Icelandic Novels: Books Set In Iceland

Icelandic Novels: Books Set In Iceland

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Are you traveling to Iceland and looking for wanderlust-inspiring reads?  What about Icelandic books that chill you to your core and remind you of the unique yet sometimes harsh climate? Check out these Icelandic novels for books set in Iceland.  These titles are perfect for your next trip.

8 Icelandic Novels Set in Iceland pin with Iceland book covers and red and white church

 

We just returned from an out of this world Icelandic winter adventure.  I found pairing Icelandic novels with my travels both thrilling and enlightening.  I wandered to Iceland in both the figurative and literal sense.

Now I know what it is like to walk through an infamous Bonus grocery store.  Unimaginable wind gusts create chilly winters with unpredictable weather.  Yet, with this danger, there is also beauty.  Add in a surprise dance with the sneaky Northern Lights.  Spend hours driving through black sand beaches, volcanos, and glaciers.  My heart is pounding.

Nothing prepares me better for a trip than reading novels set in a country.  I laughed as I tongued my way through Icelandic pronunciation. Jökulsárlón really tripped me up.  I still don’t think I have it right.

Below is a list of Icelandic novels that I loved reading along the way.  From deadly spinster tales based loosely in facts to love stories and social engineering science fiction, learn about humanity, grief, and Icelandic history and culture.

Please note that any title marked with ** is a contribution from one of my favorite travel bloggers, Dagney.  Dagney is from the dark tourism blog, Cultura Obscura (please see bio below).  Between the two of us, we have read and can recommend all of these books set in Iceland.  Enjoy!

Are you planning an Icelandic adventure? Check out these Icelandic novels and books set in Iceland to spark your wanderlust. #booklist #IcelandicFiction #booksforwanderlust Click To Tweet

Icelandic Novels: Books Set In Iceland

Bookstagram picture with eReader of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent surrounded in icicles

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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 while watching 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 the assistant priest and her now familial wardens, if no one else.  Learn her side of the story amid illegitimacy, child mortality, and wandering eyes.  Historical Fiction.

Find your copy here:    Amazon       Barnes and Noble     Book Depository

 

Book cover of Icelandic novel The Fish Can Sing by Halldor Laxness

The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness **

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, lovingly crafting 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 and is sure to have you booking a trip to Iceland ASAP. Humor.

Find your copy here:    Amazon       Barnes and Noble      Book Depository

  

Brunette male sitting in an antique shop holding the novel Moonstone over his face

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón

Translated by Victoria Cribb

Teenage Máni Steinn is trying to find his place in the world.  Yet Iceland, and Reykjavík especially, is under attack.  Katla is erupting, the “Spanish flu” is killing thousands of people, and WWI is threatening to invade.  How does a young boy escape?  With the movies, of course.

To make matters even more complicated, Máni is gay in a world that punishes same-sex relationships and scapegoats the pictures as indulgent and corrupt.  Fevered dreams, a tad of magical realism, and historical fiction merge to create an artistic novella about helping and working in a culture that wishes you’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. LGBT+.

Find your copy here:  Amazon     Barnes and Noble    Book Depository

Books Set in Iceland book cover of Angels of the Universe

Angels of the Universe by Einar Már Guðmundsson**

Translated by Bernard Scudder

This bizarre and delightful book is set 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, and how he ends up at Klepp. The novel jumps back and forth between past and present, helping to highlight Paul’s erratic mind, while the prose flirts with surrealism.

Angels of the Universe itself is profound, hilarious, and deeply heartbreaking. Read this title for insight into mid to present Icelandic history, as well as a taste of Icelandic humor. Contemporary Literature.

Find your copy here:  Amazon        Barnes and Noble

 

Bookstagram flatlay with Icelandic novel The Greenhouse by Olafsdottir and white glass of wine

The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir

Translated by Brian FitzGibbon

Twenty-two-year-old Lobbi is facing his own quarter-life crisis.  His mother dies in a tragic car accident, causing his obsession with death and the carnal body.  With a devastated father and an autistic twin brother, Lobby also finds himself a father to Flóra Sól during a one-night stand.

Fleeing to find himself, Lobbi leaves behind his mother’s beloved Icelandic greenhouse 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 grief, love, and 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 begin to define Lobbi’s familial role.  Finding solace in discomfort heals.  Although the ending is anything but perfect, Lobbi surprises even the reader in this gorgeously poignant Icelandic novel.  Adult Fiction.

Find your copy here:   Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Book Depository

 

101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason**

Translated by Brian FitzGibbon

Books Set in Iceland book cover of 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrimur Helgason

This transgressive Icelandic black comedy certainly isn’t for everyone.

Protagonist Hlynur is a 30-something loner who still lives at home with no intent of ever doing anything else. The book’s conflict comes when Hlynur’s mother comes out as lesbian, and Hlynur falls in love with her new girlfriend.

Because Hlynur never leaves his room, the book itself feels very claustrophobic.  Yet, it is wildly unpredictable good fun. For those who enjoy Irvine Welsh or Bret Easton Ellis, Hallgrímur Helgason has created an Icelandic novel sure to thrill. Contemporary Fiction.

Find your copy here:   Amazon       Barnes and Noble       Book Depository
Brunnette girl standing and reading Icelandic Novel LoveStar by Andri  Snaer Magnason

LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason

Translated by Victoria Cribb

Indridi and Sigrid are the equivalents of Icelandic science fiction millennials.  Living in a cordless and wireless world where data is transmitted via birdwaves, their entires lives are now premeditated.  The impersonal, borderline obsessed, and super genius, LoveStar is responsible for society’s newest engineering as well as 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, Indridi and Sigrid’s relationship is tested when they are not paired together.  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 novel 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. Science Fiction.

Find your copy here:   Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Book Depository

 

Icelandic Novel book cover The Blue Fox by Sjon

The Blue Fox by Sjón**

Translated by Victoria Cribb

This beautiful novel is set in Iceland, 1883, and follows 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, but Sjon’s delicate prose takes you on a bewitching journey. With hints of Moby Dick, White Fang, and Burial Rites, this lyrical novel will have you guessing until its last breath. Historical Fiction and Folktales.

Find your copy here:   Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Book Depository

Icelandic Nonfiction: Books Set In Iceland

piled of four books set in Iceland on chair with turquoise pillow

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss

After road tripping across Iceland in her youth, Sarah Moss moves her family back to the land of fire and ice to work.  Hoping to recapture her romanticized version of the island, she instead learns what it means to be an expat.

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, she 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 and how?  Delving into the meaning of identity and foreignness, she works hard to make Iceland her home and become one with nature. Nonfiction. Travel Book. Memoir. 

Find your copy here:   Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Book Depository

 

Woman at 1000 Degrees Icelandic novel book cover flay lat with brown fox and flowers

Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrímur Helgason

Translated 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 a unique story about an Icelandic family fighting for Hitler during WWII.

A brutally honest and vile historical fiction 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.  Historical fiction.

Find Your Copy Here:   Amazon      Barnes and Noble      Book Depository

**Books Contributed by 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. You probably won’t find her updating her Instagram account. But occasionally she can be found on Pinterest, Twitter & Facebook.

The other half of this book list is from your boozy blogging hostess, me, Christine.

Planning A Trip To Iceland?

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, also don’t forget to check out my favorite travel guides from Lonely Planet.

Bookstagram picture of Lonely Planet Iceland travel guide with flowers


Be sure to click back on The Uncorked Librarian for personalized Iceland travel tips.  You can also sign up for my newsletter to get additional tips and silly pictures here:


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Inspired To Visit Iceland?  Pin These Eclectic Icelandic Novels!

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14 Comments

  1. February 19, 2019 / 8:19 pm

    I really want to read Burial Rites – I’ve heard nothing but good things! I will be sure to give it a read before I visit Iceland. Great post Christine!

    • Christine
      Author
      February 19, 2019 / 8:31 pm

      Thanks, Crystal! I think out of all these titles, you might love Burial Rites the most. As your fellow dark tourism blogger, you’ll have to check with Dagney too! I know she also read Kent’s book. I loved Burial Rites, and it was a great one to start this list with since it is based on true events. The title has a twinge of feminist appeal too.

      I kept thinking about your door warning and weighing down my car while in Iceland. We sat on a hill in Vik to watch the Northern Lights. It was around midnight, and I swear I thought the winds would blow us right off the cliffs–I’ve never seen winds that strong that weren’t part of a Florida hurricane. It was wild weather.

      • February 20, 2019 / 12:50 pm

        Burial Rites is hands down the best book on this list. Not that I don’t love the other ones I wrote about, but Burial Rites definitely for the win. I was skeptical to read it because of the hype I’d heard around it, but I sucked it up, and it was so worth it.

        • Christine
          Author
          February 21, 2019 / 4:06 pm

          Weren’t they making a movie too? Did it ever come out? I want to say it hasn’t yet?! Not that I’d want them to ruin it for me, but it could be good.

      • Crystal
        February 20, 2019 / 11:28 pm

        I will definitely check it out! did you carry heavy suitcases and things in your trunk for safety? glad you made it through Iceland safe! Those heavy winds sounds scary!

        • Christine
          Author
          February 21, 2019 / 4:15 pm

          I wish!!! So we actually paid for checked bags…and then didn’t check on them on the way there because we had 8 AM Blue Lagoon tickets. We knew that we might have to dash from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. We packed light carryons only. It made traveling easy as heck…but we could have blown away. lol

  2. February 19, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    Amazeballs as usual. I am all hyped for our vacay in November and after this I am all about Iceland!! Totally want to go now . Love your pics. Am going to jump on one of these reads, asap

    • Christine
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 3:50 pm

      Where is your vacation in November? Are you going to Iceland?

      Thank you! Let me know which title you decide to pick up and what you think.

  3. February 20, 2019 / 12:33 pm

    Great set of books! I would love to visit Iceland someday, but I would need to plan a trip to a hot destination right after to thaw out. 😆I’d read these books even without visiting Iceland. Looking forward to more pictures of Iceland and all the boozy details.

    • Christine
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 3:58 pm

      At one point, we were walking around Thingvellir National Park–and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My toes and hands had gone completely numb. I didn’t find the cold that bad most of the time, but occasionally, I thought my nose might fall off my face.

      When we got back to FL, though, it was 83 and humid….so I thawed fast.

      Thank you! I hope you make it to Iceland one day! Go in the summer and see the puffins for me.

  4. February 20, 2019 / 1:28 pm

    Thanks for including me in this. I love a good book list. And hey, it turns out I read some stuff that isn’t totally depressing!

    So I know I’ve already read over half of these books and I have a reading list as long as Africa, buuuut… I totally want to read the ones I haven’t already read. I think Moonstone is definitely top of the list.

    Also, is it weird that I’m jealous there are people who get to experience Burial Rites for the first time? That’s weird, right?

    I’m so excited to see more of your Iceland posts! It’s a place we both want to go back to, despite our first trip there together being a bit of a disaster. So could probably use some travel inspiration!

    • Christine
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 4:14 pm

      Thanks so much for contributing, again! I could not have done this Icelandic book list without you.

      I am still reading a few Icelandic books not yet on this list too. I’ve loved everything.

      Moonstone is incredibly short. You could easily read the title in one sitting–it’s a unique novella. I found the graphic sexual scenes a bit off-putting (just wasn’t expecting some of them and not quite my thing in literature), but I get why they were there. The rest of the narrative falls into this bizarre but well done magical realism vs realistic fiction plot. Sjon really nails a timeframe and social commentary on being gay in a world that is less than accepting. I think you will love this one.

      I enjoyed Buriral Rites way more than I thought that I would. What a brutal way to go. I am interested in learning more about the murdered parties too. Seemed like an eccentric bunch…or maybe just for that time period.

      Still waiting to hear about this Icelandic disaster. Dish! (Unless you did on FB and it failed to notify me…what a mess there.) I just did some planning for my Iceland posts. Time to get writing. I got distracted by international commission laws and taxes today. Fun, fun.

  5. February 21, 2019 / 3:16 pm

    I love that you paired your travel with books set in Iceland, that is so cool! I am glad you had a good time and can’t wait to hear all about your trip! Thanks for the book recommendations, book bestie!

    • Christine
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 4:19 pm

      Thank you! I loved reading about fictional Iceland and then having some of those locations come alive. These types of book lists will be the new book and travel norm for 2019 on TUL as I ‘niche down.’ Glad to know that you enjoyed the new content. Much, much appreciated.

      I cannot wait to share my own tales from Iceland. Have a great rest of the week, book bestie!

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