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Why We Should All Be Doing Jólabókaflód

Why We Should All Be Doing Jólabókaflód

Last week, one of my customers sent me an order for a Christmas book hamper – but this was one with a difference. She has decided that this year she will embrace the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflód, and I immediately emailed back and asked if she will adopt me into her family.

This word quite literally means ‘a flood of books’ and consists of the tradition of cosying up, preferably around a fire, on Christmas Eve and giving the gift of a book to each of member of your family. The idea is that you each spend the rest of the evening eating nice food, drinking nice drink (if you want to go the whole hog then you’ll need to make jólabland – a cocktail of orange soda, brown ale and cola), and reading your books.

My customer wrote to me and said that her plan was that everyone goes to bed early with their book to prepare for the big day. Sounds perfect to me.

One theory is that the tradition of jólabókaflód began in Iceland during the second world war when paper was one of the few items that was not rationed and so it was easy to give the gift of books. Another is that it was started in the 1930s by the Reykajavik Library Foundation, an organisation that wanted to encourage more Icelanders to read more during their long, dark winter nights. Another theory is that a study in the 1800s found that only fifty percent of the population of Iceland could read so giving and receiving books on Christmas Eve was one way to increase literacy. But whatever the reason, I think it’s a wonderful idea.

So many of my customers come into the shop and bemoan the fact that they just don’t get time to read any more and so I think it’s more important than ever to carve out these appointments with books in the same way that you make time to exercise or go to the gym or a yoga class – it is after all a workout for your brain. And it is also pure escapism which, let’s face it, we could all do with right now. How easy it is to lose an hour or two scrolling on your phone, better to spend that time curled up with a good book in a different world.

I’ve heard recently of a new idea of silent book clubs. At first I was a little confused by these, but the idea is that you turn up with the book you’re currently reading and read in silence together for an hour before having a chat about your various books. I think it sounds like a nice idea, and how lovely to hear about the books other people are reading. Who fancies joining me in the new year for a silent book club? Let’s give it a try and see if it helps us get reading – except not in the shop because it’s too cold, I have a Tunbridge Wells location in mind so drop me a line if you’d like to join.

But back to jólabókaflód, if you fancy giving this tradition a go, then drop me a line, I would love to make up a Christmas Eve Hamper for you and your family, and I do like it when people set me a challenge of recommending books.

Here’s an example of the kind of hamper you could put together for Jólabókaflód

Just a reminder that if you have any teenage readers in your lives, I have been busy researching some of the latest and greatest prize-winning ‘issues books’ for teens which are proudly on display in the shop.

Here’s just a few of the YA books that I have sourced, this would make a lovely Christmas book hamper

I would really like to get our young people reading, in fact, maybe I should run a special silent YA book club in the new year too!

So many ideas!

More soon….



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