The Annual Christmas Book Flood


If you have a love of beautiful landscapes and a passion for literature, then Iceland (in December) is the perfect destination for you! Every year during the run-up to Christmas Icelanders release countless new book titles in an event known as the Christmas Book Flood or Jólabókaflóð. It all ties in with the delightful practice of giving books, amongst other things, as presents at Christmas time (celebrated on 24th December in Iceland). After the festivities of the day are over most people look forward to reading their new books tucked up in bed with a nice cup of cocoa. 

The Christmas Book Flood is celebrated in bookstores and cultural venues across the country with many book launches, readings and other events, such as the Reykjavik Book Fair. From the end of November until Christmas cultural life in Iceland is dominated by literature and the love of books.

 How did it all start?

As the home of the Great Icelandic Sagas, storytelling has always played a significant role in Icelandic society and the country’s literary heritage has become world famous. However, the reason behind the Christmas Book Flood stems from the fact that during the Second World War paper was one of the few things that was not rationed. This meant that people started giving each other books because they were short of everything else. Every year since 1944 a special catalogue featuring all the new book titles has been published and sent to every home in the country. 

 The Reykjavík Book Fair

As part of the literary season, Reykjavik now hosts an annual book fair. The event, which is free, has been hosted in the capital since Reykjavik became a UNESCO City of Literature back in 2011. It’s a fantastic event offering an extensive overview of all the new titles released as part of the Christmas Book Flood: it also has an entertaining programme for visitors too with authors in attendance, book signings, lively readings and fun activities for children.

There were 36 publishers at the 2018 edition of the Reykjavik Book Fair with over 500 new titles exhibited: and there's still more to come. With hefty discounts offered for buying directly from the authors and publishers, it's a great time to stock up on Christmas presents. As well as the literary delights on offer, stalls are also usually stocked with complimentary drinks and refreshments including chocolates and clementines to get you into the Christmas mood. One way or another you'll leave with a few extra kilos under your belt!




Lisa Shannen