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Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Country of Bibliophiles

It’s June 1, and if all has gone well, when this is being posted, I am on my way to Iceland, a country that seems to be full of readers. 

Iceland has nearly a 100% literacy rate and publishes more books per capita than any other country.  At least 90 percent of the people read just for pleasure, and the gift most requested by children at Christmas is a book.  I’ve already written about the Icelandic tradition known as Jólabókaflóð when Icelanders give books as gifts ( 

Fiction is the best-selling category, but poetry apparently also sells well; in fact, poetry was the third-largest category of books published in the country in 2015.  Ninety books of poetry were published that year (

Not only are Icelanders readers, they also tend to be poets.  It could be said that poetry is a national pastime because, when they’re not at their day jobs, a great many of the island’s 330,000 inhabitants dabble in writing verse.  Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson, a professor of Icelandic literature at the University of Iceland, said, “In earlier times, verses were an integral part of social gatherings and were often improvised. . . . Poetry contests were held, with the prizes going to the wittiest, sharpest verses.  The most popular verse form . . . is called ‘ferskeytla,’ four rhymed lines that can be divided into two parts” (

My visit to Iceland is just beginning, but I found an article by a reader who has already visited: 

I plan to check out as many bookstores as possible during my travels around Iceland’s Ring Road.  When I return home, I shall write about my bookish adventures in this bookish country.  Maybe I’ll even try writing a ferskeytla.