About this time every year, I hear about a holiday tradition in Iceland, Jólabókaflóðið, accompanied by memes of course. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it; I am sure I will only mangle it horribly. According to Wikipedia, it is Icelandic for “The book flood of Christmas,” because most new books in Iceland publish in the months leading up to Christmas. While we swap spiderwebs and jack o’lanterns for garlands, wreaths, and mistletoe while every retail outlet switches on the holiday playlist to signal the oncoming winter holidays, in Iceland the holiday season does not start until the arrival of the Bokatidindi—a directory of every new book published in Iceland. Yes, The Iceland Publishers Association distributes a free catalogue of books to every Icelandic home. Moreover, people go crazy with excitement.
With 93% of Icelanders reporting that they read at least one book a year, it is not surprising that Iceland ranks as the third most literate country in the world. (They are beaten only by Finland and Norway, according to this study.) Add in the fact that 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetimes, and Iceland may just be a book lover’s paradise.
Giving books as a gift is obviously not a tradition unique to Iceland, but it gave me an idea. Considering my post of bookstores a bibliophile dragon should visit, including some places where canny shoppers can find a great deal for their book purchases, I thought this might be an excellent way for a cash-strapped student to find a great gift for their loved ones. Living in the city can be pricey, and the holidays themselves are expensive, especially if you have to travel home. Books make a great gift, especially a secondhand or backlist title because it says you sincerely thought that the person receiving it would enjoy it. You took the time to think about them, instead of just getting them a gift card from Starbucks or Amazon. Let’s start a book flood of our own this holiday season.
What are your holiday gift-giving traditions? Who do you think would like a new book to read during the winter months? Let me know in the comments below.