Finnish North American Literature Association
Michael Nordskog grew up in the heart of North America sauna country. He works as
an attorney, writer, and editor, and he lives with his wife and three children on a farm near
The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finish Sauna Tradition. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2010.
Photography by Aaron W. Hautala.
Foreward by David Salmela.
Introduction by Arnold Alanen.
Handsome, hardcover with beautiful photography and authoritative foreward and
introduction, this is a must-have sauna book. The Opposite of Cold opens with an historical
overview of the arrival of the Finnish sauna in American by award-winning architect David
Salmela. Following is an introduction by professor emeritus Arnold Alanen of the University
of Wisconsin, Madison, in which he brings scholarly renown to the contextualization of
history of the Finns and their saunas in North America.
Exquisitely illustrated with Hautala's photography, Nordskog opening takes the reader from
an initiation into the sauna in general in the opening, beginning with instructions in how to
pronounce the word itself to a general overview of the sauna in the US. He walks his
readers though the saunas in the Lake Superior region where it made a significant mark on
the culture the region. He introduces his readers to individual farm families and their saunas,
handsomely illustrating both the families and their bath houses.
Subsequently, he sets the Finnish-American saunas in the larger context of Finland's sauna
culture, linking it, too, to the context of the Kalevala as cultural vehicle. The journey
through the Finnish sauna culture includes both historical and contemporary iterations of the
Finnish cultural artifact, from sodded roofed savu-saunas, to log saunas, to floating saunas
built on piers and docks, to modern saunas in spa resorts.
Returning to the US, Nordskog and Hautala share both in narrative and photography the
North American lakeside suana tradition. Beautifully illustrated, the healthful aspects of heat
are explored as are the various stove and water heating designs as well as the aspects of
There are three books to possess regarding the sauna. Nordskog and Hautala's is the first.
The second is the Sauma Cookbook: Food for Body and Soul, by Kaitila and Saarinen. The
third is Finnish Sauna, Japanese Furo, Indian Inipi: Bathing on Three Continents, by Juha
Pentikainen. If you have all three, you understand the beauty, the value and the cultural
context of the sauna.