The Traveling Bookworm in Iceland

Whenever I am planning a new trip, I always look for literature from the area I’m visiting. Authors that came from the regions or books that are set within certain cities. This way, I get to know a little of the (literary) history of the city. I have found some great books and new favourite authors this way, and I like to share them with you, so you can also emerge yourself into the literary world of… Iceland!

Last year we had planned an extensive trip to Iceland. We would hire a car an drive around the country. Our itinerary was packed with beautiful sightings and we were so excited to go. Of course, things didn’t really go according to plan, but the itinerary (and our travel vouchers) are waiting until we can travel again. I had already read a bunch of books about Iceland to get inspired for our trip. So even though we haven’t gone yet, we can travel to Iceland through books. Time for the best ones!

  • The first book you should pick up when you wanna know more about Iceland, is the Edda. This book consists of both the Poetic Edda and the lesser known Prose Edda. It’s a bundle of both literary and mythological stories, some of which are set in Iceland, written in the 13th century.
  • A book I came across often when looking for Icelandic literature, was Independent people by Halldór Laxness. The book tells the story about Bjart, who is an ordinary man, determined to make ends meet on his own. He doesn’t need anyone, other than his flock of sheep. It’s a slow paced story set in the 20th century, that will give a great insight into the life on the countryside in Iceland. The author won a noble prize for literature for this book.
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent also gives the reader some more insight into the lives of poor people in Iceland, but it goes a different path. It’s based on the true story of Agnes, who is on trial for the murder of her former master. She is awaiting execution within the small farm of an Icelandic family, who are, obviously, not all too happy they are giving the task to house a convicted murderer. It’s a beautiful and thrilling tale.
  • Besides reading literature, based-on-a-true-story novels or the mythology of a specific country, it’s also really fun to read fairy tales. The beautiful book Nordic Tales contains fairy tales from Scandinavia, and though the stories themselves aren’t particularly well written, it is a beautiful book and the fairy tales are a lot different from the ones I know well.
  • Hilda and the Hidden People is a fun children’s book that’s inspired by Iceland. You can easily recognize the country and the hills, and the hidden people are notorious in Iceland. It’s a fun book, the first installment in a series that will also be made into a Netflix show!
  • If you like romantic books, you should definitely pick up The Northern Lights Lodge by Julie Caplin. It’s part of her romantic escapades series but it’s a standalone, so you don’t have to have read the other books in the series. Main character Lucy moves to Iceland for a temporary job as a hotel manager in the Northern Lights Lodge, where she has to find herself again and gets to know the gorgeous Alex. It’s a romantic story that really uses the setting, with highlights of the area, mentions of Huldufolk and Icelandic words and sayings.

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