20 recommended reads for those who dream of traveling to Iceland

It’s almost time for Jólabókaflóðið! If you’re not familiar with this term, it roughly translates to Christmas book flood and refers to Icelanders’ tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and reading at home for the rest of the evening. This inspired my family’s newish literary tradition a few years back.

You don’t have to exchange Icelandic books in order to do your own version of Jólabókaflóðið but I thought it would be a fun time to share this reader-generated book list inspired by a WSIRNReaderRecs request.

A reader was looking for books set in Iceland and we shared their request on our What Should I Read Next Instagram account. We went through the comments on that post and this curated list is the result. This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it’ll provide you some good literary tourism all the same.

We’d love to hear your favorite books set in or about Iceland—both your favorites from this list and new additions to it—in the comments section.

Some links (including all Amazon links) are affiliate links. More details here.



What Icelandic books would you add to this list?

P.S. For more literary tourism: 65 recommended reads for those traveling to England, 130 recommended reads for those traveling to New York City.

20 recommended reads for those who dream of traveling to Iceland


Leave A Comment
  1. Suzy says:

    Who knew there were 20 books for those who dream of traveling to Iceland? I have never read ONE! What an unexpected treasure chest!

  2. Allyson says:

    Thank you for this list!!!! My husband promised me a visit to Iceland (for a major birthday) and then the pandemic hit. Still waiting for the trip. I’ve read some books on the list; others are new to me. Currently, I’m halfway through “How Iceland Changed the World” by Egill Bjarnason.
    I’m especially interested in finding books about when the USA occupied Iceland during WWII. Britain had to remove its troops in preparation for the invasion of Italy, so Churchill asked Roosevelt to take over the safe-guarding of Iceland. The idea was to keep Germany from gaining an outpost in the North Atlantic.

  3. Cecilia says:

    This year my husband and I are going to celebrate Jólabókaflóðið. I would like to recommend Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason. It is an excellent thriller. I am hoping to go to Iceland next October. I think it is a fascinating place.

    • Wendy Barker says:

      I was also going to recommend Indridason’s books. I’ve read 5 (which I think is all) of the Inspector Erlendur series and they are full of fascinating details about life in Iceland.

  4. Kami Evarts says:

    My daughter and I have tickets for Iceland in February. I so hope we can go. This list will be fun in preparation, and especially if we end up having to cancel.

  5. CathyB says:

    We actually have a trip to Iceland planned for next June. (It was originally planned for 2020.) A few of these books were already on my TBR, and I’m adding Butterflies in November.

  6. Janet says:

    The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea.

    I was lucky enough to visit Iceland (and Greenland!) in 2014. Time flies! Can’t wait to go back one day.

    • Carolyn Haun says:

      My last trip to Iceland was 2019 & I read loads of books before going. I recommend all the books by Nancy Marie Brown. A Good Horse Has No Color. The Far Traveler. Ivory Vikings. Song of the Vikings.

      I also recommend Island on Fire (Alexandra Witze), The Secret Lives of Glaciers (M. Jackson) and Vikings (Neil Oliver).

      For fiction, everything by Halldor Laxness.

  7. Deborah Ball says:

    I am so wanting to hear you pronounce this word! I don’t even attempt it! It may be worth an entire book club MMD episode!!!

  8. Beth Roireau says:

    Thanks Anne, pandemic permitting I have an Iceland trip planned for 2022 and haven’t read any of these EXCEPT The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson which I read in December and it was wonderful.

  9. Anne with and E says:

    I’m adding a bunch of these to my TBR. My best friend and I are doing a 2 week tour of Iceland in September, so excited!

  10. Jaia says:

    I loved The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, by A. Kendra Greene. It’s a non-fiction love letter to Iceland and it’s gorgeous.

  11. Mariah Hanley says:

    This is my favorite post you’ve ever done. I love Iceland. I’ve been twice and my number one bucket list is to drive the Ring Road. Hopefully 2023? COVID permitting.

    Alda Sigmundsdottir has written an entire series of books about life in Iceland, all of which start “The Little Book of….” The Icelanders, Tourists in Iceland, The Icelanders at Christmas, The Icelanders in the Olden Days and Icelandic. I recommend all of them but most of all the tourist book if you are visiting and the first (Little book of the Icelanders). I learned so much about Iceland from her short essays, including a lot about Icelandic naming conventions that no one finds as interesting as I do to my absolute dismay.

    I read The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson and while it’s not incredible it was a quick mystery.

    The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning is in most of the bookstores in Reykjavik and looks hilarious although I haven’t read it yet. It’s set in Iceland in part.

    The Sealwoman’s Gift is historical fiction set partly in Iceland. I really enjoyed it.

    Jar City is another Nordic noir set in Iceland.

    Halldor Laxness has written many other books. Independent People is the Nobel winner but it’s not his most accessible book. The Fish Can Sing is easier to start with.

    I agree with the recommendation of The Museum of Whales You Will Never See. Iceland has a fascinating array of museums (yes, beyond the one it’s known for).

    Here’s another list: https://taleaway.com/books-set-in-iceland/

    Lastly, I loved this movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_at_War it’s got some absurdist humor in it but I thought it was delightful. Subtitles only.

    PS: If you are going to Iceland, Blue Lagoon is worth it. I went both times I visited. Once I went before sunrise (wintertime) and once I went late evening as the sun was beginning to set. Both times were absolutely incredible although I enjoyed being there as the sun rose more, being there in the absolute dark was magically eerie.

    PPS: Perlan Museum is incredible. The indoor ice cave is cool but the location of Perlan is the best part. Absolutely incredible views from the top floor cafe. Try to go at sunrise or sunset if you can.

    PPPS: Golden Circle tour is cool- it was awesome being able to look out at the European tectonic plate from the North American plate and see where they come together. The glacier hike is also pretty incredible. I went on this one: https://adventures.is/iceland/day-tours/glacier-tours/glacier-tours-from-solheimajokull/glacier-experience/ It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life- and there is a shrinking timeline to do it, the glaciers are disappearing.

    I love Iceland.

  12. JoAnn says:

    I’m reading Wintering and she visits the blue lagoon in Iceland and also talks about Christmas Eve stories. Totally inspired me to want to visit!

  13. Helga says:

    An Icelander here!
    My absolute favorite icelandic novel is Summer light, and then comes the night by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. He writes beautifully and hopefully the translation does it justice.
    I highly recommend LoveStar from the list!

  14. DeAnn Hilmoe says:

    ‘Red Storm Rising’ by Tom Clancy is an excellent book that takes place in Iceland. My husband and I keep it on our bucket list because of that book.

  15. Susan Black says:

    You will find The Icelandic Sagas and Independent People on the bookshelves of most Icelanders. Halldor Laxness is Iceland’s Pulitzer prize winning author, and a national hero.

  16. Margie says:

    This is amazing. Please make this a monthly or quarterly topic. I would adore a similar list for Japan, Germany, India and Argentina. Or Australia.

    My heart misses traveling so much.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.