It’s well-known that Iceland is a beautiful country rich with natural beauty and possessing a unique and exciting culture. But did you know that Iceland also has a higher percentage of writers in its population than any other country in the world and publishes more books per capita than any other country? According to Talia Avakian of BBC Travel, the country’s “dramatic landscape, unique culture and unpredictable weather conditions have also helped cultivate an influential body of literature by authors from around the world.”
From the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Halldór Laxness, to the famed Viking sagas of the 10th century, Iceland’s history is littered with literary excellence. Even George RR Martin drew inspiration from the Vatnajökull glacier for Game of Thrones’ imaginative scenery. According to The Guardian, the historic saga documenting the Vikings’ journey from Northern Europe to Iceland’s remote, volatile countryside, is: “the most important European work of the past thousand years; possibly ever”.
Iceland has been internationally recognized for its literary achievements; in 2011, the capital city of Reykjavik became one of only six cities to be awarded the title of UNESCO City of Literature. In honor of Iceland’s rich literary culture, the country hosts many festivals celebrating the writing tradition, including the biannual Reykjavik International Literature Festival, taking place next in September 2015.
It’s tradition in Iceland that books are given as Christmas presents, and thus, are often published during October and November, so be sure to keep an eye out in the coming months for new, quality literature emerging from the Nordic country. To read more of Avakian’s insight into Iceland as a literary muse, click here.