Christmas Book Flood: An Icelandic Tradition

book exchange recommendations for christmas

Can you say Jólabókaflóðið three times fast? Ya, neither can we.

Jólabókaflóðið, or “Christmas Book Flood”, is an Icelandic tradition that began in World War II. Apparently, while everything else was being rationed, paper was not. So, since other types of gifts would have been in short supply, Icelanders decided to share their love of reading!

Now, every year since 1944, the Icelandic book trade publishes a Book Bulletin (Bókatíðindi), which is sent to every household in the country during the Reykjavik Book Fair. Doesn’t this remind you of the Scholastic Book Far in elementary school? I used to bug my mom to order something from their catalogue every time.

According to an article published by Country Living, “a 2013 study conducted at Bifröst University found that 50 per cent (no, I didn’t spell that wrong, it’s the Canadian spelling) of Icelanders read more than eight books a year and 93 per cent read at least one.” Folks, we are slacking! (To be honest, I didn’t bother finding a study to rebuke this, but I am just going to assume.)

Turns out reading in Iceland is like a national sport. A bookworm’s dream come true! Once ‘Rona begins to take more of a backseat, I think I need to make a trip to Iceland. They’ve got to have some stellar bookshops, right?

So, what’s the point of talking about this besides it being a cool book fact?

Well, it might not be World War II (thank goodness), but we are going through our own challenges this year *cough-COVID-cough*, and could do with some Christmas cheer! Many of us will be having a very different holiday season, possibly away from family, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still do a little exchange!

I don’t know about you, but I have been known to struggle to buy something for everyone on my list — friends and family alike. It’s probably just me, but I don’t want to give something that just adds more clutter to someone’s home. If I can’t give them something they need, then what do I give them?

A book! Honestly, I think a book is one of the most personal gifts you could get someone. Besides maybe buying someone a book they specifically want, I like to give books that I’ve enjoyed. I’ll go through my Goodreads and see what I’ve read that someone else may enjoy. Then, I’ll write a little message in the front cover.

Now, if you just gasped at that last bit, don’t fret. You can always just write on a post-it note and stick it within the first few pages. No harm, no foul.

If you don’t necessarily want to do a book exchange among your friends or family but still want to gift books, I’ve always thought they’d make great stocking stuffers! Most books come in mass market sizes, which shouldn’t give you too much trouble. Or, you could do a book hunt, like an easter hunt, for little ones! Really, there are so many ways you can gift the love of reading to your favourite people.

Have you been to Iceland or heard of Jólabókaflóðið? If so, you are so cultured, I bow down to you!




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