A Third of Icelanders Read Five or More Books in the Past Month

book bookstore Icelandic literature bækur

It’s the time of the Christmas book flood, or jólabókaflóð, in Iceland and it seems that Icelanders are reading just as avidly as ever before. According to new figures published by the Icelandic Literature Center, a third of the nation read five (or more!) books in the past month and 68% gave someone a book in the last 12 months. While interest in literature and reading remain high, however, there is a growing number of Icelanders who read “little or not at all.”

Response to the question “How many books have you read or listened to in the last 30 days?” Light green: 3 or 4; Dark green: 5 or more; Blue: 1 or 2; Red: None (Icelandic Literature Center)

This is the fifth year in a row that the Icelandic Literature Center has conducted a survey on Icelanders’ reading habits in conjunction with six other literary organisations in the country, including the Reykjavík City Library, Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature, and the Writers’ Union of Iceland. As last year, this installment also focused on the impact that COVID-19 has had on locals’ interest in literature but found that the pandemic is no longer having a significant impact on Icelanders’ reading habits.

Results showed that Icelandic men are reading less this year (1.5 books/month), while women are reading as much as they did before (3.1 books/month). On average, the nation reads an average of 2.3 books a month. People aged 18-24 read significantly less than people in older age brackets. A healthy majority of Icelanders, or 79%, believe that it is important for Icelandic literature to have financial support from the government, which is an increase from last year, when 73% were in agreement about this.

Icelanders still read ‘traditional’ books, with 78% saying that they’ve read a physical book in the last 12 months. This is down somewhat from last year, during the height of the pandemic, when 83% of respondents said they’d read a physical book. Audiobooks remain as popular as they were last year, with 46% of respondents having listened to one in the last year. Only 31% had read an e-book.

Icelanders still mostly prefer to read in Icelandic: 29% only read in Icelandic, while 28.8% read in Icelandic more often than they read in other languages. 19.5% read in other languages just as often as they read in Icelandic, 19.6% read in other languages more often, and 3% only read in other languages. In the same vein, 80.5% of the nation believes that it’s important for works of foreign literature to be translated into Icelandic.

Figure: Responses to the question “Do you read in Icelandic or in other languages?” Green: More often or only in Icelandic; Blue: As often in Icelandic as in other languages; Red: More often or only in other languages (Icelandic Literature Center)

The reading survey was conducted from October 22-31 and was sent to 1,800 individuals aged 18 and older. A total of 992, or 55%, responded.

New Government Leadership, Agreement Announced

Iceland’s new government leadership was announced at a press conference on Sunday.  Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Left-Green) will remain Prime Minister in a continued coalition government with the Independence Party and the Progressive Party.

The Agreement on the Platform for the Coalition Government is introduced under the name of “growing prosperity”, and lays out a “roadmap for economic and social progress, environmental protection, dynamic value creation, gender equality and a balance between urban and rural settlement and between generations.” The Agreement goes on to state the new government’s goal of creating fertile ground for opportunities, prioritising climate issues, utilising technological change and expertise to increase the quality of life, investing in people, promoting a healthy society, and promoting culture and travel.

The agreement lays out what they see as the main challenges for the coming term, the economy and state finances, climate issues and social affairs.

Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of the Independence Party, will continue as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. The Independence Party will have four other MPs in ministry positions: Current Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir will take over for Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir as the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation. Þórdís Kolbrún will step into the role of Foreign Minister, taking over for Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson; Guðlaugur Þór will be the next Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources; Jón Gunnarsson will be the Minister of Justice.

The Progressive Party will have four ministers: Leader of the party Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, who was previously the Minister of Transport and Local Government, will step into the role of Minister of the Interior; MP Willum Þór Þórsson will take over for Svandís Svavarsdóttir (Left-Green) as the Minister of Health; Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will stay in her current role as the Minister of Education, Science and Culture; Ásmundur Einar Daðason will remain the Minister of Social Affairs and Children.

The Left-Greens will have three ministers: party leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir will continue as Prime Minister; Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, the former Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, will be the new Minister of Social Affairs and Housing; Svandís Svavarsdóttir will take over as the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.

The party leaders shared their coalition agreement on Saturday, ahead of the cabinet announcements. The government’s emphasis, they say, will be on issues related to climate, employment, schools, and on evaluating the fisheries management system. Among the climate-related priorities will be completing the transition away from fossil fuel usage to electric, the creation of green jobs, and subsidies for electricity in use for vegetable farming.

Additionally, the government intends to lay out a clear and comprehensive policy on immigration issues and to simplify the process for applying for permanent residency.

New Coalition Government Takes Power

Update November 29, 2:30 PM: The names of several ministries have been updated.

After lengthy talks following last September’s parliamentary election, the ruling parties of the last coalition (The Independence Party, the Progressive Party, and the Left-Green Movement) have reached an agreement on a new government coalition, introduced earlier today. Katrín Jakobsdóttir will remain the Prime Minister and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson will continue in his role as Minister of Finance but other ministers take on new roles. The new cabinet has 12 ministers; five women and seven men.

At a State Council meeting at 3:00 PM Sunday afternoon at the Bessastaðir Presidential Residence, the President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson formally discharged Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s government coalition. A second State Council meeting began at 4:00 PM, where Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s new cabinet took office.

The Independence Party will take over the Environment Ministry, the Progressive Party takes the Ministry of Health, and education and culture, previously under one ministry, will now be split between a Ministry of Schools and Children, a Ministry for Innovation, Industry, and Universities, and a Ministry of Commerce and Culture.

Ministers in Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s new cabinet

From the Independence Party:

Bjarni Benediktsson, party chairman, will remain the Minister of Finance.

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, formerly the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation, will become the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, formerly the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation, will be the Minister for the Environment and Climate Affairs.

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Justice, will be the Minister for Innovation, Industry, and Universities.

Jón Gunnarsson will be the Minister of Justice. He will be replaced by Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir halfway through the four-year term.


From the Progressive Party:

Willum Þór Þórsson will be the Minister of Health.

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, party chairman, formerly the Minister of Transport and Local Government, will be the Minister of the Interior.

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, will become the Minister of Commerce and Culture.

Ásmundur Einar Daðason, formerly the Minister of Social Affairs and Children, will become the Minister of Schools and Children.


From the Left-Green Movement:

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, party leader, will remain Prime Minister.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, formerly the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources will become the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Market.

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, formerly the Minister of Health, will become the Minister of Food, Fisheries, and Agriculture.