Although Iceland is a small country, they boast the most well-read population in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that many citizens in Iceland are writers, and are likely to publish a book. This nation of readers and writers know the best way to celebrate Christmas, too.
Families in Iceland don’t celebrate Christmas Eve quite like Americans. While most Americans I know hunker down to watch a good Christmas movie, Icelanders are busy reading the books they were gifted. This tradition is so ingrained across the country that a yearly catalog called the Bokatidindi lists new publications and is released to most households around Christmas time.
The Bokatidindi is not a catalog that sits around on the kitchen counter and eventually ends up forgotten. Icelandic books get attention in the pages of the catalog. Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Icelandic Publishers Association, says that this catalog is “the backbone of the publishing industry.” People delve into the catalog, eager to find the perfect book, among many, to gift.
Books aren’t only being gifted this time of year, they’re being published and sold in such a slew that there is a name for it, “jolabokaflod,” or The Christmas Book Flood. Rather than stressing over what gifts to get picky family members who have everything, people in Iceland are stressing over what books to purchase.
In Iceland, both writers and the literature they produce are respected. The country is dense with beautiful scenery and a fantastic history ripe for storytelling. Writers are inspired by their country’s past and breathtaking surroundings, but they’re also inspired by their fellow writers. There may be a lot of competition for this craft with such a booming literary industry, but still, one in ten Icelanders will publish a book.
Part of the book’s success in Iceland is that the people place tremendous value on the physical book. eReaders are abundant in America, but books, with pages that can be flipped through and with spines that decorate bookcases, still retain their novelty on the small Northern European island.
If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition, this might be the one. We may not have a Bokatidindi in America, but there’s no shortage of places to get books.
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