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Every Christmas Eve, people from all over the world crack the spine of a newly-gifted book and spend the evening sipping hot cocoa and reading. While this may seem like a simple, fun, and COVID-friendly activity for many North Americans this year, it’s also a long-standing Icelandic Christmas tradition called Jólabókaflóð.
Jólabókaflóð—which roughly translates to “the Christmas book flood” in English—began during the Second World War when paper was one of the few non-rationed commodities in Iceland. To compensate for short supplies of other materials, Icelanders began giving books as gifts and a tradition was born.
Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, with the majority being released in the final quarter of the year for Jólabókaflóð. A 2013 study conducted by Bifröst University found about half the population reads a minimum of eight books annually. Every November since 1944—when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark—the Icelandic book trade has also sent out a book bulletin to each household to provide suggestions for Jólabókaflóð gift-givers.
In recent years, as part of a global campaign to encourage the giving and reading of books, people from all over the world, Canadians among them, have joined in the Jólabókaflóð festivities.
So, for those interested in partaking in the Christmas tradition this year, here are some critically-acclaimed book suggestions by Canadian authors released in 2020:
Children’s Book: When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith
Young Adult Book: Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal
Adult Fiction: The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Adult Non-fiction: Missing from the Village by Justin Ling
Memoir: Talking to Strangers by Marianne Boucher