The Icelandic author Johan Thorsson’s take on Iceland’s unique and spectacular Christmas Book Flood.
‘There is this statistic about the Icelandic Book Flood that gets thrown about a bit and is maybe hard for people outside of Iceland to believe. Before we get to that, I think I should tell you just what the Icelandic Book Flood is.
Spoiler: it’s not a literal flood of books. Though that would be kind of great.
Iceland has the happy tradition during Christmas that people tend to give each other books as Christmas presents. Among the many holiday traditions around the world, few are as dear to me as the one we have about the giving of books during Christmas. It is very rare that there is not at least one book under the Christmas tree.
Now, publishers in Iceland realized this long ago so they put out most of their books in late October or early November. Bookstores are far busier during December than during any other month and the newspapers and media are filled with ads for books, interviews with authors, and reviews of the year’s hottest titles. This sudden massive craze about books during Christmas is what we refer to as the Christmas Book Flood.
And that statistic? I’ve heard that around 80% of book sales take place during Christmas.
This dates back to WWII (doesn’t everything) when there was a scarcity of most things in Iceland apart from books. Iceland also had a relatively high purchase capacity and the most readily available Christmas gift to buy just after the war was, through a combination of available imports, books.
Lucky for us.
And what books am Ithinking about this Christmas? I think that Shaun Tan’s amazing The Arrival is a book that is simply gorgeous and should be in every home.
Books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Arnaldur Indriðason and Ragnar Jónasson will be under many trees this Christmas and I hope to find at least one of them in a present addressed to me. Eva Björg Ægisdóttir’s latest book is also intriguing. I am a sucker for the classics, however, and were I to select books for crime lovers this Christmas it would most likely be either Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon or Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River.’
Johann Thorsson’s first novel Whitesands, a supernatural thriller featuring Detective John Dark, was published by Headshot Books in September 2021. Here you can read more about Johann Thorsson and get his book Whitesands for the dark and utterly chilling winter evenings.