Art & Architecture -- The most comprehensive survey of Swedish art is found in A History of Swedish Art, by Mereth Lindgren, published in 1987. For architecture buffs, Sweden: 20th Century was published in 1998, so it's current almost to the dawn of the 21st century. You can see the emergence of Swedish modernism in this opus.
History & Mythology -- The Early Vasas: A History of Sweden, 1523-1611, by Michael Roberts, covers one of the most dramatic and action-filled eras in Sweden's long history. Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales, edited by Claire Booss, is an extraordinary collection filled with elves, dwarfs, trolls, goblins, and other spirits of the house and barnyard.
Biography -- Sweden in North America (1638-1988), by Sten Carlsson, follows the lives of some of the 2% of the North American population that has some sort of Swedish background -- from Greta Garbo to Charles Lindbergh.
Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prizes, by Nils K. Ståhle, traces the life of the 19th-century Swedish industrialist and creator of the coveted awards that bear his name.
Garbo: Her Story, by Antoni Gronowicz, is a controversial, unauthorized memoir based on a long and intimate friendship; it goes beyond the fabulous face, with many candid details of this most reluctant of movie legends.
Literature & Theater -- A History of Swedish Literature, by Ingemar Algulin, is the best overview on the subject -- from the runic inscriptions of the Viking age up to modern fiction.
The Story of Gösta Berling, by Selma Lagerlöf, is the acclaimed work -- originally published in 1891 -- that Garbo filmed.
Three Plays: Father, Miss Julie, Easter, by August Strindberg, provides an insight into the world of this strange Swedish genius who wrote a number of highly arresting dramas; these are some of his best known.
Pippi Longstocking -- The world was saddened to learn of the death in 2002 of Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish writer of the Pippi Longstocking tales, who died at the age of 94 at her home in Stockholm. One of the world's most widely translated authors, Lindgren horrified parents but captivated millions of children around the globe with her whimsical, rollicking stories about a carrot-haired enfant terrible. In 1999, she was voted the most popular Swede of the century, having produced more than 70 books for young people. The best known is Pippi Longstocking, first published in 1945.
Film -- Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress, by Philip Mosley, is a critical study of Bergman's oeuvre dating from his earliest work as a writer-director in the late 1940s up to Autumn Sonata.
Swedish Cinema, from Ingeborg Holm to Fanny and Alexander, by Peter Cowie, covers the complete history of Swedish films, from the emergence of the silent era to the rise of Ingmar Bergman, up to the most recent wave.
Ingmar Bergman is easily the country's most famous director. Born in Uppsala in 1918, he made his debut in 1938 as an amateur director at a theater in Stockholm, but didn't release his first feature film, Crisis, until 1946. It wasn't until the 1950s that he attracted world attention with such critically acclaimed films as The Seventh Seal (1957) and Wild Strawberries (1957). In the decades to come, he went on to score one success after another, including Fanny and Alexander (1982). Each Bergman film deals with a universal theme, such as human isolation. In his own words, his films look "deep into the twilight room of the human soul."
One Swedish celebrity who's perhaps even more famous than Ingmar Bergman is the similarly named Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman (1916-82). She appeared in some of the finest Hollywood movies of the 1940s, such films as Notorious, The Bells of St. Mary's, and Casablanca.
Another internationally known Swedish director is Lasse Hallström, born in 1946 and known for directing actors in Oscar-nominated pictures, including Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules (1999) and Leonardo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).
After the United States and Britain, Sweden is practically the third-biggest exporter of music in the world. Sweden also dominates the music scene in Scandinavia, producing the songs most often heard in Denmark and Norway. The biggest success story is accorded to ABBA, one of our all-time favorite groups, active from 1972 until 1982. One of the best-selling acts in the history of music, the quartet topped worldwide charts and continues to sell albums to this day -- more than 300 million records so far. That means a lot of people like "Dancing Queen" and "Fernando."
Another popular band (but not half as successful as ABBA) is Ace of Base, a dance pop band from Gothenburg that released its debut album in 1992, scoring major success throughout the '90s with such hits as "Don't Turn Around" and "Cruel Summer." Two of the group's albums, The Sign and The Bridge, went platinum in the United States.
The Cardigans have also enjoyed international success. Formed in the town of Jönköping in 1992, the group has had hits in various genres, including alternative rock and early indie leanings that evoke '60s-inspired pop. After their breakthrough second album, Life, in 1995, the band scored their biggest international hit single with "Lovefool."
The rock band the Hives rose to prominence at the turn of the millennium as a leading part of a worldwide garage rock revival. In their matching black-and-white suits, The Hives scored their biggest hit with the song "Hate to Say I Told You So."
A more recent group, the Concretes, have also burst onto the scene. Despite generating some excitement with their recording In Colour, The Concretes seem unlikely to take the world by storm unless they can come up with a really big hit. But they're still busy writing and recording songs, so it's too early to write them off.