Book Review: On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-Being by Julie Catterson Lindahl

The 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge has a prompt asking readers to choose a book that fulfills a favorite prompt from a past challenge. I’ve only ever completed one other PopSugar reading challenge, so I dug through some of the other past challenges to find a prompt from 2019, a book set in Scandinavia. This fit in perfectly with a book on my TBR, so for this, I read On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-Being by Julie Catterson Lindahl (Tarcher, 2005). This had been on my TBR for quite some time, so I was glad to finally tackle it.

Julie Catterson Lindahl lives in what may be one of the coolest places in the world, a tiny island off the coast of Sweden. She, her husband (who is Swedish by birth), and their twins moved to their island cottage full-time in order to find a more relaxing way of life. Julie wasn’t sure how this would work out at first (though it was she who pushed for it!), but as the years have unfolded there, she’s leaned hard into Swedish life and culture and found that it suits her perfectly, and she’s here to share what she’s learned.

Incorporating nature into one’s life is important; the weather doesn’t have to be beach-perfect in order to enjoy time outside. Eating a more natural diet can help you feel more in tune with yourself. What we think of as spa treatments – sauna, massage, etc – help with relaxation. And design – smooth, clean lines, clear space, incorporating curves in some spaces, using natural materials – can help you feel calmer and more present at home and at work. These are some of the things that Swedes have figured out in order to live the good life that many of us have forgotten or ignored, but maybe we should take another look.

For me, the best parts of this book were the descriptions of the Swedish island Julie Catterson Lindahl lives on. Only one neighbor, surrounded by water (and ice in the winter!) and nature, the ability to forage in her own backyard, needing to take a boat to get to the mainland, it all sounds so fascinating! That’s not to say it’s not a lot of work; the family has to be very careful about the garbage they create, as all their trash has to be hauled to the mainland for disposal, and they have lots of plans for backup if the water or power fails. But it seems the benefits far outweigh the negatives here, and adding in some of the activities that Swedes and Scandinavians in general find relaxing and beneficial (and which they think should be available to everyone, regardless of income), such as sauna and lengthy time off work, really adds to an overall feeling of well-being that we here in the US assume only the wealthy should have.

Interesting book that gave me a lot to think about.

Visit Julie Catterson Lindahl’s website here.


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