I’ve always been fascinated by Iceland. Not just because of the beautiful landscape and breathtaking waterfalls, but because of its obsession with literature. Yes, you heard that right… Icelanders are crazy about books! With a population of just over 300,000 people, 1 out of every 10 Icelanders is a published author. In fact, Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world. To a book junkie like myself, I was very impressed!
In June of 2017, my family and I had the privilege of traveling to Iceland and I made it a point to make sure I visit at least one or two bookstores. One such bookstore, called Mal Og Menning, was conveniently located right in Reykjavik, not far from the place we were staying. As I expected, it was packed with people. The store was multilevel and it had a specific design, identical to many of the bookstores in Iceland. The main level had the best sellers (including the famous Norse Sagas), the basement level had children’s books and paper products, such as gift-wrap, and the upstairs had a café. It felt very warm and welcoming. If you are lucky enough to visit one of these bookstores be prepared for sticker shock. Books, like almost everything else in Iceland, are expensive.
Personally, I’m not surprised that the people of Iceland love to read. It’s an incredibly cold country and in the winter months, it’s almost always dark. What else are you going to do? Yes, there’s TV and movies, but when it’s cold and dark out, there’s nothing quite like snuggling up in a warm blanket and getting lost in a good book.
It’s of no wonder that during Christmas, Iceland has its annual “Book Flood,” also known as Jolabokaflod. Between the months of September and November, Iceland has its highest book sales of the year. For decades, the most popular gift to give is a book and it is often presented to the recipient on the 24th of December. That way, people can spend all of Christmas Eve reading. Brilliant, right?
The book culture makes me seriously want to consider moving to Iceland. Well… okay… maybe not. Too cold!