Book Review Club: Little Books About Iceland

Over the summer I read two “Little Books” about Iceland to prepare for my upcoming trip. As you read this, I will be touring Iceland.

A note to my review club friends: I will be in a remote area of Iceland today, so please don’t be offended if I fail to comment on your own excellent reviews! I promise to make up for it next month.

Little Book of Tourists coverThe Little Book of Tourists in Iceland: Tips, tricks, and what the Icelanders really think of you by Alda Sigmundsdottir
Little Books Publishing, Reykjavik, 2017

Essays about the effects of the tourism boom on Iceland, what Icelanders really think of the tourists, and what you should and should not do as a tourist.

I’d especially recommend this book for independent travelers. People on a tour should have a professional who can educate them about the country and keep them out of danger. But there are a lot of pitfalls for independent tourists who rent a car or hike around the countryside, oblivious to the dangers of an extreme northern climate. You learn things like don’t jump on ice floes (duh!), beware of rip tides if you swim in the ocean, and don’t leave your car parked half off the road while you gawk at the northern lights. That’s a good way to cause a car accident. And if you go to a thermal spa, like the Blue Lagoon, or swimming pool, you have to take a full, naked shower before going in. (No chlorine in the water.)

Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is located in a lava field in Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland – Photo by igorot, license from Deposit Photos.

Little Book of Icelandic coverThe Little Book of Icelandic: On the Idiosyncrasies, Delights and Sheer Tyranny of the Icelandic Language by Alda Sigmundsdottir
Little Books Publishing, Reykjavik, 2016

I set out to learn a little Icelandic before the trip, but quickly realized I was in over my head. Icelandic is a seriously difficult language, and this book explains why that it.

Alda Sigmundsdottir  is a native Icelander who lived for a while in Canada, which makes her a good person to explain Icelandic to foreigners. Basically, if you didn’t grow up speaking Icelandic, and don’t have a year to learn it, don’t bother. Most Icelanders speak English anyway.

I did enjoy the section on idioms. A few examples, translated, of course:

Everyone has their own devil to drag (or cross to bear)
Walk slowly through the door of mirth (Have fun in moderation)
To splash from your cloven heels (Kick up your heels)
Peeing in your shoe won’t keep you warm for long (Don’t count on short-term solutions)
Stupid is a child raised at home (expand your horizons)
Beached whale (windfall)
And my favorite: Blind is the man who has no book

I’ll post a blog about the trip when I get back.


As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.

Click icon for more book review blogs @Barrie Summy

8 thoughts on “Book Review Club: Little Books About Iceland

  1. I’m excited for you taking this trip. I’ve taken trips where there has been “recommended reading” for the trip but I’ve never read the books (although when I went to Africa one of the books recommended was Born Free and I had already read that before planning the trip). Sounds like you got some good tips. Hope you’re having a wonderful time and thanks for the review!

  2. I hope you’re having loads of fun on your trip!! What fun books to review. Guess what I read this summer? A mystery set in Iceland written by an Icelandic author. It was really good and is part of a series. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason. Thank you for reviewing!

    • I recognize that author’s name from books I saw in Iceland. Icelandic mysteries are kind of ironic, given that it’s one of the most peaceful countries in the world, though they had a serial killer back in the 1600s!

  3. These would have been timely for a friend here in town to read before she went to Iceland. I see her Facebook posts about all her adventures. I would love to visit some day. – Margy

    • It’s a really fun place to visit, Margy, and much of the island is remote, though not off the grid. They have fiber optic cables all over the island. Take warm clothing, though.

    • I survived, Sarah. I didn’t actually swim, it’s not deep enough, and I kept my head well above water. I didn’t see the Northern Lights, though some members of my group did. I just couldn’t handle the cold long enough for the lights to appear, wimpy Southern Californian that I am. Could kick myself, but too late.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.