Celebrate Icelandic literature with 2 great books

In Iceland, one in 10 people will publish a book.

In Iceland, one in 10 people will publish a book, according to the BBC. There's a saying: "Ad ganga med bok I maganum." This means that everyone gives birth to a book. This is certainly true in Iceland, a country rich with literary history. The Icelandic sagas date back to the 13th century, and are a huge source of our knowledge of culture and religion in the region. Iceland is steeped in stories, from natural features to bus stops - if you look, you can find someone's poetry, or biography, or fiction project nearly anywhere. In such a literary country, it would be a shame to skip reading the local literature. Whether your cruise travel takes you to Iceland and you'd like something to read on the ship or you want to know what to pick up in bookshops while you're there, check out these two Icelandic books, which are well worth your time:

'The Blue Fox' by Sjon

Sjon has written lyrics to some of Bjork's songs, so you may already know his work. Telegram put out an English version of his book "The Blue Fox," and you should pick it up. It won the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2005, and deals with a fox leading a hunter on a quest during the harsh Icelandic winter. It also treats the relationship between a naturalist and a disabled young woman he rescued from a wrecked ship. These characters' lives all converge over the course of the novel, which is a mystery, a fairy tale and more - and is short enough that you can read it comfortably on deck between ports. If you like the novel, you may also be interested in his other works, which include "From the Mouth of the Whale" and "The Whispering Muse," each available in English.

'Independent People' by Halldor Laxness

Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 for this novel, so you know it is an important contribution to the Icelandic canon. Set in the early 20th century, it tells the tale of Bjartur of Summerhouses, a man who has spent 18 years in servitude. He wants to raise his own flocks of sheep independently - but his daughter wants to live a life independent of him, as well. Their clashes form the novel's centerpiece, both epic and intimate, and set the stage for a story that owes as much as it does to early Icelandic sagas as it does to the literature of modernity.