The best books from Iceland to read in winter

Who am I?

I've always been a bookworm, and fascinated by the North—after all, I made my home here. I thrived (and still do) on stories about rain-drenched moors, ships in distress running aground in boiling seas, men with swords stumping through dark woods searching for gold and demons. So no wonder that I am fascinated by Iceland and its stories, and have returned to the island again and again. Here, literature plays a crucial role in preserving and developing culture and language equally. So as a fan of Icelandic past and present I try and spread the word about this craggy island and its literary heritage as much as I can. 


I wrote...

Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

By Marcel Krueger,

Book cover of Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

What is my book about?

A guide to Iceland's rich literary heritage written by a book lover. Iceland is a fascinating island of multiple identities, of constant flux, just like its unruly volcanic ground. Its literary heritage is one of Europe's richest and oldest: from the captivating Norse myths, which continue to inspire contemporary authors such as A.S. Byatt, to gripping Scandinavian crime fiction and Game of Thrones, via Jules Verne and J.R.R Tolkien, W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney, Iceland's influence has spread far beyond its frozen shores. Peopled by Norse maidens and witches, elves and outlaws and taking the reader and traveller around the island through its literature, this is an enthralling portrait of the Land of Ice and Fire where (almost) everyone is a writer or poet.

The books I picked & why

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The Sagas of Icelanders

By Örnólfur Thorsson,

Book cover of The Sagas of Icelanders

Why this book?

Even though this is a massive tome with almost 800 pages, the book is the perfect introduction to the rich medieval literature of the sagas that form the foundation of Icelandic literature today. It contains many of the main sagas including the Egil's Saga, the Laxdæla Saga, and the Vinland Sagas as well as background information on saga history, medieval Iceland, and the Icelandic language. A collection full of the battles, witchcraft, poetry, monsters, and heroic journeys that influenced generations of writers from Jules Verne and J.R.R. Tolkien over to A.S. Byatt.  

The Sagas of Icelanders

By Örnólfur Thorsson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sagas of Icelanders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Iceland, the age of the Vikings is also known as the Saga Age. A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world's great literary treasures - as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled in Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured farther west to Greenland and, ultimately, North America. Sailing as far from the archetypal heroic adventure as the…


Independent People

By Halldor Laxness,

Book cover of Independent People

Why this book?

A key work of Iceland's only Nobel Prize for Literature laureate, the novel describes the struggle of a family of poor farmers in the north of Iceland, against debt bondage and the harsh nature of the island. Laxness portrays the quintessential experience of generations of Icelanders, a country that was one of the poorest in Europe for centuries, and at the same time shows how important and crucial the old stories and poems from the sagas, and poetry and the written word overall, have remained throughout these centuries for all Icelanders as the unifying element of Icelandic culture and society.

Independent People

By Halldor Laxness,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Independent People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in Iceland, this story is imbued with the lyrical force of medieval ballads and Nordic myth.


I Remember You: A Ghost Story

By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,

Book cover of I Remember You: A Ghost Story

Why this book?

No contemporary Icelandic literature without crime. Despite being one of the safest countries on the planet with hardly any crime, Icelandic crime authors are among the most successful representatives of Scandinavian noir, and Yrsa is the undisputed queen of Icelandic crime. While mostly know for her series featuring investigator Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, I Remember You is one of her standalone novels, a supernatural thriller set in the remote Westfjords of Iceland in winter and the perfect read when the wind and snow are howling outside. Or just the wind. 

I Remember You: A Ghost Story

By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Remember You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A terrifying ghost story from the Queen of Icelandic crime, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, author of the Thora Gudmundsdottir novels.

'Yrsa is one of the most exciting new voices in the crime thriller world.' - Peter James

The crunching noise had resumed, now accompanied by a disgusting, indefinable smell. It could best be described as a blend of kelp and rotten meat. The voice spoke again, now slightly louder and clearer:
Don't go. Don't go yet. I'm not finished.

In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends set to work renovating a derelict house. But soon they realise they are…


Snowblind

By Ragnar Jonasson,

Book cover of Snowblind

Why this book?

Ragnar is one the most successful contemporary crime authors hailing from Iceland, also as his series featuring rookie policeman Ari Thór Arnarson is not set in the urban sprawl of the Icelandic capital Reykjavík but instead in the small town of Siglufjörður on the north coast and provides fascinating insight into Icelandic topography, history, and culture of the remote regions of the country. Snowblind is the first of the series, a slow-burning but gripping whodunnit set in a Siglufjörður cut off from the rest of the country by avalanches and snowstorms...  

Snowblind

By Ragnar Jonasson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Snowblind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FIRST IN THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING DARK ICELAND SERIES

OVER A MILLION COPIES SOLD

A murder takes place in the isolated Icelandic town of Siglufjoerdur, where an avalanche has cut off all communication and the unrelenting snow threatens rookie police officer Ari Thor Arason first investigation...

'A modern Icelandic take on an Agatha Christie-style mystery, as twisty as any slalom...' Ian Rankin

'Ragnar J nasson writes with a chilling, poetic beauty' Peter James

'Seductive ... Ragnar does claustrophobia beautifully' Ann Cleeves

________________

Siglufjoerdur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors - accessible only via…


Bloodhoof

By Gerður Kristný, Rory McTurk (translator),

Book cover of Bloodhoof

Why this book?

Poetry remains very important for Icelanders, also as an everyday practise. There are farmers in the country today who compose poetry based on the landscape of their home and the sagas that played here hundreds of years ago, and about 40% of all published books in Iceland each year are poetry collections. Gerður is a highly successful poet and playwright, and her long poem Bloodhoof is an outstanding example of how contemporary Icelandic writing is still firmly rooted in the literary heritage of the country. The poem retells the classic Norse tale of the abduction of beautiful giantess Gerdur by the god Freyr, but from the perspective of the giantess in a distinctly feminist voice.  

Bloodhoof

By Gerður Kristný, Rory McTurk (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bloodhoof as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bloodhoof is the re-casting into compulsively spare modern verse of an ancient Eddic poem - but this only begins to hint at its attractions. It is a minimalist epic telling of the abduction of Gerour Gymisdottir from a land of giants and the subsequent events culminating in her return from the court of Freyr of the 'wolf-grey eyes' with her beloved son. It is full of iron-hard rocks and ice, serpents in the breast gnawing at the harness of hope, but also wide-reaching fields of corn whispering in the breeze and a throne carved with beasts and dragons' heads. You…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Iceland, ghost story, and ghosts?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Iceland, ghost story, and ghosts.

Iceland Explore 51 books about Iceland
Ghost Story Explore 110 books about ghost story
Ghosts Explore 156 books about ghosts

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Vinland Sagas, Jar City, and The Bat if you like this list.