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Chapter 49 - Jolabokaflod

There is a lovely Icelandic tradition call Jolabokaflod or Yule (Christmas) Book Flood. It is a tradition so beloved that most books in Iceland are sold between September and December. As a country Iceland has a long and proud literary heritage dating back to the middle ages. The tiny island currently publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world.

Jolabokaflod though got its start during World War II when currency restrictions limited the amount of imported gift items. Imported paper restrictions were not so steep so the tradition of giving books for Christmas was determined to be the thing to do.

The Flood begins with the release of Bokatidindi, a catalog of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association distributed free to every Icelandic home. Everyone reviews their catalog and decides on the books they want and want to give. Kind of makes you think of the Sears and the FAO Schwartz Christmas catalogs that came when you were a kid, doesn't it? Anyway, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve and everyone spends the evening reading and often take their books to bed with some chocolate.

If you want to make this part of your family Christmas Eve tradition here are some books to help you do that.

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg - If you have ever wondered how the Danes get through the inordinately long days of winter with average temps about 32 degrees (F) and only 7 hours of sunlight, this book is for you. Soderberg, an actress, tells of how the Danes "hygge" themselves and bring bright light and comfort into their lives.

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson - I got into a Nordic reading kick as I was researching Jolabokaflod and this is one of the Finnish authors recommended. Ari Thor is a young policeman who goes to a remote fishing village at the north of Iceland to train. There are two murders committed during his first winter there. This was a cold, dark, engaging mystery.

My First Murder by Leena Lehtolainen - Nordic writers really seem to like their murder mysteries and this one by Lehtolainen from Finland is no exception. Maria Kallio is a young detective who is called when a body is found at a summer villa. It appears that the death may have been accidental but as Maria works the case she realizes there is more bad stuff going on than first appears. This is the first in a series.

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - Coming back to America, this book by Albom is a follow-up to his book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Annie is the girl saved at Ruby Pier in the first book and it is her life that Albom explores. This is a good book to read or give.

Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh - I just became aware of Augusta Trobaugh, a Southern author out of Georgia. Sophie is an "old maid" in a small Southern town and her friend Miss Anne tells her story. The tale takes place right before World War II.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell - The Danes are considered to be the happiest people in the world so when Russell's husband gets his dream job at Lego in Denmark, the British woman decides to become a freelance writer to help make the dream come true. In her book, Russell explores all the components of Danish life in a clear, often, laugh-out-loud way.

Any books you might recommend for Jolabokaflod?

These and other books may be ordered at

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