Lola A. Åkerström introduces you to a refreshing insider look at Stockholm called “Uncommon Stockholm” and interviews its editor to get behind the concept.
You meet up, you sign a paper, you get into a small bus. You drive to a field where the bus driver turns out to be your captain. He releases a small, red balloon in order to check the wind direction. He follows it with his large, old-school binoculars. The idea is that you take off from the side of town according to the direction of the wind. Like that, you travel across and land somewhere on the other side.
…Erik Nordlander, “Rising Up”, Uncommon Stockholm.
I first heard about this refreshing take on a traditional guidebook about Stockholm from fellow travel blogger and friend Sofia Zetterqvist. Knowing the type of stories and insider tips we provide here on Slow Travel Stockholm, she recommended I check out this uncommon guide to Stockholm.
The minute I started flipping through the elegantly designed book, I quickly realized I wasn’t looking at a guide but rather, an anthology – a collection of insider stories from residents and locals about their favorite places and moments in Stockholm, about those corners that have left memorable imprints of their lives in Stockholm and have shaped the way they view the city.
I’ve always ascertained that Stockholm is the most open society run by the most private of people and to get beneath the culture and lifestyle, one has to stay longer.
Travel slowly through the city as it were.
And Uncommon Stockholm has given us an invaluable rare insight into this.
While I’m currently poring through a review copy of Uncommon Stockholm which I’ll publish later, I wanted to reach out right away to the editor behind the book, Erik Nordlander, to get some behind-the-scenes insights into how the book was born, created, and shaped.
STS: How did the concept of creating a book like “Uncommon Stockholm” come about? What gap were you looking to fill in terms of providing solid insider information about Stockholm?
NORDLANDER: The original Uncommon Guide Book was published in Malta in 2011 by Miranda Publishers. Maltese journalist Emma Mattei and British artist Jon Banthorpe wanted to create a book that challenged the preconceived idea of the Maltese Islands as just a ‘summer holiday’ destination. The book was created out of a need to address this rather simplistic view.
They developed an idea to gather tales and tips from the local community and create a book that guides the reader towards something beyond the monument or the restaurant.
In 2013, Uncommon: Stockholm, the second book in the series, was published. I had lived in Malta for some time and knew the artistic community there very well, so we decided to collaborate and produce a similar book, this time in one of Europe’s northernmost cities.
What we do is shift the focus from information to insight – generally, tourists are excluded from every day life in the city and urged by conventional guide books to experience one common vision, which is very superficial, and perhaps a little out dated in terms of how they speak to their audience.
The book seems part anthology filled with place-based narratives (70%), part guidebook (30%). Is this a fair assessment? How would you describe this book in your own words?
Yes, this is a fair assessment. We take our inspiration from guidebooks of the past, often filled with personal asides and hand drawn maps. We wanted to create a modern day companion, filled with lore and intimate details of the city, and we also wanted to provide fun routes and itineraries to encourage exploration of the various neighbourhoods in Stockholm.
We include detailed routes, history, as well as literary elements, yet never deviate from being a guidebook – all our contributors are briefed to guide us towards an aspect of living in this city. The idea is that no image is too perfectly drawn, to bring the reader closer to the Stockholm community and to form their own relationship with the city.
You have a diverse range of contributors and resident voices in the book. How did you go about finding them?
Many of them are personal contacts, some are friends, others come recommended. I also selected contributors who are known for their expertise in certain fields and simply contacted them. Some were of course hesitant to write in a guidebook, with a moderate budget, so it took some persuasion, and plenty of discussion.
What are some of your favourite stories from Uncommon Stockholm?
Truthfully, the times I go back and look inside the book I find a new favourite story, in the sense that each story is true – they flow with the seasons and the many moods of the city, and depending on that a particular image or story will seem more vivid.
Who is your target audience for the book? Travelers, expats, both?
Uncommon: Stockholm has resonated most strongly with the local expats, who read the book from cover to cover. I would say that after some time in any new country a hunger for its social culture develops. Cultural visitors and curious locals are also interested in our guides.
When was the first edition published and how has the reception been so far?
Uncommon: Stockholm was published in September 2013. The reception has been positive and the awareness of the book grows as more Uncommon guide books in other destinations such as Dubai and London are published. We also sell the Stockholm edition in some prominent bookshops and retail stores in New York, Paris, Los Angeles and London.
Any new versions or revisions in the works? What are your future plans for Uncommon: Stockholm?
The book is intended to have a longer shelf life than a conventional guidebook which needs to be updated frequently, very few of the stories are centred around trends or tips to things that may not exist in a few years. The books, which are all A5 in size, hardcover and full-colour are created as keepsakes, they’re really meant to last.
Uncommon Stockholm is part of an international publishing project, Uncommon Guide Books. Upcoming books will be published in London, The Holy Land and Cairo.
Where can people buy copies of the book?
In Stockholm the book is widely stocked. This month we are dressing the window at S:t Pauls Bok & Pappershandel in Mariatorget with extracts from a piece in the book written by Alexander Havelda, that talks about the locality with humour.
It is also available at Designtorget, Moderna Muséet, Weekly, Grandpa, NK Bokhandel, Söderbokhandeln, Hedengrens, Akademibokhandeln and online at Adlibris.com and more.
The full list can be found on our website.