Finnland. Cool.
Frankfurt Book Fair.
Guest of Honour 2014.

Across the Globe with 13 Books

Finns love their libraries, and borrow about 13 books per capita annually

Reading is a key aspect of the Finnish culture. Each inhabitant borrows an average of 13 books per year from Finland’s Finnish libraries. If these books were lined up end to end, the volumes borrowed by Finland’s 5.4 million citizens would exceed the earth’s diameter (1). By comparison, Germany’s inhabitants borrow only an average of three print media per capita annually from public libraries (2). In Austria, this figure is two per capita annually (3) and 4.5 per capita annually in Switzerland (4).

The Finnish library system is the Finn’s most important cultural asset and serves as a role model all over the world, for which the Finns are justifiably proud. In a survey by the Finnish Cultural Foundation last year, the library system was chosen as the country’s most important cultural service. Approximately 93 percent of the survey participants considered it important or very important to have a library nearby. Readers in Finland enjoy the services of the country’s 827 libraries, 151 of which are mobile libraries that make over 12,000 scheduled stops. There is even a library boat that stops at eleven different ports.

Finnish libraries are characterized by the fact that all library services are free. These libraries also host outstanding collections of books, music and films. Some libraries also loan out board games, sports equipment and even electric drills. Each Finn visits a library an average of ten times a year. Visiting a library means not just borrowing books, but also reading and relaxing in airy, modern surroundings as well. Web-based technology is a common element in these libraries. Users have access to virtual and interactive online services, as well as the traditional print media.

Käännös by ALA Architects

Photo by ALA Architects

“Käännös” by ALA Architects Ltd Helsinki won the architectural competition for the Central Library Helsinki


Helsinki’s new Central Library is scheduled to open at Töölönlahti Bay in 2017 – the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. In addition to its traditional functions, the Central Library will also serve as the country’s “living room” – a gathering place and venue for meetings, as well as a center for culture and entertainment.


1) average length of a book = 20cm

2) German Library Statistics, print media borrowed from public libraries, 2012

3) Data: Austrian association of libraries, print media borrowed from public libraries, 2012

4)  Data: Swiss Federal Office for Statistics, Library Statistics public libraries cities and municipalities, number of overall print and audio-visual products borrowed,2012

Samu Haber loves Sofi Oksanen and the Moomins

Currently the best known Finn in Germany, Samu Haber, Sunrise Avenue’s lead vocalist and “The Voice of Germany” juror, reveals his favourite literature in this “Finnland. Cool.” interview.

 Sunrise Avenue, Berlin, 14.08.2013__DSC0131 klein

 Samu Haber (second from right) and his band Sunrise Avenue. Press photos by Olaf Heine taken from “Unholy Ground”:

Finland is Guest of Honour at this year’s international Frankfurt Book Fair. How important is Finnish literature to you? Has Finnish literature had any influence on your work as a songwriter?

Samu: Of course I grew up with Finnish literature, but I read much more international stuff, especially biographies. I write songs in English and for some reason it’s easier to get the connection when the book is international.

Is reading important to you? How do you find the time to read with your busy schedule? Which literary genre (such as poems, detective stories, graphic novels, etc.) do you prefer?

Samu: There’s actually a lot of time to read on airplanes, busses and at hotel rooms. I read pretty much. A book is also a better way to relax than a movie or a TV series. A screen makes you feel passive when a book takes you into this imaginary world in a good way.

Who is your favourite author and what was the last book you read?

Samu: I don’t really have a favourite; it all depends on the book. The last three books are “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “Escape from camp 14” – story of North Korean prisoners, “I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic” the Swedish football player. I love it when the stuff really happened to people. It just makes the whole thing stronger.

Which Finnish book or author would you recommend to our readers?

Samu: I like Sofi Oksanen. Her books are usually stories of Finnish and Northern European history and that helps to get a connection with the book. She’s also a very cool character in person.

The children’s author Tove Jansson celebrates her 100th Birthday this year. Are you familiar with the Moomins stories? Who were your literary heroes when you were a child?

Samu: Of course everyone in Finland knows her. Moomins are extremely popular here in the north and actually I love them because the stories are very down to earth and also educating for kids. If I have children someday, I’ll definitely read them as bedtime stories to them.

“Finnland. Cool.” is the motto of this year’s Guest of Honour programme. What are the other “cool” aspects of Finland, apart from the low temperatures in winter?

Samu: Finland is pretty similar to Germany actually, we’re both Lutheran countries where people pay their taxes and follow the rules. I like the clean, ecological, Nordic way of life overall, and coolness is a good way to describe the Nordic Countries.

If I had just 72 hours to spend in Finland, what would be the “coolest” places to go?

Samu: Helsinki is a very nice city that most people just don’t ever visit for some reason. I’d go there for one day to visit the great restaurants and for some cool design and other shops. Then the nature we have – it’s very amazing! Imagine, Finland is the same size with Germany but we have only 5.6 million people here. We have more than 100,000 clean freshwater lakes and I’d probably visit our summer house one hour from Helsinki just to experience the amazing beauty of the nature. You can drink the water straight from our lake and the rabbits and deer are by your porch in the morning. Then I’d definitely see some rock concerts in Helsinki. The bands from here are amazing!

The interview is authorized for publication by Samu Haber and his management.