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Iceland Mag

Culture

NYT explores the Icelandic literary tradition as the annual “Christmas book-flood” begins

By Staff

  • A nation of book lovers Nine in ten Icelanders read at least one book a year purely for pleasure and one in ten will actually publish a book themselves. Photo/GVA

The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service reports that more books will be published this year in Iceland than last year. A total of 654 books will be published in Iceland in 2015, compared to 637 books last year. Egill Örn Jóhansson, the chairman of the Icelandic Publishers Association tells the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service he is particularly pleased with the increase because the value added tax on books was raised this year.

“The Christmas book-avalanche”
The most important book publishing season in Iceland is November and December as people buy books for Christmas presents. As publishers and authors seek to exploit the spike in demand new titles flood the market in what Icelanders refer to as the “Christmas book-flood”. This year’s selection is particularly broad, Egill tells RÚV. “There is still a very robust publication of books for children and teenagers, and I can honestly say there has never been as broad and interesting a selection of books for youth as this year.”

A nation of readers and authors
The Christmas book season is also mentioned in a recent feature on the Icelandic literary tradition in The New York Times’ travel section:

"[A]s I talked to people in Reykjavik, the culture of storytelling seemed to be the source of their greatest national pride. … Researchers show that at least 90 percent of Icelanders age 16 or older read at least one book a year just for pleasure, and that the gift most requested by children at Christmas time is a book.

With a population of about 320,000, the country has more books published and more books read per person than anywhere else in the world, according to a BBC report. One in 10 will publish at least one book, the report said."

The article, is well worth a read, is structured around the story of a guided walking tour on literary Iceland, organized by the Reykjavík Public Library. The author of the article interviews both Úlfhildur Dagsdóttir, who conducts the tour, and author Andri Snær Magnason, who explains the reason for the importance of Iceland’s literary tradtion:

“We have few paintings or sculptures older than 100 years, compared to the stories we have … But we have archives with stories throughout the 1,000 years of Iceland.”

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