What is the deal with this "jólabókaflóð"?

„Happy jólabókaflóð" is what the American booklovers say.

„Happy jólabókaflóð" is what the American booklovers say.

“This romantic idea of us cuddling with cocoa in wooden huts in a land of fire and ice appeals to many people,” says Heiðar Ingi Svansson, chairman of the Icelandic Publishers Association, who notes that booklovers all over the world have been increasingly interested in the Icelandic Christmas "Jólabókaflóð" in recent years.

mbl.is/Eggert Jóhannesson

On social media, you can see thousands of entries celebrating this phenomenon. World-famous actress Sarah Jessica Parker re-posted a post about the Christmas book flood on Instagram, which has about 10 million followers. Svansson has been invited to an interview on CNN’s live channel next week.
“I had to send them a sound clip because they wanted to prepare for the pronunciation of the word Christmas book flood.”


But what is "Jólabókaflóð"? First it seems like a mouthful pronouncing this word so here is a little clue . It is pronounced Jol-a-bok-a-flot . What it refers to is the tradition of giving each others books at Christmas time, and for many Icelanders the idea of reading a book on Christmas Eve and Christmas day is a part of the true Christmas experience .

This idea has been embraced by booksellers worldwide and here is a glimpse of it from the American Booksellers Association on Instagram:

Furthermore, Icelandic authors usually publish their books in the months leading up to Christmas so this is their season, so to speak . In November and December authors go to book stores and read from their newly published book and people flock to these events, both to hear the reading and also to get the opportunity to meet friends and aquintances .

There are also readings at schools, kindergartens and nursing homes, where the elderly really rever the chance of hearing from the new books .

Ólafur Jóhann ÓIafsson, Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Samsett mynd.

Ólafur Jóhann ÓIafsson, Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Samsett mynd. Composite image

Books flying off the shelves

In the last week before Christmas, there’s a lot of activity in bookstores. Book lovers are flocking to the stores and the latest books are out, whether adult or children’s. The sale of children’s books in the bookstore Eymundsson’s Penninn has been way up in recent weeks, and what is especially good news is that Icelanders are buying books for their children.

Despite the success of children’s books, and especially of Bjarni Fritzson’s book Orri óstöðvandi, Icelandic fiction is in the top spot of the bestseller list. Here, Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson sits comfortably at the top with his book Snjór í paradís . Then, the king and queen of crime fiction in Iceland, Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir , follow with their books Sæluríkið and Frýs í blóði .

Frasabók (Book of phrases)  is up yet this week, coming in fourth, but not far behind are Bergþóra Snæbjörnsdóttir’s Duft and Ragnar Jónasson’s Hvítalogn , fifth and sixth. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Eríkur Örn Norðdahl and Eva Björg Ægisdóttir follow.

It looks like the book loving nation is living up to its reputation and the athmosphere at the bookstores of Penninn Eymundsson is vibrant and festive. It looks like there will be a lot of reading done this Christmas!


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