The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people

Reviewed on , book by Alda Sigmundsdóttir

Read in preparation for an impending trip to Iceland: Cute book with observations on Icelandic culture from an Icelander who left the island at 5, and later returned—giving a unique perspective. My favorite quote was this:

The Icelanders are the southern Europeans of North Europe. The family is central in their lives. They like to put things off (mañana). They’re frequently late. Their buses don’t run on time.
One of the most used proverbs seems to be that “this will all work out one way or another,” apparently deeply webbed into the culture. This proverbial stoicism was something my upbringing in Denmark had in common, with my family’s variation being “nothing is so bad it’s not good for something.”

I also learned that in Iceland all pronouns are gender neutral, they love their hot tubs, and that the name of babies is hidden from everyone until the baptism.

If you’re planning a trip, this is a good, light-hearted introduction to (somewhat accurate) Iceland stereotypes. While the author has an enjoyable writing-style and would be the first to confess it’s largely anecdotal, this would’ve gotten another star with a bit more thought and investigation into the qualities and pet theories presented. There’s almost no historical perspective, which is an odd bit missing from a story that attempts to synthesize the culture. The most recurring history was the economic meltdown following the Great Recession which frequently is brought up in the context of cultural traits—hardly an explanation of a culture, with it being so recent.