In Iceland, getting ready for the holiday season is synonymous with getting ready for book season. The weeks surrounding Christmas signify what is known as the “book flood” or “book avalanche.” Books are in high demand in November and December as they are one of the most popular gifts for people of all ages.
According to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, 2015 will see an increase in the number of books published, with 654 expected to come out this year, compared to last year’s 637. Chairman of the Icelandic Publishers Association, Egill Örn Jóhansson emphasizes the benefit of this increase for the publishing industry because the tax on books has also seen a rise this year.
A recent article in the New York Times’ Travel Section reflected on the literary tradition and prevailing literary culture in Iceland that contributes to the high status of books in Icelandic society. The author points out statistical evidence that shows that, despite being a small and lightly populated country, Iceland boasts a nearly perfect level of literacy, with more people reading and publishing books than in any other country in the world, per capita.
The author interviews the Icelandic novelist Andri Snær Magnason, who recently garnered much publicity from his dual campaign with Björk to preserve the Central Highlands of Iceland as a national park. Andri Snær states that while Iceland doesn’t compare to much of the rest of the world in terms of artifacts of artistic merit dating older than the last century, its literary tradition far surpasses many other cultures. Indeed, the claim to the origins of such incredible historic literature as the sagas is one of the primary sources of Icelandic national pride and identity.