TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books set in Iceland

This weekly meme was created by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten books set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc.)

Because I’m going to Iceland in few months and I’d like to read some books that are set there, I thought this is a perfect opportunity for me to discover books by Icelandic authors and/or set in Iceland.

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent

historical fiction | mystery | crime

English paperback edition cover of book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Pub Date: 2013

My Rating: ★★★★★

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A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Starting the list with the only book I read that is set in Iceland, written by an Australian author. Amazing story, highly recommended. I featured this book in Book Traveling Thursday.

Independent People
by Halldór Laxness

historical fiction

9780099527121Pub Date: 1934

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This magnificent novel—which secured for its author the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature—is at last available to contemporary American readers. Although it is set in the early twentieth century, it recalls both Iceland’s medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. And if Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book’s protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.

Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude, Bjartur wants nothing more than to raise his flocks unbeholden to any man. But Bjartur’s spirited daughter wants to live unbeholden to him. What ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. Vast in scope and deeply rewarding, Independent People is a masterpiece.

Jar City
by Arnaldur Indriðason

thriller | crime

280366Pub Date: 2000

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Jar City introduces American readers to a new crime writer from Iceland whose work has created an international sensation. Arnaldur Indridason has been compared to such luminaries in the field as Henning Mankell, Georges Simenon, Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall; everyone agrees that here is a world-class writer.
When a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him?

As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man–secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character. Like all great crime fiction, Jar City is about much more than murder, and avid suspense fans are about to discover a first-rate writer who has already received rave reviews around the world..

Beautiful Wreck
by Larissa Brown

time travel | romance | historical | fantasy

22035988Pub Date: 2014

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In a bleak future built on virtual reality, Ginn is a romantic who yearns for something real. She designs environments for people who play at being Vikings. But when her project goes awry, she’s stranded in the actual 10th century, on a storybook farm in Viking Iceland.

Heirik is the young leader of his family, honored by the men and women who live on his land. But he is feared and isolated because of a terrible curse. Ginn and Heirik are two people who never thought they would find a home in someone else’s heart.

When forces rise against them to keep them apart, Ginn is called on to decide—will she give up the brutal and beautiful reality of the past? Or will she have the courage to traverse time and become more of a Viking than she ever imagined?

Angels of the Universe
by Einar Már Guðmundsson

contemporary fiction

462691Pub Date: 1993

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Born on the day Iceland joined NATO, this novel’s unstable narrator worries this and other incidental phenomena into a highly complex, hilarious, and tragic cosmology. More interested in David Bowie and the Beatles than the Nordic sagas that shape the lives of the working-class peoples of Reykjavik, Paul retreats into his own fantastic, schizophrenic, painful world. His madness springs from bits of reality and brighter strikes of insanity. Out-of-work and aimless, tormented by bouts of drinking and ferocious tantrums, Paul walks Reykjavik’s streets scaring his family lusting after women, recounting petty humiliations, and imagining the forces that both guide and haunt him. Paul’s behaviors lead him to Klepp, a psychiatric hospital outside Reykjavik where he plays out his days in therapy and frantic conversation with its resident patients. Sparsely inhabited, Klepp tends to a variety of disturbed people creating comedic havoc..

The Pets
by Bragi Ólafsson


3399860Pub Date: 2001

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Seeing his “friend” outside of his house, Emil takes refuge under his bed, hoping Havard will just go away. Instead, he doesn’t. He breaks in, starts drinking Emil’s book, and ends up hosting a bizarre party for Emil’s friends. Dark and hilarious, the breezy style of “The Pets” belies its depth, and disguises a complexity that increases with each page.

Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World
by Jón Gnarr

nonfiction | politics | memoir


Pub Date: 2011

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It all started when Jón Gnarr founded the Best Party in 2009 to satirize his country’s political system. The financial collapse in Iceland had, after all, precipitated the world-wide meltdown, and fomented widespread protest over the country’s leadership.

Entering the race for mayor of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, Gnarr promised to get the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park into downtown parks, free towels at public swimming pools, a “drug-free Parliament by 2020” . . . and he swore he’d break all his campaign promises.

But then something strange started happening: his campaign began to succeed. And in the party’s electoral debut, the Best Party emerged as the biggest winner. Gnarr promptly proposed a coalition government, although he ruled out partners who had not seen all five seasons of The Wire.

And just like that, a man whose previous foreign-relations experience consisted of a radio show (in which he regularly crank-called the White House and police stations in the Bronx to see if they had found his lost wallet) was soon meeting international leaders and being taken seriously as the mayor of a European capital.

Here, Gnarr recounts how it all happened and, with admirable candor, describes his vision of a more enlightened politics for the future. The point, he writes, is not to be afraid to get involved—or to take on the system.

Pam on the Map: Iceland
by Pam Stucky

travel | reference

18691509Pub Date: 2013

Goodreads | Buy: | Amazon.comBook Depository

From setting off a hotel fire alarm, to getting a luxurious in-water spa massage, to going on a “traditional Icelandic ice cream car ride,” to interviewing Jón Gnarr, “the most interesting mayor in the world,” Pam experienced it all on a two-week summer journey that took her all around the outer edge of Iceland. Armed with a two-wheel drive car, a persnickety GPS, and a goal to discover the heart and soul of the country, Pam broke out of the boundaries of Iceland’s popular Golden Circle to travel the full Ring Road (the road that circles all the way around the country), and beyond.

In Pam on the Map: Iceland, Pam brings readers along on her trip as she discusses all things Iceland, including the restrooms at Keflavík airport, the Ring Road and travel infrastructure, the treacherous gravel roads and Highway 939, the omnipresent waterfalls, hot dogs and fermented shark, and the history and culture of the country and its people. Pam stops to talk with locals about their views and opinions on Iceland, tourism, writing, the economy, soil erosion, and happiness. While this is not a guidebook, Pam nonetheless discusses with the readers what she did and loved, and what she would do differently next time.

Filled with wit and wanderlust, Pam on the Map: Iceland offers one woman’s perspective on traveling around this tiny island in the far north Atlantic Ocean.

Butterflies in November
by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

fiction | travel | road trip

20949737Pub Date: October 25, 2011

Goodreads | Buy: | Amazon.comBook Depository

After a day of being dumped – twice – and accidentally killing a goose, a young woman yearns for a tropical vacation far away from the chaos of her life. Instead, her plans are thrown off course by her best friend’s four-year-old deaf-mute son, thrust into her reluctant care. But when the boy chooses the winning numbers for a lottery ticket, the two of them set off on a road trip across Iceland with a glove compartment stuffed full of their jackpot earnings. Along the way, they encounter black sand beaches, cucumber farms, lava fields, flocks of sheep, an Estonian choir, a falconer, a hitchhiker, and both of her exes desperate for another chance. As she and the boy grow closer, what began as a spontaneous adventure unexpectedly and profoundly changes the way she views her past and charts her future.

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland
by Sarah Moss

travel | nonfiction | memoir

9781847084163Pub Date: 2012

Goodreads | Buy: | Amazon.comBook Depository

Sarah Moss had a childhood dream of moving to Iceland, sustained by a wild summer there when she was nineteen. In 2009, she saw an advertisement for a job at the University of Iceland and applied on a whim, despite having two young children and a comfortable life in Kent. The resulting adventure was shaped by Iceland’s economic collapse, which halved the value of her salary, by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and by a collection of new friends, including a poet who saw the only bombs fall on Iceland in 1943, a woman who speaks to elves and a chef who guided Sarah’s family around the intricacies of Icelandic cuisine. Moss explored hillsides of boiling mud and volcanic craters and learned to drive like an Icelander on the unsurfaced roads that link remote farms and fishing villages in the far north. She watched the northern lights and the comings and goings of migratory birds, and as the weeks and months went by, she and her family learned new ways to live.

Check out the blog I’d Rather be in Iceland that I found while looking for books set in Iceland. It’s a great place to find out more books set in Iceland and learn more about Iceland.

Have you been to Iceland? Anything that you can recommend to do during four days stay?

Anything from my list that you found interesting? How many books from the list did you read? Is anything going to you TBR list?


43 thoughts on “TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books set in Iceland

    • Ola says:

      Burial Rites is great! But I’m kinda disappointed with myself that the only book set in Iceland I read is not even written by Icelandic.


  1. Bri says:

    I’m so jealous you’re going to Iceland!! That’ll be so much. I also added a ton of these to my tbr list, Iceland is pretty much the perfect spot for a good mystery so i’m not sure why I never tried harder to find books set there. Great List!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ola says:

      You’re right, it is perfect for mystery, like the Scandinavian countries, maybe it’s something in their climate 😉 what I noticed is that a lot of books set there are about a road trip on the Ring Road.


  2. @lynnsbooks says:

    Great choice of topic – I will have to look closely at some of these I think (as I’m planning a visit to Iceland early next year!)
    I bought the Burial Rights book ages ago because it received such glowing reviews – I have to make time to pick it up soon – I can call it research!
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ola says:

      It is a research! Into history of Iceland, and it is great knowing the history of country you’re visiting. You can experience it better 😉


  3. Taylor says:

    Wow, thanks for the list; I’ve never read anything about or set in Iceland! I love historical fiction, so I added Beautiful Wreck to my TBR. Looking forward to hearing about your trip in a few months!

    Liked by 1 person

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