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Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir's picture

Reading is a favored pastime of mine. When my chores are done and the baby’s asleep, I get comfortable in the sofa with a cup of coffee or tea and something to munch on and read a chapter or two.

Home alone at night, I’d much rather crawl under the covers and read a little before I fall asleep than watch television.

I’m currently working on Hjarta mannsins (‘The Human Heart’; 2011) by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. The final book in his acclaimed trilogy is much too long and longwinded.

It’s too bad because I like his writing. The first book in the trilogy, Himnaríki og helvíti (‘Heaven and Hell’; 2007) was brilliant, beautiful, poetic… people even spoke of him as a new Laxness.

My husband gave up on Hjarta mannsins but I’m stubborn—I’m almost through! I do want to know what happens to strákurinn (‘The Boy’), the book’s protagonist, who reminds me a lot of the boy in Halldór Laxness’ Heimsljós (World Light; 1938).

I’m looking forward to getting started on a new book, though. We usually buy around ten books every year at the annual discount book market, and there are many books I have yet to read.

Four weeks ago, the Icelandic Literature Center and Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature launched a new competition to encourage more reading in Iceland. The competition concluded on November 16, the Day of the Icelandic Language.

The initiative, called Allir lesa (‘Everyone Reads’), proved hugely successful as 4,236 individuals in 326 teams registered. They read a total of 8,544 books in 70,000 hours, which equals more than eight years of continued reading.

The winning team, Láki og félagar, read for 122 hours and 20 minutes. The results showed that people in Vestmannaeyjar read more than in any other municipality, women read three times more than men and children under 15 were the most efficient readers.

“Concern is often raised over the county’s youth not being efficient enough in reading, but Allir lesa indicates otherwise. Children of the ages 0-15 registered up to 29,000 hours of reading, which is more than all contestants of the ages 16-49 combined,” says a press release from Allir lesa. “It is clear that we don’t have to worry about our children’s reading habits.”

The website allirlesa.is will remain online and people can use it as their personal reading diary.

I didn’t register to the competition—my score is pretty low these days—but I welcome the initiative and hope it will become an annual feature.

Priding ourselves of being a book-loving nation, we must keep at it and pass the joy of reading on to our children. My one-year-old son has already taken an interest in books, although he prefers eating them.

With the advance of technology, reading remains a vital skill for understanding the world, broadening the horizon and activating the imagination.

The dark season is upon us and there’s no better time to lose oneself in a good book. Christmas is when I take a break from real life and dive into the world of fantasy. I can’t wait.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – eyglo(at)icelandreview.com

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