Jolabokaflod – The Christmas Book Flood: A Beloved Icelandic TraditionAnand Parameswaran
Christmastime is just around the corner, which means that, soon, Icelandic publishing houses will be releasing hundreds of new titles onto the Icelandic book market, commencing a unique tradition known as the jólabókaflóð, or the Christmas Book Flood. Throughout this bustling and much-anticipated yearly event, bookstores across Iceland resemble miniature concert venues, where Icelandic authors of all genres read from and promote their latest work, transforming the holiday season into an extended city-wide literary festival.
This tradition was born out of scarcity during the Word War 2, when the restrictions on imports to Iceland were harsh. But these limitations did not apply to the local book market, so the tradition of exchanging books during the holidays naturally arose as a result. With a tiny population of just over 330,000, Iceland’s publishing industry has, until very recently, lacked the resources to publish and distribute new books all year round, making the Book Flood a practical marketing strategy as well as a treasured tradition.
Many Icelanders will publish a piece of writing in one form or another during their lifetime (a book, a newspaper article, a poetry collection, etc.), and the island inhabitants also read more books per capita than any other people in the world.
Wow! I would love to be there, if for nothing else, at least to get published… But seriously, isn’t it cool that the reading tradition is still very much alive and kicking in this day and of content being made shorter and shorter and shorter? And reading going seriously out of fashion among the digital generation?
Read more about my travel to the country of Iceland and other parts of Europe.