A book is a gift you can open again and again.
– Garrison Keillor
Books make amazing Christmas presents, and it seems that Icelanders would agree.
On Christmas Eve, Icelanders are likely to receive at least one book, and then tuck themselves away under blankets by the fire to read their books for the rest of the evening. It’s Hygge at its best.
And this love for books extends beyond the holiday season.
Iceland’s love of books has actually existed for decades. Since the 1940s, when paper was one of the only things that was not rationed as part of the war effort, Icelanders have been gifting books for special occasions, especially Christmas, no doubt influencing their strong book culture.
In fact, according to a 2013 Bifröst University study, Iceland publishes the most books per capita compared with other Nordic countries, while more than 50% of Icelanders read 8 books per year. And if that’s not enough….it is estimated that 1 in every 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.
The jolabokaflod describes how each year, publishers across Iceland race to publish new books just in time to advertise and sell them for the holidays. And with a flood of new books on the market (along with plenty of advertising) it would make sense that books are high on many gift lists.
This correlation between book selling and gifting is further influenced by the Icelandic book trade that, since the mid 1940s, has been sending a free book catalogue to most households in Iceland. The Bókatíðindi, also known as the Book Bulletin, magically appears in mid-November and features hundreds of new books just waiting to be gifted and received, and of course, read…preferably on a cold winter’s night in front of a roaring fire.
While the U.S. may not have a formal jolabokaflod around the holidays, there’s nothing stopping us from adopting an annual tradition of gifting books, new or old, at Christmas.
So if you are still on the hunt for a Christmas gift for a special someone in your life, why not take a page out of Iceland’s book (literally) and gift one.