Year after year, tourists throng the cities and by-roads of the world, aided in their discovery efforts by the ubiquitous guidebook. Almost without exception, these guidebooks all follow the same pattern – recommendations for restaurants, shopping, museums, monuments and so on.
But whereas they might be good on history, most tourist guidebooks are painfully short on originality, and I’m consistently bored by the same old construction of these books. As a person interested in culture, I want to find that personal connection with the city that I repeatedly find these books to lack. Seemingly in agreement are the people behind Stockholm’s Uncommon Guidebook.
Edited by Erik Nordlander, Uncommon Stockholm is a surprising breath of fresh air when it comes to guides to the city. The book includes the usual recommendations for best places to go and see, but it does not overwhelm the reader with paragraphs on its significance and descriptions. It has also introduced the element that I have looked for in a guidebook for so long – personal connection.
The book begins with personal accounts of Stockholmers and their relationship with things and places in the city, such as Sandra Beijer’s childhood memories with Karlavägen or native New Yorker Israel Young’s own story about how he ended up in Sweden and began Folklore Centrum. Then more uncommon information comes into play when the book touches on brännboll, and explains the ins and outs of a special part of our day: fika.
At the end, one can find more of the usual guidebook things but in simpler terms – where to find Mexican fast food and the best place for cold cuts. Uncommon Stockholm is the essence of its name, with a distinctive and more personable take on guiding people to Stockholm and even providing residents – who don’t need a guide – an enjoyable and relatable read.
We sat down with the editor of Uncommon Stockholm, Erik Nordlander, to learn more about the book’s background and individuality.
What sparked the idea to construct this book?
In 2011 Maltese citizens Emma Mattei and Jon Banthorpe created a guide to the islands of Malta and Gozo as an attempt to redefine the ‘holiday destination’. I was living in the capital Valletta at the time and took part in writing and taking pictures for the book. I moved to Stockholm and when talking to Emma we realized I could use my friends and contacts in Stockholm to make a similar (and yet very different) book. After Stockholm there are books on London and the Middle East coming up.
In your view, what makes the book stand out from other guidebooks?
The subjective perspectives of the contributors and the tips for engaging in everyday life – not just directions on how to find tourist attractions. The content caters for a slower read, and the hardback, cloth-bound book will not disgrace the bookshelf.
The book is very versatile. You can learn the history of the smorgasbord all the way up to how to play brännboll. How did you choose what to include in Uncommon Stockholm?
Most subjects were thought up by the contributors, which we then discussed until there was a clear and feasible idea. Other ideas I handed out to photographers and writers to realize, covering different parts of the city and picking up on some threads featured in the Malta book.
Words by Angela Markovic