33 Books Set In Iceland To Read Before You Visit (Or While You’re There!)

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Three years ago if you would have asked me if I wanted to go to Iceland, I probably would be said sure, eventually. But now, I’m dying to go! It’s creeped it’s way up my bucket list (still not the top, but up there) and now seeing all these books set in Iceland I want to go even more.

All of these Iceland books will have you dreaming of horses, glaciers, waterfalls, ice caves, and maybe murder since there is some Nordic Noir in here, too. But don’t worry, you’ll also find some Iceland travel books, Iceland memoirs, Icelandic folk tales, fiction, and non-fiction in Iceland. Basically, no matter what you like, you can find something here.

Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland

Every June, Tori Bilski meets up with fellow women travelers on a horse farm in Northern Iceland, near the Greenland Sea. They escape their ordinary live to live a peaceful one on the farm, at least for a little while. When they first went to Thingeryar, they were strangers with only a love for Icelandic horses in common. Now, they grow old together while keeping each other young.

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland

Sarah Moss had always wanted to move to Iceland, especially after spending a summer there at nineteen. Well, in 2009, with two young kids and a nice life in Kent, England, she applied for a job at the University of Iceland on a whim after seeing an advertisement.

The resulting adventure was shaped by the collapse of Iceland’s economy, as was her salary, the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, and a collection of new friends as she and her family learned new ways to live on their adventures around the island.

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

Gudrid, a Viking woman, set sail off the edge of thee known world 500 years before Columbus and lived in the New World, where she landed, for three years where she gave birth to a baby before she sailed home. At least that’s what the Icelandic stories say.

No one believed the stories were true, even when a Viking longhouse was found in Newfoundland, but in 2001 scientists may have found Gudrid’s last house buried under a hay field in Iceland, just like the story suggested it could be. This is the tale of following her journey and sheds light on why the society may have collapsed.

The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 Miniature Essays on the Quirks and Foibles of the Icelandic People

Alda Sigmundsdottir was raised in Iceland, and after more than twenty years away, she returns as a foreigner. Once she arrives, she begins dissecting the national psyche of Icelanders with the insight of a native and perspective of an outsider.

Some of the topics included are: appalling driving habits of Icelanders, their profound fear of commitment, naming conventions and customs, the importance of family, where to meet the real Icelanders, and more. This is a great book about Iceland if you want to know what it’s like living there.

The Darkness

Just like Finland, Icelandic Nordic Noir is not something that’s hard to come by and there are plenty to choose from if you are more into thrillers. When a young Russian woman’s body washes up on the Icelandic shore, it’s quietly decided it was a suicide and the case is closed.

Over a year later Detective Huda Hermannsdottir is forced into retirement at 64 from the Reykjavik police, but dark memories from her past are threatening to come back and haunt her.

But before she leaves, she is given two weeks and the chance to solve and cold chase of her choice and she chooses the Russian girl who’s hope for asylum was ended on the cold rocky shores. She finds out another girl went missing at the same time and everyone seems determined to put the brakes on her investigation, but she will find the killer.

Miss Iceland

Heka always knew she wanted to be a writer in a nation where households proudly displayed the work of poets and leather-bound sagas, but there is one problem: she is a woman and it’s the 1960’s. After packing up the few belongings she had, she headed into Reykjavik with a manuscript in her bag.

She moves in with her gay friend, Jon, who longs to work in the theater but can only find dangerous, backbreaking work. Her opportunities are also limited, but the world they’re in is changing and she realizes she must escape abroad for her dreams to come true, no matter the cost.

Seawomen of Iceland: Survival on the Edge

If you want a good non-fiction/history book about Iceland, check this one out for sure! Margaret Wilson saw a plaque that said this was the winter fishing hut of Thuridur Einarsdottir, one of Iceland’s greatest fishing captains and she lived from 1777 to 1863.

Thus began the quest to find out if there were more Icelandic seawomen. She was surprised by what she found: a collection of women that braved the seas for centuries. This tells their stories that include excitement, accidents, trials, and tribulations of fishing in Iceland from rowboats to todays high-tech fisheries.

Snowblind

Ari Thor is a rookie policeman on his first posting farm from his girlfriend, who is in Reykjavik, in an isolated fishing village where no one locks their doors in the fjords of Northern Iceland. A young woman is found naked, bleeding, and unconscious in the snow and a highly esteemed writer falls to his death. Ari is dragged right into it in a community where secrets and lies are a way of life.

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: And Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums

With a population of only 330,000, Iceland has enough museums for nearly one for every ten people, that means 265 museums and public collections. They range from the Icelandic Phallalogical Museum to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.

Kendra Greene takes us through this whimsical cabinet of curiosities and shows us how random objects can map people past, futures, fears, and obsessions.

Season of the Witch

Einar is a reporter for the Reykjavik-based paper, The Afternoon News, and is chosen to be their sole reporter in Northern Iceland when they expand up there. He thought he would just be moving to a new town, not a new decade.

Everything feels slow and old-fashioned, which is the total opposite of what he is used to. His first assignment is to cover a college theater production of and Icelandic folktale of ambition and greed, Loftur the Sorcerer.

This apparent ancient history starts to come true though when a local woman dies after falling overboard on a corporate boating retreat. Everyone assumes it is an accident, but her mother disagrees and convinces Einar to investigate. Just days later, the lead actor from the play disappears and Einar begins to chip away at the quaint small-town facade, hungry for the truth.

The Guardians of Iceland and Other Icelandic Folk Tales

Trolls and Hidden Folk are par for the course in Iceland and this collection of Icelandic folklore and legends brings those stories to life. This book contains twenty five short stories for all ages that are interested in Icelandic fairytales and legends that include trolls, elves, and hidden people in stories that have been passed down for generations.

The Glass Woman

Rosa has always dreamed of living in a remote village with her Mamma, praying to the Christian God aloud during the day and whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night, but when her father dies suddenly and her Mamma becomes ill, plans change.

She marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry even though rumors are going around about his first wife’s suspicious death. Things aren’t going great when she follows Jon, her new husband, to his remote home near the sea.

He expects her to stay home and be a good Christian wife and forbids her from interacting with any of the locals while barely talking to her himself. She is also forbidden from going into his attic, but when she starts to hear noises up there, she confirms the troubling rumors about his first wife from the locals.

The Wild One

When a grieving woman asks Peter to help find her missing eight-year-old grandson, he has to get on an airplane and face his post-traumatic claustrophobia as a war veteran. The woman’s daughter was murdered and her husband, Erik, is the only suspect but he’s run off with their young son and fled to Iceland for the protection of Erik’s lawless family.

But when Peter arrives, he is greeted, unofficially, by a man from the US embassy who makes it known that the US government apparently doesn’t want him in Iceland at all. They allow him two days of sightseeing before he has to get on the first available flight out, but soon they realize he isn’t leaving until his mission is accomplished and they start hunting him, too.

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was

Mani is queer, but in Iceland in 1918, homosexuality is beyond the furthest extreme. Reykjavik is homogenous, isolated, and defenseless against the Spanish Flu which has already ravaged Europe, Asia, and North America.

And if it’s not the flu, the threat of war spreading north is always looming. One good thing the outside world has brought though, is cinema and it’s hard to beat a dark, silent room with a European film flickering in front of you that will help you escape and feel like everything will be alright.

Now, at Reykjaviks darkest hour, Mani has to decide if he should retreat into his own world or engage with the society that has so soundly rejected him.

The Blue Fox

A hunter is lead on a transformative quest led by an enigmatic fox in the harsh Icelandic winter. At the edge of his territory, a naturalist is struggling to build a life for a young woman with Down Syndrome that he rescued from a shipwreck years earlier. By the end, all of their lives will have changed. This is a short book set in Iceland if you’re looking for a quicker read.

Jar City

The only clues left behind when a lonely old man is left dead in his apartment in Reykjavik are a note left by the killer and a photo of a young girl’s grave. During the investigation, Inspector Erlandur discovers that years ago the man was accused of a rape that went unsolved. Inspector Erlandur reopens the long cold case and follows an odd trail of evidence that uncovers secrets much larger than the murder of one old man.

Burial Rites

Agnes has been sent to await execution on an isolated farm after she was charged with the brutal murder of her master. The family avoids Agnes at first, horrified by the thought of housing a convicted murderer and only a priest she chose to be her spiritual guardian tries to understand her. But the farmer’s wife and daughter learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve all been told.

The Tricking of Freya

Freya Morris grew up in a typical American suburb, but spent every summer with relatives in Gimil, a tiny town in Canada settled by Icelandic immigrants. Whenever she is here, she falls under the spell of her trouble, but charming, aunt Birdie who enchants her with stories of norse goddesses, Viking bards, and the life of her late grandfather, the most famous poet of “New Iceland.”

But one day Birdie tricks Freya into a terrifying scandal and Freya turns her back on everything Icelandic until twenty years later when she finally returns to Gimil and stumbles on a long concealed family secret which she becomes increasingly obsessed with unraveling and finds herself knee deep in memories she would prefer to keep buried.

Soon the clues in Gimil dry up and she travels to Iceland before coming to an unsettling conclusion. This Icelandic novel has moved to the top of my TBR for sure!

The Greenhouse

After Lobbi’s mother dies, he decides to leave his studies behind to go live at a monastery to restore it’s once fabulous gardens, thanks to their shared love of tending rare roses.

As he is transforming the greenhouse, a friend of a friend, whom he shared a fateful moment in his mothers greenhouse, surprises him with a visit and with the daughter they conceived that night. He begins to assume the complex roles of a man as he cares for the garden and the little girl.

Heaven and Hell

Badur and his friend join a cod fishing boat in a remote part of Iceland and during a surprising winter storm, Badur succumbs t the cold after forgetting his waterproof thanks to being lost in “Paradise Lost.”

The boy is appalled by his death and fisherman’s callous ability to set about getting the fatal catch so he leaves the village intent on returning the book to its owner. he is already resolved in joining his friend in death on the perilous journey but decides he can’t join his friend yet once he gets to the town and immerses himself in the stories and live of the inhabitants.

The Worst Thing

As long as he isn’t directly dealing with with kidnappers and their victims, Bryan Bennett’s job designing hostage negotiation programs is perfect. He is prevented from traveling by nightmares of his own abduction and imprisonment as a child.

Soon, Bryan is requested specifically to teach his corporate level kidnapping class in Reykjavik and he refuses before learning he was asked for, no one else. He has been avoiding his deepest fears for years and is taken hostage again on this trip and must finally face them.

The Whispering Muse

In 1949, Vladimar Haraldsson, an eccentric Icelander, has elevated ideas about the consumption of fish in Nordic countries. He is lucky enough to be invited onto a Danish merchants ship back to the Black Sea where the second mate is a disguised mythical hero, Caeneus, that entrances his fellow travelers with the tale of his journey on the fabled vessel, Argo, on it’s quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. This is another good, short book about Iceland.

From the Mouth of the Whale

Jonas Palmason is a poet and self-taught healer who is exiled to a barren island for his heretical conduct which happens to include using his gift to cure “female maladies”, an exorcism on a walking corpse, the deaths of three children, and a massacre of innocent Basque whalers at the hands of local villagers.

The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning

Tomislav Boksic, Toxic, has a flawless record as a hitman for the Croatian mafia in New York with 66 hits under his belt at least until he kills the wrong guy and is forced to flee the states. Leaving everything behind, he finds himself on a flight to Reykjavik using the identity of a televangelist named Father Friendly. He is forced to reevaluate his life in this new place devoid of guns and contract killing.

Last Rituals

A young German student’s body is found with the eyes cut out and strange symbols carved into it at a University in Reykjavik. The police make an arrest right away, but the family isn’t convinced it’s the right man and they ask Thora Gudmundsdottir to investigate.

Before long, Thora and her associate Matthew Reich uncover the victims obsession with Iceland’s grisly history of torture, execution, and witch hunts, but there are very modern horrors among these long dark traditions.

Butterflies in November

After accidentally killing a good and being dumped twice on one day, she is ready to escape the chaos of her life, but instead, she is left to care for her best friend’s four-year-old deaf-mute son.

He chooses the winning numbers for a lottery ticket and they set off on Iceland’s Ring Road for a road trip of discovery of black sand beaches, cucumber farms, lava fields, flocks of sheep,a falconer, an Estonian coir, and more. The result will change the ways she sees her past and charts her future in profound ways. This is a great choice if you want a lighthearted book set in Iceland.

Where the Shadows Lie

Rumors are swirling of an 800-year-old manuscript with a long lost saga about a very powerful ring. The saga rediscovery on it’s own would be worth a fortune, but if the rumors are true, there is something much more valuable about this one. Something worth killing for, that Professor Agnar Haraldsson will lose his life over.

Magnus Johnson, a Boston-raised homicide detective, is unraveling myth from murder as he returns to his homeland after a bad run-in with a drug cartel back in Boston. The other reason he returns hits closer to home, the murder of his father.

The Northern Lights Lodge

Lucy is ready to get away from her life in the UK after her heart is broken and her career is falling apart. When she accepts a job as manager of the Northern Lights Lodge, she doesn’t expect to be in the company of bubbling hot springs, snow covered glaciers, and a gorgeous Scottish barman, Alex.

She sets out to turn the lodge into the most romantic destination in Iceland even though romance is the last thing she wants herself. Bust as she and Alex grow closer, she may learn how to fall in love again. If you’re looking for a romance book set in Iceland, look no further (but actually keep reading the list because there are some good ones to come.)

The Fox

Guogeir Fransson is a Reykjavik police officer trying to put tragedy in his professional life behind him while resolving personal turmoil. To do this, he moved far from home to Eastern Iceland and when he hears about a foreign woman who moved to the tight-knit town and disappeared just as fast, his detective sense starts tingling.

His investigation brings him back to Reykjavik before a remote farmhouse in the mountains where he finds an elderly woman, her son, and their sinister past.

Snare

Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son after her messy divorce. Without much left to choose from, she starts smuggling cocaine into Iceland and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world.

As she desperately looks for a way out, she’s pitted against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer with years of experience that frustrate her and her progressively daring strategies. Things get even more complicated when she embarks on a relationship with a woman, Alga, who is a high-level bank executive being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash.

The Creak on the Stairs

In the town of Arkranes, a woman’s body is found in a lighthouse and she is no stranger to the area. After a failed relationship, Officer Elma returns to Arkranes. She and her colleagues begin an uneasy investigation that uncovers a shocking secret in the woman’s past that continues to reverberate through the present day.

As they investigate, they uncover a host of hidden crimes that shock the community. They have to find justice as the fight through shattered memories of the townspeople while they dodge increasingly serious threats.

Why Did you Lie?

A journalist investigating an old case commits suicide. A couple return from a house swap in the US and find their home in disarray with the guests seemingly missing. Four strangers are struggling to find shelter on a windswept rock in the raging sea. They all have one thing in common: they lied.

I Remember You

Three friends are renovating a rundown house in Iceland’s westfjords and soon they realize they aren’t as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave and it’s making it’s presence known.

Meanwhile, in a nearby town, a doctor is investigating the suicide of an elderly woman and he discovers that she was obsessed with his son that disappeared. The horrifying truth is uncovered as the two worlds collide.

Have you read any of these books set in Iceland? Which ones? Any others I should check out?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

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