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Are you thinking of traveling to Iceland? If you’re either planning a trip or dreaming of one day in the future, this list of books about Iceland will help you find the perfect read!
Iceland has a rich literary history, and you’ll find so much fiction here. You’ll especially find a lot of mysteries and thrillers, something Iceland has become known for. But you’ll also find quieter literary fiction, memoirs, and myths and legends.
This list includes fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and middle grade fiction. One thing I did have a hard time finding was young adult books set in Iceland. But if you have a young adult reader wanting to read about Iceland, there are plenty of books in the regular novels and non-fiction list that should work for them.
So let’s get going to Iceland!
Novels About Iceland
Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Translated by Brian FitzGibbon
When Hekla moves to Reykjavik, she dreams of being a writer. But life isn’t that easy. She goes to work as a waitress and deals with misogynistic clients, moves in with a boyfriend who can’t stand that she’s a better writer than he is, and sees her two best friends struggle with their place in society. This is a quiet and sparse novel about ambition as a woman, and is for fans of literary fiction.
Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Translated by Brian FitzGibbon
Butterflies in November is another book by Ólafsdóttir. Here, a woman finds herself babysitting her best friend’s deaf-mute four-year-old son while her friend is in the hospital. Then, the boy unexpectedly chooses the winning lottery numbers, and they set off on an adventurous road trip across Iceland. For fans of literary fiction, quirky novels, and road trip stories.
The Greenhouse by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Translated by Brian FitzGibbon
While grieving the death of his mother, Lobbi decides to travel to a small monastery and work on restoring its garden. There, he is visited by Anna ,and old girlfriend, and learns he has a daughter. This is a quiet book about relationships, gardening, and finding beauty in the small things in life.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This historical novel set in Iceland is about Agnes, a woman charged with murdering her former master and now awaiting her execution. While she waits, she is sent to live with a family in rural Iceland, who isn’t sure how to handle her presence. For fans of historical fiction and suspense.
Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrímur Helgason, Translated by Brian FitzGibbon
Herra is 80 years old and just waiting to die. As she does so, she tells us the story of her life in this novel, from her childhood on Iceland’s islands to her survival in WWII to the dawn of the internet age. This is book that looks back over what it is like to live for 80 years and see the world change. For fans of contemporary fiction, aging protagonists, and dark humor.
Independent People by Halldór Laxness, Translated by J.A. Thompson
In rural Iceland, Bjartur is a sheep farmer. It’s a quiet life, and all he wants is his independence from who he works for. But his daughter also wants her independence — from him. This is a book about determination and the will to live with freedom. For fans of literary fiction, long books, and family stories.
The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness
Young Alfgrimur wants nothing more than to be a fisherman like his adoptive grandfather. When he meets a famous opera singer, his dreams begin to change though. But is this opera singer everything he claims to be? For fans of literary fiction and coming of age stories.
A Fist or a Heart by Kristín Eiríksdóttir, Translated by Larissa Kyzer
Elín lives in Reykjavík and makes props for movies. As she is aging though, she finds herself drawn to another woman in the movie industry, a young woman named Ellen who stirs maternal feelings in Elín. As they learn more about each other, their pasts come back to them, but Elín is aging and might not understand reality. For fans of literary fiction with some magical realism.
Quake by Auður Jónsdóttir, Translated by Meg Matich
When Saga wakes up in the middle of a busy road after a seizure, everything is different. Her son is gone. She can hardly remember anything about what happened. And the few things she does remember don’t line up with anyone else’s version of events. So what really happened? And can her memory be trusted? For fans of literary fiction with a bit of suspense.
The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley
When Freya goes back to her home in Canada, she begins to learn the story of what drove her ancestors to immigrate from Iceland. This story eventually takes her back to Iceland, where she discovers the truth about a family secret. For fans of family stories and literary fiction.
The Glass Woman by Carolina Lea
When a woman moves with her new husband to a small Icelandic village, she discovers that the death of the man’s first wife happened under mysterious circumstances. The plot will appeal to fans of Rebecca or Jane Eyre, and this is for fans of thrillers, historical fiction, and gothic novels.
The Blue Fox by Sjón
This short novella follows several threads, including a priest on the hunt for a rare blue fox and a naturalist caring for a woman with Down’s syndrome. These threads connect as the novella asks existential questions. This book is described as “party mystery, part fairy tale,” and is for fans of mystical stories.
Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
Jar City is the first book in the Inspector Erlendur series. When an old man is found dead in his apartment, clues left by the killer lead back to a cold case. The man who was killed was once accused of a crime, and Erlendur dives back into that case to discover even bigger implications. For fans of suspense and detective novels.
The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson
In The Sacrament, a nun makes a trip to Iceland, revisiting the Catholic school she once traveled to to investigate claims of abuse. When she was there decades ago with the investigation, the school’s headmaster had fallen from the church tower and died. Now, a man who witnessed the event as a boy, wants the nun to help him find closure. For fans of thrillers, and obviously this is going to come with some content warnings.
Touch by Olaf Olafsson
Olafsson’s 2022 novel tackles love and the pandemic, as a man from Iceland travels across the world to reconnect with a woman he once knew. When the pandemic forces Kristofer to shut down his restaurant in Reykjavík, he is struggling. But then he gets a message from Miko, a woman he’d once known who disappeared from his life suddenly. This reconnection inspires him to travel to London and Japan looking for answers. For fans of literary fiction and readers who can handle the pandemic being part of a story.
Frozen Out by Quentin Bates
This is the first book in the Gunnhildur mystery series. Here, Gunnhildur finds a washed up body off the shores of a small village. But she is pretty sure it wasn’t an accident, and what she uncovers takes her into a world of corruption. For fans of suspense and thrillers.
Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson
In a remote Icelandic village, Ari is at his first post as a policeman. It’s a trusting community, but when a woman is found unconscious and a local man dies mysteriously, Ari is thrust into the investigation. For fans of suspense and thrillers.
The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson
Another Icelandic thriller from Jónasson, this one is also set in a remote village. In fact, this village is so remote, it is home to only 10 people. There, Una is teaching two local young girls. Meanwhile, in her rented attic room she is haunted by nightmares of a young girl who once died there. For fans of mysteries and thrillers.
Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdartóttir
When a young student is found murdered in Reykjavík, his family calls in attorney Thóra Gudmundstdóttir to investigate. But when Thóra and her associate discover the young man was fascinated by ancient witchcraft, the investigation takes a turn they hadn’t expected. For fans of thrillers and suspense.
I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdartóttir
In a small village, three friends work to restore an old house. There, they are haunted by a mysterious presence. Meanwhile, in another town, a doctor is haunted by the disappearance of his young son in ways he hadn’t expected. This if for fans of supernatural thrillers.
LoveStar by Andri Snær Magnason, Translated by Victoria Cribb
This dystopian novel is set in a future where the founder of the LoveStar coporation has figured out how to transmit data via birdwaves. This means humanity doesn’t need wires to be connected, and instead everyone is connected all the time. Romance is calculated, which means that when Indridi and Sigrid are supposed to be apart, they have to prove that they belong together. For fans of sci-fi novels and dystopian fiction.
The Northern Lights Lodge by Julie Caplin
When Lucy escapes her like in the UK to run a hotel in Iceland, she doesn’t expect to start falling for the bartender. But as she tries to turn the lodge into the most romantic destination in Iceland, it’s hard to ignore her own romance brewing. For fans of romance books.
Looking for more Scandinavian books? Check out these books set in Demark!
Non-Fiction Books About Iceland
How Iceland Changed the World: The Big History of a Small Island by Egill Bjarnason
This book about the history of Iceland also connects Iceland to the history of the world. It explains how Iceland has played a key role in important world events, including WWII, the Moon Landing, and the Cold War. But of course it also cover the Vikings and early history of Iceland. This book is for fans of history books.
Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World by Eliza Reid
This non-fiction book about Iceland is written by Iceland’s First Lady. It explores Iceland’s notable gender equality, women’s roles, and the sprakka “extraodinary women” of Iceland. For fans of non-fiction about women and gender.
The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland: Tips, Tricks, and What the Icelanders Really Things of You by Alda Sigmundsdóttir, Illustrated by Megan Herbert
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, this is a perfect book to read before you visit! This illustrated book covers why tourism is booming in Iceland, how tourism has impacted Iceland, and how to be a responsible tourist when traveling to Iceland. For readers planning a trip to Iceland.
The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 Miniature Essays on the Quirks and Foibles of the Icelandic People by Alda Sigmundsdóttir, Illustrated by Megan Herbert
Another “Little Book,” this one is about Icelanders themselves. The topics here range from the driving habits of Icelanders to naming conventions to the importance of family. Another book that would be great for those planning a trip to Iceland, or readers who love micro essays.
Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
This memoir is about Sarah Moss moving her family to Iceland for a year when she takes a job at the university. There is a lot for them to adjust to, including the weather, the culture, and driving. And this book dives into everything from the financial crisis Iceland experienced to the volcanoes to the way everyone in Iceland seems to know everyone else. For fans of travel memoirs and “a year in my life” memoirs.
Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski
In this memoir, Bilski recounts her time spending summers at an Iceland horse farm. She spends each summer with a group of other women, and while they love the horses and Iceland, they also learn about each other and form a kind of community. For fans of travel and self-discovery memoirs.
The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: And Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums by A. Kendra Greene
In Iceland, what started as unusual collections people had have become small museums where you can see these curiosities. This book recounts Greene’s travels to some of these museums, with collections about everything from witchcraft to herring to….penises. For fans of travel books, museums, and oddities.
Any list of books about Iceland has to somehow include Iceland’s sagas — those centuries old stories about the Vikings who first inhabited Iceland. This collection includes ten sagas and seven short tales and is perfect for fans of myths and legends and Vikings.
Icelandic Folk Legends: Tales of Apparitions, Outlaws, and Things Unseen by Alda Sigmundsdóttir
If you’re interested in some of the legends of Iceland but The Sagas of Icelanders seems like a bit too much, this short book may be perfect. While you won’t find much about the Vikings here, you will find all kinds of legends about trolls, elves, and the hidden people of Iceland. For fans of myths and legends.
The Little Book of the Hidden People: Twenty Stories of Elves from Icelandic Folklore by Alda Sigmundsdóttir
Iceland is full of stories about elves and “hidden people” who live in the hills of Iceland. I first learned about this when reading Names of the Sea, in which Moss meets a woman who claims she can see the hidden people all around them. Here, we have twenty stories about these hidden people, as well as explanations for the context of these stories and how the hidden people have helped Icelanders survive a sometimes harsh country. For fans of myths and legends.
Children’s Books About Iceland
Lundi the Lost Puffin by Eric Newman
When Lundi the puffin gets lost and finds himself in town instead of the ocean, the children of Iceland must help him. This is based on a true story of children in the Westman Islands. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
The Problem with Chickens by Bruce McMillan, Illustrated by Gunnella
When the ladies of Iceland buy chickens to lay eggs, the chickens start to act like the ladies and refuse to lay eggs. So the ladies come up with a way to fool the chickens and fix their problem. Recommended ages: 4-6 years.
How the Ladies Stopped the Wind by Bruce McMillan, Illustrated by Gunnella
Another story about the ladies of Iceland solving problems! Here, the wind is preventing them from taking walks, so they decide to plant trees to stop the wind. But the sheep keep eating all the saplings! Recommended ages: 4-6 years.
The Legend of the Icelandic Yule Lads by Heidi Herman
When an Icelandic Yule Lad (trolls who bring children gifts at Christmas) is seen by a human, he has to rely on a little boy to keep his identity secret. But what he discovers is that sometimes sharing joy and happiness is more fun than making mischief. Recommended ages: 6-12 years. (Note, there’s a lot more text than illustrations in this one.)
Middle Grade Books Set in Iceland
Mac B. Kid Spy: Top Secret Smackdown by Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Mike Lowery
If your kid loves Mac B. Kid Spy, the third book in the series takes him to Iceland! His KGB rival has stolen ravens from the Tower of London and to save the Queen’s kingdom Mac must travel to Iceland and find the ravens. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
Thea Stilton and the Frozen Fiasco from Scholastic
The Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton series are hugely popular with middle grade kids, and there’s a Thea Stilton book set in Iceland! Here, Thea and her sisters travel to Iceland to find a famous writer who has disappeared. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
Ranger in Time: Journey Through Ash and Smoke by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Kelley McMorris
This is the fifth book in a series about a heroic, time-traveling golden retriever. Here, Ranger travels to Viking age Iceland where he helps a little girl find safety as a volcano begins to erupt. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
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