It may not surprise you that Iceland’s history as a country of storytellers runs deep. We’ve all seen some of the movies and TV that borrow from the natural mystery of Iceland’s landscape to tell their stories, like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Interstellar,” “Noah,” “Prometheus,” and of course, the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” But it runs deeper than that: the people of Iceland, and especially Reykjavik, hold reading, writing, and storytelling close to their hearts. The bond to literature is so strong that 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish at least one book. With an almost 100% literacy rate, 90% of Icelanders read at least one book a year for pleasure. There is even a nickname for the mad dash that occurs as natives rush to buy books each Christmas: “Jolabokaflod,” or “Christmas Book Flood.” There’s even a much-sought-after Iceland Writers Retreat. Before Bjork put Iceland on the map for its music, Iceland presented itself as a nation of readers, writers, and above all, storytellers.
The New York Times recently published an article about The Reykjavik Public Library’s free “literary walks,” exploring and commemorating this rich literary history. The tours are at an easy walking pace and guides pluck excerpts from novels, folktales, and poems that directly correlate with the surrounding area on the walkthrough. It’s a fun, interactive, engaging way to get to know Iceland’s culture and what makes their literature so unique. This year’s walking tour includes a focus on the deliciously dark genre of crime novels and biting political commentary, as well as a touch of the imaginary beasts that make Icelandic folklore so intriguing.
“Icelandic literature, like literature everywhere, is a reflection of our society, and, for those who are interested to learn a little about Icelandic society, literature offers a way to learn and understand,” Says Ulfhildur Dagsdotti, a literary scholar and guide for Reykjavik’s book tours. “In this way, literature is important, both in itself as a cultural product, and as a way of gaining insight into our nationality and society. The tours are intended to provide a glimpse into Icelandic culture and the history of the city.”
Book your tour today to experience the history, literature, and culture of Iceland’s storytelling community!