The most recommended books about Iceland

Who picked these books? Meet our 51 experts.

51 authors created a book list connected to Iceland, and here are their favorite Iceland books.
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Book cover of Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of Sultan To Sultan - Adventures Among The Masai And Other Tribes Of East Africa

From my list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I am always on the lookout for sources that reveal women’s voices and interpretation of experiences often imagined as belonging primarily to men. Whether erudite travelogue, personal journey of discovery, or sensationalist narrative of adventure and exploration, books written by women traveling on their own were among the most popular writings published in the Victorian era. Often aimed at justifying the expansion of woman’s proper “sphere,” these books are perhaps even more enthralling to the contemporary reader —since they seem to defy everything we think we know about the constrained lives of women in this era. In addition to illuminating the significant roles that women played in the principal conflicts and international crises of the nineteenth century, these stories of women wading through swamps, joining military campaigns, marching across deserts, up mountains, and through contested lands often armed only with walking sticks, enormous determination, and sheer chutzpah, never fail to fascinate!

Tracey's book list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

In 1842, after 45 years of frustratingly sedentary domesticity, the Austrian-born Ida Pfeiffer gave full vent to her wanderlust. Within five years, her jaw-dropping round-the-world journeys would make her one of the most widely-traveled persons of that century, while her talent for vivid portrayals made her one of the most well-known travel writers. Of her many chronicles, I especially enjoy this tale of her 1845 trip to the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Iceland—a place almost no continental Europeans had visited and few even knew existed. Pfeiffer’s insights and thoughtful reportage, as well as a newly emerging fascination with Iceland and Icelanders in our own time, has given this rare travel narrative new currency.

By Madame Ida Pfeiffer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of literature attempts to compile many of the classic works that have stood the test of time and offer them at a reduced, affordable price, in an attractive volume so that everyone can enjoy them.


Book cover of Njal's Saga

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

This is by all estimation the greatest of the sagas. I would even claim that its excellence allows it to be fairly mentioned in the same breath as the Iliad, Don Quixote, and the tragedies of Shakespeare. It is quite complex and I would suggest, if I am allowed to, my Why is Your Axe Bloody? (2014) as a guide. But the present Penguin translation is a travesty and should be avoided. The best English translation available is the older Penguin translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson (1961) and still available from various used booksellers online. Their translation is as good as a translation can get. Hrafnkels saga is a perfect entry to the sagas because it is short and compact and prepares one for the complexity of Njáls saga

By Magnus and Palsson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Njal's Saga as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magnusson, Magnus and Palsson, Hermann [transl.]. Njal's Saga. Translated with an introduction by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1966. 11 cm x 18 cm. 378, (6) pages. Original Softcover. Very good condition with some minor signs of external wear. From the library of swiss - american - irish poet Chuck Kruger. [Penguin Classics]. Contains the following chapters: Introduction; Note on the Translation; Njal's Saga; Genealogical Tables; Glossary of Proper Names; Note on the Chronology; Maps.


Book cover of The Sealwoman's Gift

Melanie Golding Author Of The Hidden

From my list on folklore of the sea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the idea that much of folklore is based on universal human stories that are still true today. Selkies may be mystical creatures but they are also women treated badly by men, then judged for their response by wider society. Because of this universality, as well as the compelling magical element, there are many modern novels that make use of selkie folklore, which in several ways shares roots with the folklore of mermaids. I’ve picked out a few that spoke to me. I hope many more readers will discover these sea-faring, shape-shifting, magic-realist tales.

Melanie's book list on folklore of the sea

Melanie Golding Why did Melanie love this book?

I love this book for many reasons. The Sealwoman is a passenger on the slave ship that takes our protagonist form her beloved homeland, and the ‘gift’ of the title is the story she tells of her shapeshifting roots. The voyage is hellish, and contains a terrifying birth scene among other unspeakable, unimaginable, only just survivable events. It’s based on a true story, which makes it all the more powerful, and it makes me wonder about the hidden truths in the folklore contained within it, especially the sealwoman’s story. 

By Sally Magnusson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sealwoman's Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A remarkable feat of imagination... I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
'An extraordinarily immersive read, that emphasises the power of stories, examining themes of motherhood, identity, exile and freedom ... a journey that not only crosses continents, but encompasses tragedy and rich sensuality' Guardian
'A powerful tale of Barbary pirates ... richly imagined.' Sunday Times
'Engrossing' Sunday Express 'Fascinating ... a really, really good read' BBC R2 Book Club
'The best sort of historical novel.' Scotsman 'A lyrical tale' Stylist
'A poetic retelling of Icelandic history.' Daily Mail 'Compelling stuff' Good…


Book cover of Norse Mythology

Joe Parrino Author Of Alone

From my list on stories that conjure another world with craft.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got started as a writer through writing fiction intended to accompany a hobby, to deepen worldbuilding, and breathe life into the miniatures in a table-top wargame. I have always been fascinated by the worlds that grab our attention, that yank at our nostrils and dare us to make something more, to tell our own stories in this grander universe. So, I put together this list of books to accompany you as you dream of other worlds and build something with that hobby, whether it is painting miniatures for your friends, knitting, or whatever keeps your hands occupied. Here is a list of books to keep you company. 

Joe's book list on stories that conjure another world with craft

Joe Parrino Why did Joe love this book?

Jackson Crawford’s lectures on Norse mythology make a wonderful accompaniment to any bit of hobby-doing. It fits, I think, with the venue these stories would have originally been told, something to pass the time, to make work of the hand and eye go by a bit faster. What better to help inspire some fantasy making, like painting miniatures or knitting something more elaborate than stories of gods and heroes of a bygone age, when magic was real, and the gods and giants battled around us? I started with Dr. Crawford’s YouTube lectures on all things Old Norse and came to appreciate his engaging style and masterful depth of the subject. He brings the stories to life and reveals the language as it may have been spoken. He puts the myths in their contexts. I view any day that I haven’t learned something new as a bit of a waste and…

By Jackson Crawford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thor, Odin, Loki, Freyja, the Valkyries, Valhalla, Ragnarok — many of the places we encounter these and other names, places, and events from Norse mythology in daily life and pop culture are connected to the medieval sources in name only. 

Join Jackson Crawford, a translator of Old Norse, for a rousing introduction to the original stories, characters, and themes of Norse mythology in these 24 lectures. Packed with gods, anti-gods, magical figures, human heroes, religious practices, and literary devices, this course lays bare the reasons for our enduring fascination with these undeniably dramatic tales. It also connects the dots to…


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 Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night

Sita Bennett Author Of She Who Rose From Ashes: Legend of the Mystics

From Sita's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sunrise ocean swimmer Truth and freedom seeker Neuroscience enthusiast Philosopher Chronic illness survivor

Sita's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Sita Bennett Why did Sita love this book?

I read this book when I was in Iceland during its winter on a 3-month writing retreat. I was staying in the Westfjord’s in a town called Pingeri - population 200, which influenced my connection to the novel which is set in one of Iceland’s small, isolated towns and follows the lives of several residents.

It is both mundane and fantastical and philosophical. Written by an Icelandic author and translated into English, the story felt unique and highly distinctive of Icelandic culture. It’s a poetic, witty, slow-paced read, with some black humor that made me laugh out loud.

By Jón Kalman Stefánsson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER AND WINNER OF THE ICELANDIC LITERATURE PRIZE

"The Icelandic Dickens" Irish Examiner

"Stefansson shares the elemental grandeur of Cormac McCarthy" EILEEN BATTERSBY, T.L.S. Supplement

"A wonderful, exceptional writer . . . A timeless storyteller" CARSTEN JENSEN

"Sometimes, in small places, life becomes bigger"

Sometimes a distance from the world's tumult opens our hearts and our dreams. In a village of four hundred souls, the infinite light of an Icelandic summer makes its inhabitants want to explore, and the eternal night of winter lights up the magic of the stars.

The village becomes a microcosm of the age-old…


Book cover of Hideaway in Iceland

Ally Sinclair Author Of The Christmas Season

From my list on Christmas romcoms to lift your mood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I simply love Christmas. My mum always made big deal of Christmas when I was growing up and I’ve carried that enthusiasm with me throughout my life. I love the sense of community and warmth. I love the traditions. I love the slight cheesiness of the whole affair! And I love romantic fiction as well. I adore a Happy Ever After moment, and I absolutely believe that love is splendid and important and ought to be celebrated in all its forms. And those two feelings have led me to write four romance books set at Christmas – firstly the Christmas Kisses series (as Alison May), and now The Christmas Season.

Ally's book list on Christmas romcoms to lift your mood

Ally Sinclair Why did Ally love this book?

I’ve only been to Iceland once but I fell in love with the country almost immediately – the landscape, the hot pools, the wildlife, all of it!

I’m a cold weather animal at heart and a cold climate always makes me want to snuggle under a blanket and read something heart-warming. This book is a big dose of that ‘cosy inside on a cold winter’s night’ feeling in fiction form. We meet Anna and Ned when they’re both going through difficult times and watching the sparks fly as they find themselves and maybe find love is utterly joyous.

By Victoria Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

PR executive Anna Mortimer has clinched the deal of a lifetime for the hottest celebrity couple to have their wedding covered by a glossy magazine, but when things don’t go to plan, she loses her job. With no job and no life outside of work to fall back on, an invitation to stay with her friend, Rachel, in Iceland is a well-timed distraction.

Ned Nokes has just left the most successful boy band in history to go it alone. With the eyes of the world on him, he escapes to Iceland in search of solitude while he plans what to…


Book cover of Epic and Romance: Essays on Medieval Literature

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

This book, from a fin de siècle Scotsman, is a classic of literature in its own right. It contains a perfectly brilliant reading of the sagas as well as other works of medieval literature. It has never been surpassed and is perhaps unsurpassable. Every sentence is an elegant gem, with one nonobvious insight after another. He just nails it. Ker reminds you that literary criticism need not be pretentious and badly written as it so often is. Treat yourself. 

By W. P. (William Paton) Ker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos. (2) In books where there are images such as portraits, maps, sketches etc We have endeavoured to keep the quality of these images, so they represent accurately the original artefact. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Book cover of The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180–1280)

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

This is from the master of saga studies of the past half-century. His knowledge of Old Norse literature is unsurpassed. He takes you through how the miracle of the sagas came about. Moreover, he writes well. His prose is clear and elegant. I also wish to steer readers to a perfect gem of an article Andersson wrote that actually manages to say something quite new about the more than a century-old fight in saga studies as to whether the sagas owe their excellence to an oral culture or to a written one: “Sea Traffic in the Sagas: Quantitative Reflections” in The Creation of Medieval Northern Europe: Essays in Honor of Sverre Bagge, edited by Leidulf Melve and Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Oslo: Dreyer, 2012), 156–75.

By Theodore M. Andersson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180–1280) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book, Theodore M. Andersson, a leading scholar of the Norse sagas, introduces readers to the development of the Icelandic sagas between 1180 and 1280, a crucial period that witnessed a gradual shift of emphasis from tales of adventure and personal distinction to the analysis of political and historical propositions. Beginning with the first full-length sagas and culminating in the acknowledged masterpiece Njals saga, Andersson emphasizes a historical perspective, establishing a chronology for seventeen of the most important sagas and showing how they evolve thematically and stylistically over the century under study.

Revisiting the long-standing debate about the oral…


Book cover of The Saga of the Volsungs

Martha Rampton Author Of Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

From my list on the history of European magic and witchcraft.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scholar, a teacher, and an activist for gender equity. I earned my Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Virginia. Since then, I've taught at small liberal arts colleges where I’ve had the flexibility to diversify the courses I teach. Among those courses are ancient, medieval, and Islamic history, the History of Magic and Witchcraft, Latin, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. My current gig is at Pacific University Oregon where I established a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, founded the Center for Gender Equity, and developed an exchange program with Lady Doak college in India for exploring issues regarding gender. I've recently published two books on the intersection of magic, gender, and ritual.

Martha's book list on the history of European magic and witchcraft

Martha Rampton Why did Martha love this book?

The Volsung saga is a heroic Old Norse tale about the origins and decline of the royal clan of the Volsungs and the fantastic deeds of Sigurd the dragon-slayer. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and historian, recorded the story around 1220, but the material dates to events that took place centuries before. The saga is full of beings and happenings that would have been considered demonic in Christianized Europe, such as giants, werewolves, sorcery, magic wolf skins, and the consumption of dragons' blood to learn the language of birds. However, within the mythic Norse world, these things were otherworldly and magical, but not necessarily malevolent. The saga was a source for J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—right down to the dwarfs, a cursed magical ring, and a treasure-guarding dragon—and an inspiration for Richard Wagner's epic music drama, the Ring Cycle. Also, the story of the…

By Anonymous, Jesse L. Byock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The epic Viking Age stories that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien and Wagner's Ring cycle

Written in thirteenth-century Iceland but based on ancient Norse poetry cycles, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend and sheer human drama. It tells of the cursed treasure of the Rhine, a sword reforged and a magic ring of power, and at its heart are the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires magical knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. One of the great books of world literature, the saga is an unforgettable tale of princely jealousy, unrequited love, greed, vengeance and…