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Books

The Long and Winding Road of Literature: The Ambassador

Sometimes I get the feeling that books have to be long to be taken seriously and boring to be considered bohemian, and so authors fill their potentially interesting stories with all sorts of descriptions of irrelative details and random characters. That seems to be the case with Bragi Ólafsson’s...

Tranquility: Iceland – So Quiet

The small and handy photography book Iceland – So Quiet by Kristján Ingi Einarsson with a foreword by writer and geophysicist Ari Trausti Gudmundsson serves its purpose of emitting the calmness of Icelandic nature. It contains a variety of photographs from serene locations all around Iceland,...

A Literary Scavenger Hunt: In the Footsteps of a Storyteller

Born on the farm Hali in the rural district of Sudursveit, southeast Iceland, in 1888, Thórbergur Thórdarson is among Iceland’s most celebrated (and eccentric) authors. In the Footsteps of a Storyteller traces his footsteps on the farm and the surrounding countryside, stops at locations he...

A Celebration of Whales

Whale watching is becoming increasingly popular in Iceland. Most likely with that in mind, JPG Publishing released the book Whales by Jón Baldur Hlídberg and Sigurdur Aegisson in Icelandic and English in 2010. Beautifully designed and illustrated, informative yet compact, this handy book contains a...

Making Sense of the Eruption: Volcano Island

Volcano Island by photographer Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson is not just a book of magnificent photography documenting the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull and the smaller eruption on Fimmvörduháls mountain range preceding it, but also a fountain of information for those who are still trying to figure out...

An Educational Journey: Rikka and Her Magic Ring in Iceland

Hendrikka Waage is an accomplished jewellery designer whose first children’s book Rikka and Her Magic Ring in Iceland , takes readers on an enchanted and educational journey through the country. It’s beautifully illustrated and a good lesson in geography, but the plot could have been better thought...

Beyond the Banksters: Living Inside the Meltdown

Living Inside the Meltdown an e-book by one of the most widely-read Icelandic bloggers, Alda Sigmundsdóttir, is a collection of interviews with “regular people” talking about their experiences relating to the Icelandic banking collapse of 2008 and the recession that has followed. In her...

A Guide to the Sagas: Icelanders in the Viking Age – The People of the Sagas

Icelanders in the Viking Age – The People of the Sagas by William R. Short is a well-structured, easily understandable and practical historical guide to the life of the early Icelanders and is especially helpful as a glossary to the Icelandic sagas. It is an interesting, albeit not a particularly...

Subtle Excellence: The Tricking of Freya

First when I heard of Christina Sunley’s debut The Tricking of Freya I thought it was some wishy-washy mystical tale loosely based on Norse mythology, Icelandic sagas and unrealistic stereotypes of Vikings. However, I quickly realized that this is a completely different kind of book and found...

A Story Untold: Legend by Fiann Paul

When I first heard of the photographic book Legend by Fiann Paul, portraying people dressed in Viking-style in Icelandic landscapes, I imagined it would depict scenes from Norse mythology. However, the idea with the book is to tell a story of how “The Seeker” finds “The Legend” and it feels like a...

Creating a Brand: 101 Reykjavík

Modern classic 101 Reykjavík by Hallgrímur Helgason became an international hit after a movie with the same name was released in 2000. Its popularity changed 101 Reykjavík from simply being a postcode to being a brand. Through the eyes of the main character, sex-starved loser Hlynur, Helgason...

Celebrating Icelandic Christmas Tradition: The 13 Yule Lads of Iceland

Brian Pilkington has made a name for himself in Iceland as an illustrator of children’s books. This time, in both pictures and words, he gives life to the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads, the unruly sons of the ogre couple Grýla and Leppalúdi, who are Iceland’s answer to Santa Claus. It is a beautiful and...

Absurdly Humorous: The Pets

The Pets by former Sugarcubes bassist Bragi Ólafsson is one of the stranger books I have read in recent years. But judging by the book’s nomination for the Icelandic Literature Award and favorable reviews in Iceland and abroad, this strangeness seems appreciated. With a straightforward and humorous...

Greatest Hits: Iceland Getaway

This is the third book by renowned Icelandic photographer Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson that I have reviewed. For a long time I thought the title of this book was actually Iceland Gateway and found it fitting because it’s a good introduction to Iceland for people who don’t know much about the country: a...

The Shape of the Nation: Where the Winds Dwell

Where the Winds Dwell by Bödvar Gudmundsson, originally published as Híbýli vindanna in 1995, is among my absolute favorite Icelandic novels. Like a gentle straw blowing in the fierce Arctic winds is the story of a family, destined to remain at the bottom of the social ladder in 19th century...

The Not So Real Iceland by Páll Ásgeir Ásgeirsson

The travel guide The Real Iceland by Páll Ásgeir Ásgeirsson is supposed to tell the whole truth about the Icelandic nation, including all the customs and quirks that visitors have wondered about but have been afraid to ask. But what is the truth? Aren’t there always many sides to a story? The...

A Heavenly Slice of History: Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

In Heaven and Hell , Jón Kalman Stefánsson takes his readers back to a time in the lives of the residents of a fishing village in the West Fjords in the early 20th century. With his poetic and effortless descriptions he provides them with a glimpse of the everyday reality of the villagers—such a...

The Eyes of Iceland: The Little Big Book about Iceland

When you look at the cover of Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson’s 2009 photography book, The Little Big Book about Iceland , it feels as if the book is looking back at you. It’s the strangest sensation. If feels as if you’re looking into the icy blue and all-seeing, all-knowing eye of a prehistoric creature...

Unbearable Read: The Thief of Time

There is a clever idea behind Steinunn Sigurdardóttir’s The Thief of Time , to merge the literary forms of novel and poetry. It begins as a novel and gradually evolves into poetry as the emotions of the main character grow more desperate. But it just doesn’t work. The book is far too longwinded and...

A Tragic Comedy: Angels of the Universe

Angels of the Universe by Einar Már Gudmundsson is based on the tragic story of his mentally ill brother. However, it also takes a humorous look at the lives of the mentally ill in Reykjavík in the latter part of the 20th century and the overall feeling of a young capital in the process of rapid...

A Fresh Approach to Clichés: The Iceland Cool & Crisp Guides

Tour guides/photography books Reykjavík and The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon from Veröld’s “Iceland Cool & Crisp” series offer a fresh perspective on tired tourist destinations. Reykjavík is particularly interesting for the fact that it’s written by a blogger, although, since it was published...

Realistically Surreal: The Blue Fox by Sjón

Sjón is a postmodern author and poet connected with the kind of artistic flair that I tend to categorize as pretentious. But, as it happens, Sjón is full of surprises. The Blue Fox recounts beautifully the eternal struggle between human wickedness and compassion. Despite being short there is quite...

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