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Are you traveling to Iceland? Check out these Icelandic novels and some of the best books set in Iceland. Discover Icelandic fiction, literature, and books about Iceland to inspire your vacation to the land of fire and ice.
Why Read An Iceland Book Before Or After Your Vacation?
After returning from an out of this world Icelandic winter adventure, pairing Icelandic fiction and nonfiction with my travels proved both thrilling and enlightening. I ‘wandered’ to Iceland in both the figurative and literal sense:
I now know what it is like to walk through an infamous Bonus grocery store as Sarah Moss describes in Names for the Sea. Let’s not forget the sun disappearing in the winter, too.
Unimaginable wind gusts indeed create chilly and dangerously harsh winters with unpredictable weather as described in Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. You have to feel that bone-chilling cold to believe it.
We had a surprise date with those sneaky and heavenly Northern Lights–just how I imagined them after reading LoveStar.
Lastly, I laughed and lamented as I tongued my way through Icelandic pronunciation. Jökulsárlón really tripped me up. I still don’t think I have it right, but I loved hearing Icelandic in person.
What Are Some Of The Best Books About Iceland?
Below find a list of beautiful as well as heartbreaking novels set in Iceland. From deadly spinster tales based loosely on facts to love stories and social engineering science fiction, learn about humanity, grief, and Icelandic history and culture.
I promise there is something for everyone, too: Icelandic fiction and literature that has been translated into English as well as Icelandic mysteries, travel books, and famous historical fiction.
Some Of The Best Books Set In Iceland:
- Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón
- The Blue Fox by Sjón
- Burial Rites By Hannah Kent
- Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrímur Helgason
- Independent People Halldór Laxness
- The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness
- Angels of the Universe by Einar Mar Gudmundsson
- The Sagas of Icelanders by Anonymous
- The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
- 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason
- Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
- LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason
- Names for the Sea Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
- And discover helpful Iceland travel books…
Please note that any title marked with ** is a contribution from a travel blogger, Dagney. Dagney is from the dark tourism blog, Cultura Obscura.
Historical Fiction Books Set In Iceland
Icelandic Fiction Translated Into English by Victoria Cribb
Moonstone is an eclectic Iceland novel where magical realism meets historical fiction.
Teenage Máni Steinn is trying to find his place in the world. Yet, Iceland, and Reykjavík especially, is under attack. Watch as Katla erupts. The “Spanish flu” is killing thousands of people. WWI promises invasion.
How does a young boy escape?
With the movies, of course.
To make matters even more complicated, Máni is gay. Unfortunately, society punishes same-sex relationships.
Even worse, politicians and residents scapegoat the pictures as indulgent and corrupt. Fevered dreams, magical realism, and history merge to create an artistic Icelandic novella.
Máni must persevere to help and work in a culture that wishes he’d just disappear.
Beautifully written, Sjón’s Moonstone is allegorical, intense, and compelling. A statement about a young boy surviving widespread flu versus another gay man dying of AIDS offers readers a powerful statement on prejudice and misconception.
Moonstone is a book set in Iceland that addresses larger political issues and the LGBT+ community. Sjón is also a famous Icelandic author.
Iceland Book Translated by Victoria Cribb
This beautiful novel is set in Iceland, 1883. Follow the lives of a priest, a fox, a naturalist, and a young woman with Down’s Syndrome. Their lives are inescapably intertwined against the harsh Icelandic winter.
The Blue Fox is challenging and relentlessly tragic. Sjon’s delicate prose takes you on a bewitching journey. Find hints of Moby Dick, White Fang, and Burial Rites. This lyrical novel will leave you guessing until its last breath.
Icelandic Novels For And About Women
Burial Rites is one of those Icelandic novels that will keep you thinking long after you close the book. Based on a true story, Kent imbues humanity into accused murderess, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland.
Caught up in a deadly love story, Agnes is convicted for her role in the savage murders of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson at Illugastaðir in 1828.
Set in a harsh and frigid Icelandic backdrop, Agnes must await her beheading in a family home at Kornsá. Breathe in the smell of dung and dull repetition of farm life. Watch the downfall of an intelligent, intimidating woman. We know this spinster tale all too well.
Just as the Northern Lights ignite magic in the sky, Agnes gains empathy from unlikely characters. The assistant priest and her now familial wardens care for her.
Learn Agnes’ side of the story amid illegitimacy, child mortality, and wandering eyes. For a book set in Iceland, Burial Rites will spark your historical wanderlust. Read More→
Icelandic Fiction Translated Into English by Brian FitzGibbon
Content/Trigger Warnings: Rape, abuse, incest, child death, abandonment, and murder
Did you ever have a love-strongly dislike relationship with a book? Woman at 1,000 Degrees is an almost unheard of story about an Icelandic family fighting for Hitler during WWII.
A brutally honest and vile historical fiction Iceland novel, learn about Herra’s youth as a displaced child of war. Readers will both champion and despise Herra as a mother, lover, child, and storyteller.
Emotionally draining yet powerful, Herra’s character is based loosely on the first Icelandic Prime Minister’s granddaughter. Read TUL’s full review of Woman at 1000 Degrees→
The Best Books About Iceland
Álfgrímur is an orphan who has been raised by a kind elderly couple in Brekkukot, a rural Icelandic village.
He wants nothing more than to follow in his adoptive grandfather’s footsteps and become a fisherman. That is, until, world-famous Icelandic singer, Gardar Holm recognizes Álfgrímur’s musical talents.
Like many of Laxness’ Icelandic novels, The Fish Can Sing is a bit of a slow burn. The novel lovingly crafts a portrait of life in rural Iceland against the stark modernity of Reykjavik and beyond. The prose itself is as alluring as Álfgrímur’s voice.
The Fish Can Sing is sure to have you booking a trip to Iceland ASAP.
Halldór is a Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author infamous for writing books about Iceland with a funny yet intellectual and historic flair.
Independent People is nostalgic of both Iceland’s Sagas as well as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter–a trilogy of historical novels about Northern life in the Middle Ages.
After years as a servant, Bjartur wants to raise his sheep in simple peace. Meanwhile, his daughter would also like to live unchained to Bjartur. A darky comedic novel about love, independence, and family, Independent People is a touching and telling book set in Iceland.
Translated by Bernard Scudder
This bizarre and delightful book set in Iceland takes place in Klepp, an Icelandic psychiatric facility. The story follows schizophrenic Paul as he grapples with reality.
Paul recounts his life growing up as he gradually descends into madness. The novel jumps back and forth between past and present, helping to highlight Paul’s erratic mind. The prose flirts with surrealism.
Angels of the Universe itself is profound, hilarious, and deeply heartbreaking. Read this Icelandic novel for insight into mid to present Icelandic history, as well as a taste of Icelandic humor.
Find your copy of Angels of the Universe here: Amazon
One of the most important books about Iceland, the Sagas showcase the lives of the Norse men and women who arrived in Iceland and eventually migrated across Greenland into North America.
Considered one of the greatest medieval literary treasures, these ten Icelandic Sagas follow explorers such as Leif Eiriksson and the Vikings to the New World. Find uniquely modern and relevant elements as well as themes of love, hate, and exploration.
Contemporary Icelandic Fiction
Icelandic Fiction Translated In English by Brian FitzGibbon
One of the most relatable Icelandic novels, meet twenty-two-year-old Lobbi who is facing his own quarter-life crisis.
Lobi’s mother dies in a tragic car accident. Obsessed with death and the carnal body, Lobbi is completely lost. With a devastated father and an autistic twin brother, Lobby learns he is also a father. Flóra Sól is the product of a one-night stand.
Fleeing to find himself, Lobbi leaves behind his mother’s beloved Icelandic greenhouse. His new life mission is to tend to a dead monastic garden in an unknown country. Making friends with an alcoholic monk, Lobbi learns about grief, life, and love through movies.
Quiet but poetic, The Greenhouse is a meditation on finding oneself. Although Icelandic fiction, readers transcend the body and borderlines.
Characters learn and overcome in numerous ‘religious’ forms. Mundane life in the form of flowers and household chores define Lobbi’s familial role. Finding solace in discomfort heals.
The ending is anything but perfect, Lobbi surprises even the reader in this gorgeously poignant Icelandic book.
Translated Iceland Fiction by Brian FitzGibbon
This Icelandic black comedy certainly isn’t for everyone.
Protagonist Hlynur is a 30-something loner. He still lives at home with no intention of doing anything else. Soon, Hlynur’s mother comes out as a lesbian. He falls in love with her new girlfriend.
Because Hlynur never leaves his room, the book itself feels very claustrophobic. Yet, the Icelandic novel is wildly unpredictable good fun. For those who enjoy Irvine Welsh or Bret Easton Ellis, Helgason has created an Icelandic book sure to thrill. Read More→
Icelandic Thrillers And Mysteries
One of my to-be-read Iceland books, Jar City is a Reykjavik thriller and murder mystery.
Inspector Erlendur opens an unsolved crime after coming across a dead body of an older man. The killer has left a note and photograph of a young girl’s grave, hinting that something more is going on here.
Erlendur must uncover more than just the mystery behind this murder.
Science Fiction Novels Set In Iceland
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Indridi and Sigrid are the equivalents of Icelandic science fiction millennials. They live in a cordless and wireless world where data is transmitted via birdwaves. Their entires lives are now premeditated. Sounds like M.T. Anderson’s Feed, right?!
The impersonal, borderline obsessed, and super genius, LoveStar is responsible. He has socially-engineered society and its hidden miseries. LoveStar is a techie version of Mark Zuckerberg.
Along with disintegrating bodies into shooting stars upon death and rewinding bad children, LoveStar has calculated the perfect mate for each individual.
Madly in love, this new pairing tests Indridi and Sigrid’s relationship. Society and it’s not so subliminal messaging threaten to tear them apart. Whatever happened to free will?
Magnason questions the meaning of happiness and the effects of social engineering. A science fiction book set in Iceland, watch all-consuming love fall apart under the Northern Lights. Innovative and quirky, question how technology and consumerism play a role in our lives.
Nonfiction Books Set In Iceland
If you are looking for an Iceland novel written by an expatriate, you’ll love Moss.
After road-tripping across Iceland in her youth, Sarah Moss moves her family back to the land of fire and ice. Hoping to recapture her romanticized version of the island, she instead learns what it means to be an expat in her Icelandic nonfiction novel, Names for the Sea.
As an academic and writer, Moss embraces Icelandic culture and traditions with curiosity. Her public servant’s salary as a teacher enforces a life of simplicity.
Desiring to understand both Icelandic history and its present state during a financial crisis and volcanic eruption, Moss must push through the hardships of daily Icelandic life.
Beautifully written, Names for the Sea asks readers to consider how we travel and build community. Does our nationality define us? How so? Are we always outsiders?
Delving into the meaning of identity and foreignness, Moss works hard to make Iceland her home. Read More→
Iceland Travel Books
Rick Steves Iceland – Join Rick Steves with this Iceland travel book. He’ll provide a wide array of tips from glacier hiking to how to save money in the infamously expensive Icelandic city of Reykjavik.
Lonely Planet Iceland – My favorite Iceland travel guides, Lonely Planet offers both history and itineraries filled with a ton of personality. See what to skip, must-sees, and a few hidden gems in Iceland.
Lonely Planet Best Of Iceland – Even though Iceland appears smaller than some countries, there is still so much to explore. LP suggests some of its favorites in this Iceland travel book filled with must-sees.
Lonely Planet’s Iceland’s Ring Road – When we visited Iceland, we loved driving along the southern part of Ring Road. Discover LP’s recommendations Ring Road road trip itineraries.
What are some of the best books about Iceland that you have read? What Iceland book or author would you add to this list? So far, my favorites are Burial Rites, Names For The Sea, and LoveStar. Sjón is eccentric and unique. Please tell us your favorite Icelandic novels in the comments.
More Iceland Posts On TUL That You May Find Helpful:
7 Waterfall-Filled Days In Iceland
Can You Drive In Iceland In The Winter?
Should You Visit The Blue Lagoon?
Is Iceland Worth Seeing In The Winter?
Iceland Drinks That You Cannot Miss
Jolabokaflod Ideas and Traditions
See How We Spent One Magical Week In Iceland
**Thank You To TUL Icelandic Book List Contributor, Dagney from Cultura Obscura
Dagney is one half of the dark tourism travel blogging duo, Cultura Obscura. She likes insanely spicy food, long walks through graveyards, and historical tangents. You’ll most likely find her wandering around underground, buying salt, or whispering to camels. Occasionally find her on Pinterest, Twitter & Facebook.
The other half of this book list is from your boozy blogging hostess, me, Christine.