Born in Oslo in 1960, crime writer and rock musician Jo Nesbø has become one of Norway’s most beloved and respected exports. Growing up playing football and guitar, he formed the pop-rock band Di Derre in 1992, and has served as main vocalist and songwriter ever since.
Nesbø’s foray into writing came in 1997 with the publication of his debut novel, The Bat, featuring his now-iconic protagonist, Detective Harry Hole. The novel, which followed Hole’s investigation of a murder in Australia, was a critical success and marked the beginning of Nesbø’s career as a prolific author of crime fiction.
Since then, Nesbø has written over 20 novels, many of which have been translated into more than 50 languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. His books have been praised for their intricate plots, vivid characters, and unflinching exploration of the dark underbelly of human nature.
Sharing a list of his 10 favorite reads with NY-based bookstore One Grand, Nesbø included classics by Shakespeare, Hamsun, Bukowski, and Nabokov alongside lesser-known cult novels. Explore his recommendations below, and complement with the bookshelves of Bret Easton Ellis, Dan Brown, Don DeLillo, Gillian Flynn, Lee Child, Stephen King, and Tana French.
Jo Nesbø’s Reading List
“When I was asked by my publisher to write a novel in their new series of novels based on Shakespeare-plays, I said yes, if I can have Macbeth. Why? Because it’s bloody. And short. And quite good. I don’t know if it was because of that answer, but they gave me Macbeth.” -JN
“This was, and still is, the ultimate bohemian novel to me. There is a certain young age when you feel that Hamsun, Dostoyevsky and Hemingway speak to you and only to you.” -JN
Pan by Knut Hamsun
“I chose this because of the beauty of the prose and the landscape, the fascinating contradictions in the characters, the dark, subtle humor.” -JN
“After reading the first thirty pages of this six-volume Proust-ish soul-searching story of a man dissecting himself, I knew it was too much. And that is was brilliant.” -JN
Max, Mischa & Tetoffensiven by Johan Harstad
“Beside Knausgård, Harstad is perhaps the best Norwegian writer right now. It’s about a young boy moving with his family from Norway to the USA, growing up there in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and so it’s an outsider’s look at American society, written with clinical precision and desperate humor. If you like thick, epic books like DeLillos’ Underworld, this is probably up your alley.” -JN
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson
“The first crime novel I read that made me want to write one. It’s the original American Psycho, thirty years or so before Bret Easton Ellis.” -JN
Suicide by Edouard Levé
“A short, but intense, both tender and brutal novel. I was surprised when I learned how little known he is, even in France.” -JN
“I read this as a young student, and I thought you had to be me or one of my friends to appreciate the raw humor and sweet sadness. So I was surprised when my father picked up my book when I was home for summer holiday, and I saw him sitting in his reading chair, laughing out loud. It’s a bit like your parents copying your playlist and actually digging it; you’re not sure whether you should feel invaded or proud.” -JN
Gentlemen by Klas Ôstergren
“This has been a cult novel in Sweden ever since it was published in 1980, and has to some degree been discovered in Norway, too. It steals from both the classics and pulp fiction and has this couldn’t-care-less-attitude combined with literary talent that reminds me of Jim Carrol’s Basketball Diaries. Both have this special sense of time and place that makes you want to move to Stockholm or New York.” -JN
“How do you make the reader sympathize, or at least tolerate reading about, a man who is lusting for a child? I don’t know. You have to be good. And it’s probably a good idea to start the novel with the potential child molester declaring his love in a passionate and honest way, so you can always retreat to that later, when you want to flee: he actually loves her.” -JN
(via One Grand Books)
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