100 books like How Iceland Changed the World

By Egill Bjarnason,

Here are 100 books that How Iceland Changed the World fans have personally recommended if you like How Iceland Changed the World. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Vinland Sagas

Michael Ridpath Author Of Where the Shadows Lie

From my list on to read if you want to understand Iceland.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2009, when I decided to set a crime series in Iceland, I embarked on a decade of research into the country, its people, its literature, its culture, and its elves. I visited the country, I spoke to its inhabitants and I read books, lots of books – I couldn’t find an elf, but I was told where they live. I needed to understand its criminals, its victims, its police, and most of all my detective Magnus Jonson. These are the best books that helped me get to grips with Iceland.

Michael's book list on to read if you want to understand Iceland

Michael Ridpath Why did Michael love this book?

I love the sagas. They are stories first told a thousand years ago about the Norse settlers in Iceland. They are crisp, subtle, exciting with some excellent characters, especially the women. My favourites are the two Vinland Sagas, which describe the discovery of Greenland and then North America (Vinland) by Erik the Red and his family. This includes the wonderful Gudrid, who was born in Iceland, got married in Greenland, gave birth to a child called Snorri in Vinland, and then went on a pilgrimage to Rome. All in about 1000 AD! 

By Unknown, Keneva Kunz (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Vinland Sagas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga contain the first ever descriptions of North America, a bountiful land of grapes and vines, discovered by Vikings five centuries before Christopher Columbus. Written down in the early thirteenth century, they recount the Icelandic settlement of Greenland by Eirik the Red, the chance discovery by seafaring adventurers of a mysterious new land, and Eirik's son Leif the Lucky's perilous voyages to explore it. Wrecked by storms, stricken by disease and plagued by navigational mishaps, some survived the North Atlantic to pass down this compelling tale of the first Europeans to…


Book cover of Independent People

Bill Murray Author Of Out in the Cold: Travels North: Adventures in Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Canada

From my list on to understand the high north.

Why am I passionate about this?

There’s nothing like personal experience. You have to read the literature, it’s true. That’s how we’ve all met here at Shepherd. But you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to visiting, too, if you want to write about travel. I first approached the Arctic in 1991 and I return above sixty degrees north every year, although I must confess to a secret advantage; I married a Finn. We spend summers at a little cabin north of Helsinki. I know the region personally, I keep coming back, and I invite you, whenever you can, to come up and join us!

Bill's book list on to understand the high north

Bill Murray Why did Bill love this book?

Iceland is one of the first off-the-beaten-track places I visited as an aspiring young travel writer and I arrived with the onset of the first Gulf War - the one against Saddam Hussein.

I visited with three other people. We immediately met a man in Reykjavik who introduced us to his diplomat friend, and before it was all said and done we spent most of that trip with the Icelander and the Frenchman in front of a much more rudimentary CNN, watching the war.

While I’ve been back to Iceland a number of times since, that first trip, the instant friendships, and the very odd experience of watching war in the desert from up at the Arctic Circle, sealed the deal for me about visiting the far north, and indirectly led to my own later book.

Halldor Laxness is the greatest of Icelandic authors and Independent People is very nearly…

By Halldor Laxness,

Why should I read it?

8 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.


Book cover of The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 Miniature Essays on the Quirks and Foibles of the Icelandic People

Michael Ridpath Author Of Where the Shadows Lie

From my list on to read if you want to understand Iceland.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2009, when I decided to set a crime series in Iceland, I embarked on a decade of research into the country, its people, its literature, its culture, and its elves. I visited the country, I spoke to its inhabitants and I read books, lots of books – I couldn’t find an elf, but I was told where they live. I needed to understand its criminals, its victims, its police, and most of all my detective Magnus Jonson. These are the best books that helped me get to grips with Iceland.

Michael's book list on to read if you want to understand Iceland

Michael Ridpath Why did Michael love this book?

The Icelanders are remarkable people with some pretty strange habits. Optimistic, energetic, friendly in a very reserved way, armed with irony that can kill at ten metres, they do not fit the classic Scandinavian stereotype. Over the last decade, as I have researched Iceland for my various Magnus novels, the Icelandic-Canadian Alda has been my guide on all things Icelandic. She gets to the bottom of their quirks and foibles in this brilliant little book of fifty or so essays about the people who live on a treeless volcano with appalling weather. Very funny. Very illuminating.

By Alda Sigmundsdottir, Megan Herbert (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After more than 20 years away, Alda Sigmundsdottir returned to her native Iceland as a foreigner. With a native person's insight yet an outsider's perspective, Alda quickly set about dissecting the national psyche of the Icelanders.

This second edition, from 2018, contains new and updated chapters from the original edition, reflecting the changes in Icelandic society and among the Icelandic people since the book was first published in 2012.

Among the fascinating subjects broached in The Little Book of the Icelanders:
• The appalling driving habits of the Icelanders
• Naming conventions and customs
• The Icelanders’ profound fear of…


Book cover of Silence of the Grave

Michael Ridpath Author Of Where the Shadows Lie

From my list on to read if you want to understand Iceland.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2009, when I decided to set a crime series in Iceland, I embarked on a decade of research into the country, its people, its literature, its culture, and its elves. I visited the country, I spoke to its inhabitants and I read books, lots of books – I couldn’t find an elf, but I was told where they live. I needed to understand its criminals, its victims, its police, and most of all my detective Magnus Jonson. These are the best books that helped me get to grips with Iceland.

Michael's book list on to read if you want to understand Iceland

Michael Ridpath Why did Michael love this book?

I don’t think it is overly ambitious to claim that you can learn a lot about a country from its crime novels. I certainly did, devouring novels by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson, and the Englishman Quentin Bates. A good crime novel describes not only a place and its people but what makes them tick, what they fear, and what they desire. It’s very hard to pick just one crome novel from so many great ones, but Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave won the British Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger in 2005 and also features the British occupation of the country during the war. Plus, it’s a damned good story.  

By Arnaldur Indridason,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Building work in an expanding Reykjavik uncovers a shallow grave.

Years before, this part of the city was all open hills, and Erlendur and his team hope this is a typical Icelandic missing person scenario; perhaps someone once lost in the snow, who has lain peacefully buried for decades. Things are never that simple.

Whilst Erlendur struggles to hold together the crumbling fragments of his own family, his case unearths many other tales of family pain. The hills have more than one tragic story to tell: tales of failed relationships and heartbreak; of anger, domestic violence and fear; of family…


Book cover of Ice Land

Patricia Bracewell Author Of The Steel Beneath the Silk

From my list on early Medieval England and Scandinavia.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the history of England, and fifteen years ago I made the decision to write a series of novels set before the Norman Conquest. Since then I’ve immersed myself in the history of that period and made numerous visits to the locations where I set my novels. I’ve been frustrated though by the enormous gaps in the historical records of that time, in particular the lack of information about the women. Because of that I am drawn to the work of authors who, like me, are attempting to resurrect and retell the lost stories of those remarkable women. 

Patricia's book list on early Medieval England and Scandinavia

Patricia Bracewell Why did Patricia love this book?

In this genre-bending novel the author weaves Norse myth with a tale set in the very real world of early medieval Iceland. Her descriptions of the landscape are wondrous, and her portrayal of the lives and culture of the early settlers of Iceland ring true. I loved how she quite successfully brought the Norse gods and one particular goddess down to earth. I am not as knowledgeable about the Nordic gods and their stories as I would like to be. This novel was a terrific way to begin a journey of discovery taking me in that direction.

By Betsy Tobin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A beautiful epic of love, longing, redemption, and enchantment in the tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley?s The Mists of Avalon

Iceland, AD 1000
Freya knows that her people are doomed. Warned by the Fates of an impending disaster, she must embark on a journey to find a magnificent gold necklace, one said to possess the power to alter the course of history. But even as Freya travels deep into the mountains of Iceland, the country is on the brink of war. The new world order of Christianity is threatening the old ways of Iceland?s people, and tangled amidst it all…


Book cover of The Sagas of Icelanders

Marcel Krueger Author Of Iceland: A Literary Guide for Travellers

From my list on Iceland to read in winter.

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

Marcel's book list on Iceland to read in winter

Marcel Krueger Why did Marcel love 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.  

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…


Book cover of All the Horses of Iceland

Kate Heartfield Author Of The Valkyrie

From my list on transporting you to a foggy valley in medieval Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been fascinated by the way history feels inherently uncanny, as we inhabit the same places as people long dead. I suppose that’s why the novels I write tend to be in historical settings, and they tend to have a speculative twist. For much of my working life, I was a journalist, so I love the research part of writing historical fiction. I tend to be drawn to old stories, and I especially love looking at those stories from angles I haven't seen before. Two of my novels bookend the European Middle Ages: The Valkyrie, set in the 5th century CE, and The Chatelaine, set in the 14th century CE.

Kate's book list on transporting you to a foggy valley in medieval Europe

Kate Heartfield Why did Kate love this book?

This is a slim book and it's told in an intimate, lyrical voice that feels like it's speaking directly to you from the period – which, in this case, is the 9th century CE.

All the Horses of Iceland follows a Norse trader through Rus to Mongolia in the company of Khazars. It's a ghost story, with notes of sadness mixed with wonder. And while it is possible to trace the journey and pick up on historical signposts, the book doesn't acknowledge that it knows when and where its reader might be – which bolsters the illusion of reading something very old.

By Sarah Tolmie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Horses of Iceland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hypnotic historical fantasy with gorgeous and unusual literary prose, from the captivating author of The Fourth Island.

Everyone knows of the horses of Iceland, wild, and small, and free, but few have heard their story. Sarah Tolmie’s All the Horses of Iceland weaves their mystical origin into a saga for the modern age. Filled with the magic and darkened whispers of a people on the cusp of major cultural change, All the Horses of Iceland tells the tale of a Norse trader, his travels through Central Asia, and the ghostly magic that followed him home to the land of…


Book cover of The Girl Who Died: A Thriller

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir Author Of I Remember You: A Ghost Story

From my list on Nordic horror guaranteed to get rid of “hygge”.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Icelandic writer, best known for crime fiction although I have also written horror and children’s books. From a young age I have been a fan of creepiness and horror. My threshold for the macabre is thus high, maybe best witnessed by me noting that my first crime series featuring lawyer Thora was a cosy crime series, only to be reminded that in the first installment the eyes of a dead body were removed with a teaspoon, in the second a child was killed and the third featured decapitation. Whenever I need a reprise from writing crime I revert to horror, the best received of these being I Remember You

Yrsa's book list on Nordic horror guaranteed to get rid of “hygge”

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir Why did Yrsa love this book?

If small-town creepy mystery is your thing, then the setting of this book´s setting is the mother of all such premises. The book takes place in a small, remote fishing village with only a handful of inhabitants. None of which are exactly warm or welcoming to newcomers. We witness odd goings-on through the eyes of a young teacher, hired to teach the two children residing in the minuscule community. To add to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the situation, the attic room the protagonist is provided is haunted by the ghost of a young girl. This book is atmospheric and best enjoyed in a solitary environment, read by candlelight. Highly recommended for those in need of a creepy, ghostly fix.    

By Ragnar Jónasson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NAIL-BITING SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER FROM THE MILLION COPY BESTSELLING AUTHOR

'Is this the best crime writer in the world today?' The Times

'A world-class crime writer . . . One of the most astonishing plots of modern crime fiction' Sunday Times

'It is nothing less than a landmark in modern crime fiction' The Times
________

'TEACHER WANTED AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD . . .'

After the loss of her father, Una sees a chance to escape Reykjavik to tutor two girls in the tiny village of Skalar - population just ten - on Iceland's storm-battered north coast.…


Book cover of Jar City

P.M. LaRose Author Of Beers on Ice

From my list on Scandinavian writers to get acquainted with.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been exploring Scandinavian authors for several years after working my way through the American masters of the genre (Chandler, McDonald, Parker, Burke, Stout, and others). For some reason, Scandinavians seem a lot more vicious in their writing, crafting murder scenes that are beyond gruesome. After reading the works of several Icelandic authors, I was inspired to go there and see firsthand what I was reading about, then to create my own mystery in that setting.

P.M.'s book list on Scandinavian writers to get acquainted with

P.M. LaRose Why did P.M. love this book?

Reykjavik Police Inspector Erlendur and his associate, Sigurdur Oli, are sent to investigate the murder of an old man bashed with an ashtray. They soon uncover his sordid past, in which he was accused of rape. Traipsing from clue to clue, interviewing tangential witnesses, they learn more about why he was killed and eventually discover the perpetrator, whose life was tragically altered by the actions of the murdered man. Erlendur and Oli are like the Odd Couple but complement each other in their work. The title refers to the practice of keeping organs in jars for medical research, which figures into the investigation. The journey to the solution of the case is very satisfying. 

By Arnaldur Indridason,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Jar City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An old man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat.

A cryptic note and a photograph of a young girl's grave are left behind.

DID THE DEAD MAN'S PAST COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM?

Inspector Erlendur discovers that several decades ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime. As he follows a fascinating trail of strange forensic evidence, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one man - dark secrets that have been carefully guarded for many, many years...
'A fascinating window on an unfamiliar world as well as an original…


Book cover of Voices

Tom Barber Author Of Nine Lives

From my list on beating the odds, the villain, and your personal demons.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been drawn to stories of good versus evil and watching a hero overcome a great struggle to beat a villain and win the day. I feel it’s innate in humans to want to hear such tales ever since the days gathered around the campfires thousands of years ago, and when it’s done well, it can be a story that inspires you in your own life. Hopefully, these novels can do the same for you! 

Tom's book list on beating the odds, the villain, and your personal demons

Tom Barber Why did Tom love this book?

Another slightly left-field pick, but the atmosphere in this author’s books is just as compelling as in Without Fail as mentioned above. In a snowy, cold Iceland, a beleaguered detective investigates the murder of a local man who was once a shining light as a child. 

Lost potential, old vendettas, and evil preying on the weak are all elements here, in a very unique setting, with a dogged lead who refuses to give up. Slower and colder but just as gripping.

By Arnaldur Indridason, Bernard Scudder (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Detective Erlendur encounters memories of his troubled past in this gripping and award-winning continuation of the "Reykjavik Murder Mysteries". At a grand Reykjavik hotel the doorman has been repeatedly stabbed in the dingy basement room he called home. It is only a few days before Christmas and he was preparing to appear as Santa Claus at a children's party. The manager tries to keep the murder under wraps. A glum detective taking up residence in his hotel and an intrusive murder investigation are not what he needs. As Erlendur quietly surveys the cast of grotesques who populate the hotel, the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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