Giving books is a longstanding holiday tradition in Iceland, a Nordic island nation with just over 330,000 inhabitants and a near-perfect literacy rate. The decades-long book-giving ritual is called Jolabokaflod, or the “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December.
The book flood commences with the freely distributed publication of bokatidindi, a catalog that lists a deluge of new book titles available on the marketplace. Bookstores across Iceland are inundated with fresh stacks of newly published material for purchase.
Icelanders not only love to read but write as well. A BBC article reported that one in 10 will publish a book of their own. With five books published for every 1,000 people, Iceland — a country with deep literary roots— has published more books per capita than any other country in the world. In 2015 alone, Icelanders are expecting an increase in the number of books published to total 654.
“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday,” says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association. “Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”
In recent years, the distinct literary celebration, which dates back to World War II when gift imports to Iceland were scarce, has received international attention. Now the country has become a prolific publishing powerhouse with a treasured tradition enjoyed by book lovers from across the world.
Do you give books as gifts? Do you enjoy receiving them? What are your favorites?
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