The Country With the Reading Holiday

Is it too late to get tickets?

Most avid readers fantasize about living in a country that worships books as much as they do. Who knew that it was Iceland? Iceland is one of the most literary countries with a 99% adult literacy rate. Compare that to the global literacy rate of 90% for males and 82.7% for females. 1 in 10 people in Iceland will publish a book.

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. There’s a popular TV show in Iceland, Kiljan, which is devoted entirely to books. And in 2011, Reykjavík was designated a UNESCO City of Literature.*

Then there is Christmas in Iceland. A magical time where you get the people on your list, BOOKS. Yes, it’s perfectly normal and a tradition in this wonderful little country and it’s called, “Christmas Book Flood”. On the night of the 24th, you get your books and spend Christmas Eve reading them.


This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

– Katherine Martinko


This tradition dates back to WWII when it was difficult to import Christmas gift items. Families receive in the mail, a paper catalog full of new books so they can pick and choose what is going to who. This catalog is called the Bokatidindi. This allows publishers and authors to always count on a windfall during Christmastime. Don’t bother trying to give someone a gift card for an e-book, either. In Iceland, the actual paper book is sacred.





Nicolina Torres
Nicolina Torres

Nikki worked for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores. She is the author of This Red Fire, Young Nation, and Girls Who Wear Glasses. She prefers to live in the country and is a new aunt to a potential bookworm.

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