Too Many Books?


Each holiday season, Icelandic readers enjoy the jólabókaflóð. This seemingly unpronounceable word is best translated as the Christmas Book Flood, a tradition of a rush of new books released in time for Christmas. Icelanders have been giving each other books at Christmas since the Second World War when imports were expensive and scarce. The result has been that one in ten people ends up publishing a book. Now, however, the tiny island nation is beginning to question the sustainability of publishing so many books, with problems like big discounts after Christmas, too little warehouse space, and ultimately, the destruction of surplus books. Grapevine Magazine takes a look at the challenges with the Icelandic book industry —and with reining in all that book publishing.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →