According to scholars, Iceland is one of the most literate nations in the world: Its libraries, newspapers, and education system performance leave most larger countries in the dust, Icelandic speakers can still easily read the Old Norse masterpieces their ancestors wrote a thousand years ago, and 50% of citizens read at least 8 books per year. According to BBC Magazine, one in every ten Icelanders publishes a book in his or her lifetime. It goes without saying that every day is a good day to curl up with a good book in Iceland—in the summer months, you can go almost 24 hours without turning on a bedside lamp—but the jólabókaflóð is an especially fine time to do so, since every household receives a copy of the titles to expect in the Yule Book Flood, and friends and loved ones are accustomed to literary holiday gifts from one another.
So how do we get a piece of that delicious bookishness? It seems unlikely that America’s countless publishers will band together for a Yankee Literary Deluge—that sort of thing is much easier to orchestrate when you’re a Kentucky-sized island nation in the middle of the North Atlantic—but here at Read It Forward, we have organized our own torrent of tips. Parents complaining they haven’t read anything good in years? We’ve got books for them. Can’t bear to give your sister another pair of earrings she’ll never wear? We’ve got books for her. Stumped for friends, little ones, or the office Mystery Elf name you drew from a hat and can’t for the life of you attach to a face? Our holiday gift guide has books for all of them, too.
Gleðilega hátíð (happy holidays), everyone!
Early reading with children “helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world,” as The Washington Post’s Amy Joyce writes. What better way to celebrate the people who introduced you to the world of books—and the world itself—than by offering a bit of it back to them? If your mom loves page-turners as much as you do, warm her heart with a tale that will make her pulse race. If you’ve got the kind of dad who calls you while he’s watching the news, assign him some reading before your next chat. Consider it a tribute to your origin story.
Who’s excited about estimating their older sister’s sweater size, or playing the odds on whether or not their little brother will decide to start wearing ties this year? Nobody? Yeah, we thought so. For every family gift that seems like a home run, there’s another that will go straight to the back of the closet until you visit. (Real talk: They’re often the same thing.) Skip the mall and put a bow on something that’s a perfect fit for your sib’s brain. Trust us, they’ve already figured out clothes and knickknacks for themselves.
Think of these conversation-starters as a massive batch of seasonal treats you’d prepare in bulk and distribute to your friend network bit by bit (minus the kitschy snowman tins and dramatic potential for unanticipated food allergies). Choose a title that will get everyone talking, grab a copy for each of your pals (and yourself), then ping them all in 2018 when they’re ready to break it all down over coffee or cocktails. Voilà: You no longer need to worry about cleaning your kitchen, wrangling a massive gift list, or how to break the seal on your social calendar in the new year.
If gifting literature can be considered one of the love languages, its message to parents of the littlest people in your life is clear: I can see that your child is going to be a scholar, and that you are probably uninterested in tracking down obscure varieties of batteries and/or hearing loud and possibly electronic noises at all hours for the next six months. Its message to wee ones themselves is equally clear: Kiddo, you’re in for a great story. If you’re on the hunt for a new addition to your own offspring’s bookshelf, we’ve got more than a few words for you, too: We’ve rounded up the latest and greatest new releases for toddlers, pre-teens, and everyone in between.
Many of the well-intentioned sayings associated with book-gifting—you’re giving someone the world, you’re offering the possibility of a whole new life, you’re telling them who you are or who you know them to be—are rather terrifying. Who wouldn’t lunge for a gift card
or a basket of smoked sausage in the face of that kind of pressure? Take a deep breath, step away from the sausage, and consider the crowd-pleasers here. In the confluence of genres here, we’re confident you’ll recognize a match for the trickiest recipient you know.
Illustrations: Elsa Jenna