: there are nine bestselling titles in the Louise Rick series, which you can see in order here.
24. The Quiet Girl by Peter Høeg, 2006
Kaspar Krone is a world-renowned circus clown, and a man in some deep trouble. Drowning in gambling debt and wanted for tax evasion, Krone is drafted into the service of a mysterious order of nuns who promise him reprieve in return for his help safeguarding a group of children with mystical abilities that Krone also shares. When one of the children goes missing, Krone sets off to find the young girl and bring her back, making a shocking series of discoveries along the way.
25. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen, 2006
It is an epic drama of adventure, courage, ruthlessness and passion by one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed storytellers. In 1848 a motley crew of Danish sailors sets sail from the small island town of Marstal to fight the Germans. Not all of them return – and those who do will never be the same. Among them is the daredevil Laurids Madsen, who promptly escapes again into the anonymity of the high seas.
26. My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen, 2006
Charlotte Schleswig, the delightful narrator of Liz Jensen’s novel, supports herself and the lumpen Fru Schleswig (who may or may not be her mother) as a prostitute in 1890s Copenhagen. While she is no small success at the trade, she leaps at a new job opportunity for herself and Fru Schleswig, as cleaning ladies for the wealthy widow Krak. But mysteries abound at Fru Krak’s dark old mansion.
27. Nothing But Fear by Knud Romer, 2006
The Second World War is long over but its legacy continues to tear a town – and a young boy’s life – apart. Knud is growing up in Falster, a small Danish town in the 1960s. The war is over but the Germans are still hated and Knud has a German mother. Bullied and persecuted at school, he retreats into the eccentric world of his family’s history – but he can’t escape the fact that, for him, his parents, and his paternal grandparents, the war is still being fought.
28. Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein, 2006
In this reimagining of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems.
29. Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, 2006
Beginning in the middle of crisis, then accelerating through plots that grow stranger by the page, Naja Marie Aidt’s stories have a feel all their own. Though they are built around the common themes of sex, love, desire, and gender, Aidt pushes them into her own desperate, frantic realm.
Note: this collection of short stories is written by Aidt – an author who was born in Greenland and writes in Danish.
30. Kerrigan in Copenhagen: A Love Story by Thomas E. Kennedy, 2006
Kerrigan is writing a guide book to his adopted city of Copenhagen. Specifically, a guide to the city’s drinking establishments – of which there are more than 1,500. Thus, it is a project potentially without end, and one with a certain amount of numbness built into it, through countless drinks imbibed. And that is part of the point: for Kerrigan, an American expat fleeing a brutal family tragedy, has plenty he wants to numb.
31. The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q #1) by Jussi Adler-Olsen, 2007
Carl Mørck used to be one of Copenhagen’s best homicide detectives. Then a hail of bullets destroyed the lives of two fellow cops, and Carl—who didn’t draw his weapon—blames himself. So a promotion is the last thing he expects. But Department Q is a department of one, and Carl’s got only a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases for company. His colleagues snicker, but Carl may have the last laugh, because one file keeps nagging at him: a liberal politician vanished five years earlier and is presumed dead. But she isn’t dead… yet. Note: there are 8 books in the Department Q series, which you can see here.
32. The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard, 2007
When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon has not seen his father for twenty years since the mysterious death of his mother. When Luca’s death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family’s past. Unbeknown to Jon, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret.
33. The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi, 2007
In this luminous story of bravery, tradition, and the power of language, an Afghan woman and Danish widower form an unexpected alliance. Escaping the turmoil and heartbreak of war-torn Kabul, Raihana settles with distant relatives in the strange, cold, damp country of Denmark. Homesick and heartbroken, Raihana bravely attempts to start a new life, trying hard not to ponder the fate of her husband, who was taken prisoner by the Taliban and never heard from again.
34. The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg #1) by Lene Kaaberbøl, 2008
Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can’t say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.
35. The Dinosaur Feather (Søren Marhauge #1) by Sissel-Jo Gazan, 2008
Biology postgraduate and hopeful PhD Anna Bella Nor is just two weeks away from defending her thesis on the origin of birds when her supervisor, the arrogant and widely despised Lars Helland, is found dead in his office chair at the University of Copenhagen. In the man’s bloody lap is his tongue as well as a copy of Anna’s thesis.
36. The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul, 2009
Bess and Halland live in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. When Halland is found murdered in the main square the police encounter only riddles. For Bess bereavement marks the start of a journey that leads her to a reassessment of first friends, then family.
37. The Hanging (Konrad Simonsen #1) by Lotte Hammer and Søren Hammer, 2010
One morning before school, two children find the naked bodies of five men hanging from the gym ceiling. The case leads detective Konrad Simonsen and his murder squad to the school janitor, who may know more about the killings than he is telling. Soon, Simonsen realizes that each of the five murdered men had a dark and terrible secret in common. And when Simonsen’s own daughter is targeted, he must race to find the culprit before his whole world is destroyed. Note: you can see the books in this series here.
38. Nothing by Janne Teller, 2010
When Pierre-Anthon realizes there is no meaning to life, the seventh-grader leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. His classmates cannot make him come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre-Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance.
39. A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson, 2011
In a Europe without borders, where social norms have become fragile, a son must confront the sins of his father and grandfather, and invent new strategies for survival. Spanning the mid-1980s to early-twenty-first-century in Copenhagen, this coming-of-age novel examines what it means to be a stranger in the modern world, and how, for better or for worse, a father’s legacy is never passed on in any predictable fashion.
40. Three Dog Night (Peter Boutrup #1) by Elsebeth Egholm, 2011
It’s the coldest winter in memory as ex-convict Peter Boutrup moves to remote, rural Denmark to start a new life. But when a young woman goes missing on New Year’s Eve and Peter discovers the body of Ramses, an old acquaintance from prison, things start to unravel.
41. The Killing by David Hewson, 2012
A page-turning adaptation of the first season of the original Danish television series, The Killing. Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day as a detective with the Copenhagen Police department before moving to Sweden. But everything changes when 19-year-old student Nanna Birk Larsen is found raped and brutally murdered in the woods outside the city. Lund’s plans to relocate are put on hold as she leads the investigation along with fellow detective Jan Meyer.
42. The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine, 2012
Idealistic, misguided Morten Falck is a newly ordained priest sailing to Greenland in 1787 to convert the Inuit to the Danish church. A rugged outpost battered by unremittingly harsh winters, Sukkertoppen is simmering with the threat of dissent; natives from neighboring villages have unified to reject Danish rule and establish their own settlement atop Eternal Fjord. Note: this is set between Denmark and Greenland.
43. One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart, 2012
The English-language debut from one of Denmark’s most exciting, celebrated young writers, One of Us Is Sleeping is a haunting novel about loss in all its forms. Working in the vein of Anne Carson, Josefine Klougart’s novel is both true-to-life and incredibly poetic in its relating of a brief, intense love affair and the grief and disillusionment that follow its end.
44. You Disappear: A Novel by Christian Jungersen, 2012
Mia is a schoolteacher in Denmark. Her husband, Frederik, is the charismatic headmaster of a local private school. During a vacation on Majorca, they discover that a brain tumor has started to change Frederik’s personality. As it becomes harder and harder for Mia to recognize him, she must protect herself and their teenage son from the strange, blunted being who now inhabits her husband’s body – and with whom she must share her home, her son, and her bed.
45. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, 2015
Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll? A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.
46. Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl, 2016
When Ellinor addresses her best friend Anna, she does not expect a reply. Anna has been dead for forty years, killed in the same skiing accident that claimed Henning: Ellinor’s first husband and Anna’s lover. Ellinor instead tells her that Georg has died – Georg who was once Anna’s, but whom Ellinor came to love in her place, and whom she came to care for, along with Anna’s two infant sons. Yet with Georg’s death Ellinor finds herself able to cut the ties of her assumed life with surprising ease.
47. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking, 2016
‘Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight…’ You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.
48. The Second Winter by Craig Larsen, 2016
It is 1941. In occupied Denmark, an uneasy relationship between the Danish government and the Germans allows the country to function under the protection of Hitler’s army, while Danish resistance fighters wage a bloody, covert battle against the Nazis. Fredrik Gregersen, a brutish, tormented caretaker of a small farm in Jutland laboring to keep his son and daughter fed, profits from helping Jewish fugitives cross the border into Sweden. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, Polina, a young refugee from Krakow, finds herself impressed into prostitution by Germans and Danes alike.
49. The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi, 2017
Sanya was always the perfect wife, but after a breakdown at her office, it’s her husband Harry’s turn to step up. His proposal? A temporary move to Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city. He needs to be there to close a business deal and figures the change of scenery will do her good. Soon Sanya goes from hiding under her duvet to hiding in plain sight—a dark-skinned Indian American in a city of blondes.
What do you think of these books set in Denmark?
Have some great books set in Denmark that I’ve missed? Are you planning a trip to Denmark soon? Are you interested in other books set in Scandinavia? I’d love to hear about more about your travels and tips for books set in Denmark in the comments below! ✨
Looking for more reading ideas from Scandinavia?
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