17 Beautiful Icelandic Novels To Inspire Your Trip

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Looking for books set in Iceland and books about Iceland to inspire your travels? Don’t miss these essential Icelandic novels to transport you to the land of fire and ice.

After returning from an out-of-this-world Icelandic winter adventure, pairing Icelandic fiction and nonfiction with our travels proved both thrilling and enlightening. 

I ‘wandered’ to Iceland in both the figurative and literal sense with the best Icelandic books.

Now, I know what it is like to walk through an infamous Bonus grocery store as Sarah Moss describes in Names for the Sea. Let’s not forget the sun disappearing in the winter, too.

Unimaginable wind gusts indeed create chilly and dangerously harsh winters with unpredictable weather as described in Hannah Kent’s Iceland-based book, Burial Rites. You have to feel that bone-chilling cold to believe it.

We had a surprise date with those sneaky and heavenly Northern Lights — just how I imagined them after reading LoveStar, Icelandic science fiction.

Lastly, I tried my hardest as I tongued my way through Icelandic pronunciation. Jökulsárlón really tripped me up.  I still don’t think I have it right, but I loved learning Icelandic in person.

Below, find a list of beautiful as well as heartbreaking books set in Iceland. 

From deadly spinster tales based loosely on facts to love stories and social engineering science fiction, learn about humanity, grief, and Icelandic history and culture.

I promise there is something for everyone, too: Icelandic fiction and literature that has been translated into English as well as Icelandic mysteries, travel books, and famous historical fiction.

Let’s get started with these amazing books about Iceland to take you there.

You may also enjoy these Icelandic movies.

Icelandic Books And Books Set In Iceland with waterfalls and Icelandic landscape at sunsetPin
If you are traveling to Iceland, you’ll love this Icelandic reading list filled with some of the best books about Iceland to spark your wanderlust.

Some Of The Best Books Set In Iceland

  • Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón
  • The Blue Fox by Sjón
  • Burial Rites By Hannah Kent
  • Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrímur Helgason
  • Independent People Halldór Laxness
  • The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness
  • Angels of the Universe by Einar Mar Gudmundsson
  • The Sagas of Icelanders by Anonymous
  • The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
  • 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
  • LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason
  • Names for the Sea Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
  • And discover helpful Iceland travel books…

Please note that any title marked with ** is a contribution from a travel blogger, Dagney.

Historical Fiction Books Set In Iceland

Icelandic Novels like Moonstone by SjonPin

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón

Icelandic Fiction Translated Into English by Victoria Cribb

Moonstone is an eclectic Iceland novel where magical realism meets historical fiction.

Teenage Máni Steinn is trying to find his place in the world.  Yet, Iceland, and Reykjavík especially, is under attack.  Watch as Katla erupts. The “Spanish flu” is killing thousands of people. WWI promises invasion. 

How does a young boy escape? 

With the movies, of course.

To make matters even more complicated, Máni is gay.  Unfortunately, society punishes same-sex relationships. 

Even worse, politicians and residents scapegoat the pictures as indulgent and corrupt.  Fevered dreams, magical realism, and history merge to create an artistic Icelandic novella. 

Máni must persevere to help and work in a culture that wishes he’d just disappear.

Beautifully written, Sjón’s Moonstone is allegorical, intense, and compelling. 

A statement about a young boy surviving widespread flu versus another gay man dying of AIDS offers readers a powerful statement on prejudice and misconception. 

Moonstone is a book set in Iceland that addresses larger political issues and the LGBT+ community.

Sjón is a famous Icelandic author, and if you enjoy Greek mythology, be sure to check out Sjón’s The Whispering Muse.

Find your copy of Moonstone by Sjon here:  Amazon

Iceland book The Blue Fox By SjonPin

The Blue Fox by Sjón**

Iceland Book Translated by Victoria Cribb

This beautiful novel is set in Iceland, 1883.  Follow the lives of a priest, a fox, a naturalist, and a young woman with Down’s Syndrome. Their lives are inescapably intertwined against the harsh Icelandic winter.

The Blue Fox is challenging and relentlessly tragic.  Sjon’s delicate prose takes you on a bewitching journey. Find hints of Moby DickWhite Fang, and Burial Rites. This lyrical novel will leave you guessing until its last breath.

Discover even more books set on islands big and small.

Find your copy of The Blue Fox by Sjón here:   Amazon

Icelandic Novels For And About Women

Icelandic Novels like Burial Rites by Hannah KentPin

Burial Rites By Hannah Kent

Burial Rites is one of those Icelandic novels that will keep you thinking long after you close the book. 

Based on a true story, Kent imbues humanity into accused murderess, Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland.

Caught up in a deadly love story, Agnes is convicted for her role in the savage murders of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson at Illugastaðir in 1828.

Set in a harsh and frigid Icelandic backdrop, Agnes must await her beheading in a family home at Kornsá. Breathe in the smell of dung and dull repetition of farm life. 

Watch the downfall of an intelligent, intimidating woman. We know this spinster tale all too well.

Just as the Northern Lights ignite magic in the sky, Agnes gains empathy from unlikely characters.  The assistant priest and her now familial wardens care for her. 

Learn Agnes’ side of the story amid illegitimacy, child mortality, and wandering eyes. 

For a book set in Iceland, Burial Rites will spark your historical wanderlust. And, for winter-set books, it’s extremely atmospheric.

Save This Icelandic Reading List For Later

Best Books Set In Iceland and Books About Iceland Pinterest Pin with Iceland book covers for The Sagas of Icelanders, Woman at 1000 Degrees, The Greenhouse, The Fish Can Sing, Jar City, LoveStar, The Boy Who Never Was, and 101 ReykjvikPin
These are some of the best books about Iceland along with famous Icelandic authors. Save this Icelandic reading list for later, and travel around the world via a good book with The Uncorked Librarian.
Iceland Book Woman at 1000 Degrees Hallgrimur HelgasonPin

Woman at 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrímur Helgason

Icelandic Fiction Translated Into English by Brian FitzGibbon

Content/Trigger Warnings:  Rape, abuse, incest, child death, abandonment, and murder

Did you ever have a love-strongly dislike relationship with a book? Woman at 1,000 Degrees is an almost unheard-of story about an Icelandic family fighting for Hitler during WWII.

A brutally honest and vile historical fiction Iceland novel, learn about Herra’s youth as a displaced child of war. Readers will both champion and despise Herra as a mother, lover, child, and storyteller.

Emotionally draining yet powerful, Herra’s character is based loosely on the first Icelandic Prime Minister’s granddaughter.

Best Books About Iceland

Books About Iceland The Fish Can Sing Halldor LaxnessPin

The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness **

Álfgrímur is an orphan who has been raised by a kind elderly couple in Brekkukot, a rural Icelandic village.

He wants nothing more than to follow in his adoptive grandfather’s footsteps and become a fisherman. That is, until, world-famous Icelandic singer, Gardar Holm recognizes Álfgrímur’s musical talents.

Like many of Laxness’ Icelandic novels, The Fish Can Sing is a bit of a slow burn. 

The novel lovingly crafts a portrait of life in rural Iceland against the stark modernity of Reykjavik and beyond. The prose itself is as alluring as Álfgrímur’s voice. 

The Fish Can Sing is sure to have you booking a trip to Iceland ASAP. 

Find your copy of The Fish Can Sing here: Amazon

Books About Iceland Independent People Halldor LaxnessPin

Independent People by Halldór Laxness

Halldór is a Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author infamous for writing books about Iceland with a funny yet intellectual and historic flair.

Independent People is nostalgic of both Iceland’s Sagas as well as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter–a trilogy of historical novels about Northern life in the Middle Ages.

After years as a servant, Bjartur wants to raise his sheep in simple peace.

Meanwhile, his daughter would also like to live unchained to Bjartur. A darky comedic novel about love, independence, and family, Independent People is a touching and telling book set in Iceland.

Find a copy of Independent People here: Amazon

Books About Iceland Angels of the Universe Einar Mar GudmundssonPin

Angels of the Universe by Einar Mar Gudmundsson**

Translated by Bernard Scudder

This bizarre and delightful book set in Iceland takes place in Klepp, an Icelandic psychiatric facility.  The story follows schizophrenic Paul as he grapples with reality.

Paul recounts his life growing up as he gradually descends into madness.  The novel jumps back and forth between the past and present, helping to highlight Paul’s erratic mind.  The prose flirts with surrealism.

Angels of the Universe itself is profound, hilarious, and deeply heartbreaking. Read this Icelandic novel for insight into mid-to-present Icelandic history, as well as a taste of Icelandic humor. 

Find your copy of Angels of the Universe here:  Amazon 

Books About Iceland The Sagas of IcelandersPin

The Sagas of Icelanders by Anonymous

One of the most important books about Iceland, the Sagas showcase the lives of the Norse men and women who arrived in Iceland and eventually migrated across Greenland into North America.

Considered one of the greatest medieval literary treasures, these ten Icelandic Sagas follow explorers such as Leif Eiriksson and the Vikings to the New World.

Find uniquely modern and relevant elements as well as themes of love, hate, and exploration.

Find a copy of The Sagas of Icelanders here: Amazon

Contemporary Icelandic Fiction

Iceland Book The Greenhouse Audur Ava OlafsdottirPin

The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir

Icelandic Fiction Translated In English by Brian FitzGibbon

One of the most relatable Icelandic novels, meet twenty-two-year-old Lobbi who is facing his own quarter-life crisis. 

Lobbi’s mother dies in a tragic car accident.  Obsessed with death and the carnal body, Lobbi is completely lost. 

With a devastated father and an autistic twin brother, Lobbi learns he is also a father.  Flóra Sól is the product of a one-night stand.

Fleeing to find himself, Lobbi leaves behind his mother’s beloved Icelandic greenhouse.  His new life mission is to tend to a dead monastic garden in an unknown country. 

Making friends with an alcoholic monk, Lobbi learns about grief, life, and love through movies.

Quiet but poetic, The Greenhouse is a meditation on finding oneself.  Although Icelandic fiction, readers transcend the body and borderlines. 

Characters learn and overcome in numerous ‘religious’ forms. 

Mundane life in the form of flowers and household chores defines Lobbi’s familial role.  Finding solace in discomfort heals. 

The ending is anything but perfect; Lobbi surprises even the reader in this gorgeously poignant Icelandic book. Read more books with green in the title

Find your copy of The Greenhouse here:   Amazon 

Icelandic Novels 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrimur HelgasonPin

101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason**

Translated Iceland Fiction by Brian FitzGibbon

This Icelandic black comedy certainly isn’t for everyone.

Protagonist Hlynur is a 30-something loner.  He still lives at home with no intention of doing anything else. Soon, Hlynur’s mother comes out as a lesbian.  He falls in love with her new girlfriend.

Because Hlynur never leaves his room, the book itself feels very claustrophobic.  Yet, the Icelandic novel is wildly unpredictable good fun.

For those who enjoy Irvine Welsh or Bret Easton Ellis, Helgason has created an Icelandic book sure to thrill

Icelandic Thrillers And Mysteries

Jar City by Arnaldur IndridasonPin

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

One of my to-be-read Iceland books, Jar City is a Reykjavik thriller and murder mystery.

Inspector Erlendur opens an unsolved crime after coming across a dead body of an older man. The killer has left a note and photograph of a young girl’s grave, hinting that something more is going on here.

Erlendur must uncover more than just the mystery behind this murder.

Find your copy of Jar City here: Amazon

Science Fiction Novels Set In Iceland

LoveStar Andri Snaer MagnasonPin

LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason

Translated by Victoria Cribb

Indridi and Sigrid are the equivalents of Icelandic science fiction millennials.  They live in a cordless and wireless world where data is transmitted via birdwaves.

Their entire lives are now premeditated. Sounds like M.T. Anderson’s Feed, right?!

The impersonal, borderline obsessed, and super genius, LoveStar is responsible.  He has socially engineered society and its hidden miseries.  LoveStar is a techie version of Mark Zuckerberg.

Along with disintegrating bodies into shooting stars upon death and rewinding bad children, LoveStar has calculated the perfect mate for each individual.

Madly in love, this new pairing tests Indridi and Sigrid’s relationship.  Society and its not-so-subliminal messaging threaten to tear them apart.  Whatever happened to free will?

Magnason questions the meaning of happiness and the effects of social engineering.  A science fiction book set in Iceland, watch all-consuming love fall apart under the Northern Lights. 

Innovative and quirky, question how technology and consumerism play a role in our lives. 

Find your copy of LoveStar here:   Amazon 

Nonfiction Books Set In Iceland

Iceland book Names For The Sea By Sarah MossPin

 Names for the Sea Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss

If you are looking for an Iceland novel written by an expatriate, you’ll love Moss.

After road-tripping across Iceland in her youth, Sarah Moss moves her family back to the land of fire and ice. 

Hoping to recapture her romanticized version of the island, she instead learns what it means to be an expat in her Icelandic nonfiction novel, Names for the Sea.

As an academic and writer, Moss embraces Icelandic culture and traditions with curiosity.  Her public servant’s salary as a teacher enforces a life of simplicity. 

Desiring to understand both Icelandic history and its present state during a financial crisis and volcanic eruption, Moss must push through the hardships of daily Icelandic life.

Beautifully written, Names for the Sea asks readers to consider how we travel and build community.  Does our nationality define us? How so?  Are we always outsiders? 

Delving into the meaning of identity and foreignness, Moss works hard to make Iceland her home. Read More→

Iceland Travel Books

Rick Steves Iceland – Join Rick Steves with this Iceland travel book. He’ll provide a wide array of tips from glacier hiking to how to save money in the infamously expensive Icelandic city of Reykjavik.

Lonely Planet Iceland – One of our favorite Iceland travel guides, Lonely Planet offers both history and itineraries filled with a ton of personality. See what to skip, must-sees, and a few hidden gems in Iceland.

Lonely Planet Best Of Iceland – Even though Iceland appears smaller than some countries, there is still so much to explore. LP suggests some of its favorites in this Iceland travel book filled with must-sees.

Lonely Planet’s Iceland’s Ring Road – When we visited Iceland, we loved driving along the southern part of Ring Road. Discover LP’s recommendations for Ring Road road trip itineraries.

Along with Iceland, travel to some of our favorite European countries via a good book:

Iceland captured our hearts and souls; the landscape is just utterly breathtaking, and we’d never seen seals out in the wild let alone glaciers or both together until Iceland. Add in the Northern Lights and black sand beaches, and it was love at first sight. A few of our other favorite European destinations include Scotland, Italy, Greece, and the Baltics.

Enhance your trip and spark your wanderlust to Europe with these additional reading lists:

  • Baltic Books To Read Before You Go – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are unique and lesser-frequented Eastern European countries filled with a rich literary history like Iceland. Everyone knows Tallinn, Estonia, but what about those other gems? Get to know the Baltics through their literature and top authors.

  • Books To Inspire Scotland Travel – Similar to these novels set in Iceland, our Scotland reading list is sure to introduce you to local authors. Spark a bit of wanderlust for those gorgeous Highlands. Then, travel to Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness, solving mysteries and falling in love.

  • Best Books About Italy For Wanderlust – Italy runs through our veins – and we still have family members living there. Explore the best fiction and nonfiction books about Italy from a variety of authors to make your trip more authentic and teach you more.

  • Best Books To Read Before Going To Greece – We honeymooned in Greece and Turkey, eating terrific food and catching stunning views in Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, and Istanbul. Up your knowledge of Greece with these fiction and nonfiction books.

What Are Your Favorite Books Set In Iceland?

Our favorite Icelandic books are Burial Rites, Names For The Sea, and LoveStar. Sjón is eccentric and unique. What are some of the best books about Iceland that you have read? What Icelandic author or book would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Inspired To Visit Iceland?  Save This Iceland Reading List Or Your Favorite Iceland Novel For Later.

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Not ready for your Icelandic vacation quite yet? Pin these novels set in Iceland for later.

European Book Lists You Might Enjoy:

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Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.

With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.

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Dagney McKinney

Dagney (pronouns: any) is a neurodivergent writer and book nerd who is drawn to all things weird and macabre. She also loves anything to do with fast cars, unhinged anti-heroes, and salt. When she isn’t working or reading, you’re likely to find her eating Indian food, playing board games, or hiding out somewhere dark and quiet, stuck down an internet rabbit hole. The easiest way to win her over is through cats and camels.

18 Comments

    1. I hope that you make it there one day. Iceland is truly one of my favorite countries that we have visited so far. For now, definitely be sure to pick up one of these books set in Iceland to spark your wanderlust.

    1. Thank you! I loved reading about fictional Iceland and then having some of those locations come alive. These types of book lists will be the new book and travel norm for 2019 on TUL as I ‘niche down.’ Glad to know that you enjoyed the new content. Much, much appreciated.

      I cannot wait to share my own tales from Iceland. Have a great rest of the week, book bestie!

  1. Thanks for including me in this. I love a good book list. And hey, it turns out I read some stuff that isn’t totally depressing!

    So I know I’ve already read over half of these books and I have a reading list as long as Africa, buuuut… I totally want to read the ones I haven’t already read. I think Moonstone is definitely top of the list.

    Also, is it weird that I’m jealous there are people who get to experience Burial Rites for the first time? That’s weird, right?

    I’m so excited to see more of your Iceland posts! It’s a place we both want to go back to, despite our first trip there together being a bit of a disaster. So could probably use some travel inspiration!

    1. Thanks so much for contributing, again! I could not have done this Icelandic book list without you.

      I am still reading a few Icelandic books not yet on this list too. I’ve loved everything.

      Moonstone is incredibly short. You could easily read the title in one sitting–it’s a unique novella. I found the graphic sexual scenes a bit off-putting (just wasn’t expecting some of them and not quite my thing in literature), but I get why they were there. The rest of the narrative falls into this bizarre but well done magical realism vs realistic fiction plot. Sjon really nails a timeframe and social commentary on being gay in a world that is less than accepting. I think you will love this one.

      I enjoyed Buriral Rites way more than I thought that I would. What a brutal way to go. I am interested in learning more about the murdered parties too. Seemed like an eccentric bunch…or maybe just for that time period.

      Still waiting to hear about this Icelandic disaster. Dish! (Unless you did on FB and it failed to notify me…what a mess there.) I just did some planning for my Iceland posts. Time to get writing. I got distracted by international commission laws and taxes today. Fun, fun.

  2. Great set of books! I would love to visit Iceland someday, but I would need to plan a trip to a hot destination right after to thaw out. ?I’d read these books even without visiting Iceland. Looking forward to more pictures of Iceland and all the boozy details.

    1. At one point, we were walking around Thingvellir National Park–and I just couldn’t do it anymore. My toes and hands had gone completely numb. I didn’t find the cold that bad most of the time, but occasionally, I thought my nose might fall off my face.

      When we got back to FL, though, it was 83 and humid….so I thawed fast.

      Thank you! I hope you make it to Iceland one day! Go in the summer and see the puffins for me.

  3. Amazeballs as usual. I am all hyped for our vacay in November and after this I am all about Iceland!! Totally want to go now . Love your pics. Am going to jump on one of these reads, asap

  4. I really want to read Burial Rites – I’ve heard nothing but good things! I will be sure to give it a read before I visit Iceland. Great post Christine!

    1. Thanks, Crystal! I think out of all these titles, you might love Burial Rites the most. As your fellow dark tourism blogger, you’ll have to check with Dagney too! I know she also read Kent’s book. I loved Burial Rites, and it was a great one to start this list with since it is based on true events. The title has a twinge of feminist appeal too.

      I kept thinking about your door warning and weighing down my car while in Iceland. We sat on a hill in Vik to watch the Northern Lights. It was around midnight, and I swear I thought the winds would blow us right off the cliffs–I’ve never seen winds that strong that weren’t part of a Florida hurricane. It was wild weather.

      1. Burial Rites is hands down the best book on this list. Not that I don’t love the other ones I wrote about, but Burial Rites definitely for the win. I was skeptical to read it because of the hype I’d heard around it, but I sucked it up, and it was so worth it.

      2. Weren’t they making a movie too? Did it ever come out? I want to say it hasn’t yet?! Not that I’d want them to ruin it for me, but it could be good.

      3. I will definitely check it out! did you carry heavy suitcases and things in your trunk for safety? glad you made it through Iceland safe! Those heavy winds sounds scary!

      4. I wish!!! So we actually paid for checked bags…and then didn’t check on them on the way there because we had 8 AM Blue Lagoon tickets. We knew that we might have to dash from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. We packed light carryons only. It made traveling easy as heck…but we could have blown away. lol

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