The Tradition

NPR said it best:

In the United States, popular holiday gifts come and go from year to year. But in Iceland, the best Christmas gift is a book — and it has been that way for decades.

Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the “Christmas Book Flood.”

“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday,” says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association. “Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”


The Flood begins with the release of Bokatidindi, a catalog of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association distributed free to every Icelandic home.

“It’s like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race,” Bjarnason says. “It’s not like this is a catalog that gets put in everybody’s mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here.”


What does that have to do with the Pacific Northwest?

Well, we are also flooded (if you’ll pardon the pun) with indie and traditionally published authors. Writers from all over move here for our literary community. So Margaret Pinard & Elizabeth Mitchell put together this Portland-based literary event based on the idea of book gift-giving because there are so many authors here that would love to have their voices heard and shared.