The Little Book of Icelandic

A book about one of the oldest and most complex languages in the world, and the heart and soul of the people who use it.

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Icelandic is a complicated language. It’s a bloody mess grammatically, a nightmarish mishmash of inflected nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns, corresponding to four different cases, three different noun genders, moods, voices and constructions, plus any number of exceptions and rules that seem completely arbitrary, and very often are.

This is not a textbook. It is not about the technicalities of Icelandic. It is not even a book that will help you order a beer in a pub. (Don’t worry. You can use English for that.) Rather it is about the Icelanders' love of their mother tongue, their zealous attempts at keeping it pure, their often-hilarious way of cobbling together vocabulary, and their idioms and proverbs that are such a strong reflection of the things they consider truly important. In short, this book presents how the very essence of the Icelandic people and their culture is reflected in their language. All in short essays that are light, humorous, and easy to read.

Among the subjects discussed in this book:

  • How the Icelandic Language Committee works to keep Icelandic pure (with mixed results)
  • How the Language Committee constructs Icelandic words for new objects or concepts
  • The various new technological terms that have entered Icelandic in recent years
  • How Icelanders curse
  • Contests held to find the most beautiful Icelandic words - and the ugliest
  • Words and phrases describing characteristics that are quintessentially Icelandic
  • Words and phrases that are excellent to know if you want to get to know the Icelanders
  • How the Icelanders' powerful relationship with the sea is reflected in their proverbs and idioms

... and many, many more.

The book is available in three different formats: Kindle eBook, paperback, and fine quality hard cover. The hard cover version ships from Iceland, so shipping is extra. The paperback is available through your nearest Amazon site.

The Little Book of Icelandic is illustrated by Megan Herbert, who also illustrated The Little Book of the Icelanders and The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days.

Icelandic Folk Legends

Icelandic Folk Legends

The Icelandic nation has a long and rich history of storytelling. Throughout centuries characterized by hardship, poverty and dark winters, the Icelanders kept their spirits high and moral values intact by telling each other stories. In this collection of 15 Icelandic folk legends, we get a glimpse of the world-view of the Icelanders in centuries past as they endeavored to understand and cope with the natural phenomena around them. There are stories of malicious ghosts, outlaws living in carved-out boulders, hidden people residing in grassy knolls, trolls that are tripped up by their own stupidity, and much more. In addition, there is one story exemplifying a fairy tale motif that scholars have discovered to be unique to Iceland: that of the good stepmother (The Story of Himinbjörg). Throughout we get a powerful sense of the Icelanders' beliefs, values and fears, as well as their strong need to cling to all that was pure and good.


The Little Book of the Hidden People

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Icelandic folklore is rife with tales of elves and hidden people that inhabited hills and rocks in the landscape. But what do those elf stories really tell us about the Iceland of old and the people who lived there? This book contains twenty translated elf stories from Icelandic folklore, along with fascinating notes on the context from which they sprung.

The international media has had a particular infatuation with the Icelanders’ elf belief, generally using it to propagate some kind of “kooky Icelanders” myth. Yet Iceland’s elf folklore, at its core, reflects the plight of a nation living in abject poverty on the edge of the inhabitable world, and its people’s heroic efforts to survive, physically, emotionally and spiritually. That is what the stories of the elves, or hidden people, are really about.

To buy:

The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days

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This book is made up of 50 miniature essays about the quirky, strange, funny, tragic and moving aspects of life in the Iceland of old.

What you will read about in this book:

  • The Icelanders' fascination with elves and what those fantasies really meant
  • Why dancing was banned in Iceland for 200 years
  • Why families were dissolved as a matter of course
  • What the Danish trade monopoly meant for the Icelanders
  • The systematic oppression of the Icelanders by their colonial overlords and the church
  • What life in turf huts was really like
  • Strange customs for visiting and keeping ghosts at bay

... and much, much more.

The book is illustrated by Megan Herbert. Please note that the eBooks are not illustrated.

For more information and reviews, please click here.

To buy:

The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days is also available in French and German.

The Little Book of the Icelanders


The original book of 50 miniature essays about the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people. Among the fascinating subjects broached in The Little Book of the Icelanders:

  • the appalling driving habits of the Icelanders
  • naming conventions and customs
  • the Icelanders’ profound fear of commitment
  • the Icelanders’ irreverence
  • why Icelandic women are really men
  • how the Icelanders manage to make social interactions really complicated
  • the importance of the family in Icelandic society
  • where to go to meet the real Icelanders (and possibly score some free financial advice)
  • Rituals associated with weddings, confirmations, graduations, and deaths

… and many, many more.

Please note that this book was published in hard copy in Iceland with a different cover.

Unraveled - a novel about a meltdown


Unraveled  tells the story of an Icelandic woman, Frida, who after a 12-year absence returns home with her husband, Damien, a suave and sophisticated British diplomat who has just been made Ambassador to Iceland. It is summer 2008, and the global economy is on shaky ground. As the Icelandic economy begins to spiral out of control, Frida and Damien’s marriage starts to unravel. Seeking refuge, Frida travels to a small fishing village on Iceland’s West Fjords, where a chance encounter with a stranger turns out to have greater implications than she could ever have foreseen. With Iceland and Britain locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute, Frida is forced to examine her marriage, her loyalties, her past, and ultimately to answer the question: What exactly constitutes betrayal?

For more information and reviews click here.

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Living Inside the Meltdown

Living Inside the MeltdownxIn October 2008, Iceland went from being one of the wealthiest countries in the world to being one of the poorest, within the space of about two weeks. During those sensational few days, regular citizens stood by helplessly and watched as Iceland’s three large commercial banks folded and Iceland’s currency, the króna, plummeted in value, eventually becoming worthless outside of Iceland.

Living Inside the Meltdown is the first published collection of interviews with ordinary people about their experiences of Iceland’s economic meltdown.

How did a police officer feel who had to take a stand against protesters during the ensuing political crisis, which culminated in the Kitchenware Revolution? Did sympathize with them, or was he opposed? How did someone who worked in a bank feel on the day it collapsed? What about those people who were students abroad when currency controls were suddenly implemented and they were cut off from their financial source? And what about foreigners in Iceland who had limited understanding of what was going on?

I found these answers, plus many more that I wasn’t even looking for, in the interviews.