Iceland's wild and untouched nature calls for epic works, from adventure to fantasy. Our specialist Iceland consultants recommend a selection of books to read before setting off on a trip to Iceland. Here are our recommendations for the best books to read before going to Iceland.
Fish have no feet
by Jon Kalman Stefansson
Something of a contemporary saga, the story concerns three generations: the grandparents of Ari, the protagonist of the story, and his children. It recounts a century of Icelandic history that crosses the country, from the south-western city (really a town) of Keflavik, where you get off the plane and where Avi grew up, to the rugged fishing village of Nordfjordur on the eastern shores of the island, where his grandparents lived. Before going to Iceland, read this poetic novel of wild, raw beauty, reflecting the image of the country's landscapes.
Butterflies in November
by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
It's the beginning of winter in this ice-bound country. The heroine, who doesn't have a maternal bone in her body, is charged with caring for her best friend's four-year old son, Tumi, a deaf-mute. It's raining, it's freezing cold, and the narrator takes advantage of a break in the weather to go on a road trip around her island home. The improvement doesn't last long, and the bad weather gets steadily worse: rain, landslides, blocked roads. Iceland is beautifully described: landscapes, animals and human interactions... It's funny, fresh, and tender... a really beautiful book.
by Eiríkur Orn Norddahl
Another book to read before going to Iceland starts somewhere else entirely - in Lithuania in 1941. Long before Agnes was born, Jews in the small town of Jurbakas were slaughtered by the rest of the population, and one of Agnes' great-grandfathers murdered the other.
Three generations later, Agnes lives in Iceland. It's freezing in Reykyavik this Sunday morning, and she meets Omar in the cab queue. They fall in love. As part of her thesis on the Holocaust, Agnes also meets Arnor, a cultured neo-Nazi. She gets pregnant, but doesn't know which is the father of her child.
The novel talks about Lithuania and Iceland, Lithuanians in Iceland, love and horror, the Second World War, the issues of Iraq and Palestine, the financial crisis, the rise of neo-fascism... Illska, means evil in Icelandic.
The Draining Lake
by Arnaldur Indridason
Definitely a book to read before travelling to Iceland, this poignant detective novel is based on actual events. The lake in question is Kleifarvatn Lake, located in the southern part of the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 25 miles from Reykjavík. It is some 300ft deep. In 2000, after a major earthquake, water in the lake began to disappear through cracks that had formed. This is where the novel begins: the low water level reveals a corpse bearing a radio transmitter with inscriptions in Cyrillic characters...