Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

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The Christmas Cat

Christmas is not only a time in Iceland to celebrate the nation’s love of books; it’s also a time to get serious about wrapping up warm. If Icelandic children don’t get new clothes for Christmas, legend has it that a monstrous black Yule Cat will pounce and eat them up. It makes sense for parents to clothe their children well to keep them well-protected against inclement weather.

Although the origins of the myth are hazy, the cat is related to the story of the ogress Grýla and her thirteen Yule Lad offspring. The feline menace was popularised in a famous poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum (1899–1972) – ‘Jólakötturinn‘ (‘The Christmas Cat‘) – that was in turn put to music by pop icon, Björk.

All the more reason to snuggle up in comfort reading next to a roaring fire, drink in hand, reading a new book gifted for Christmas, while the wind, rain and snow rage outside.

Happy Jolabokaflod. This Christmas, may you give the books you cherish, receive the books you desire, and read the books you love.

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Our Book Bulletin for 2021

Iceland’s ‘Book Bulletin’ for Jolabokaflod at Christmas 2021

Merry Christmas, everyone – and happy Jolabokaflod for 24 December. We hope you received the books you wanted and are already deep in concentration, reading – lost in the worlds created by the writing on the page.

On the surface 2021 has been a second fallow year for Jolabokaflod CIC, due to lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. You will be glad to learn, however, that we have been hard at work at a deeper level out of the necessity to pivot. Here are some of the activities we initiated during the year.

Refuge in Literacy UK

In February 2021, our Founder (Christopher Norris) began to mentor children’s author Anne Stairmand about setting up a social enterprise to build on a generous gift she donated at Christmas 2020 when she gave 50 signed copies of her books to a local refuge centre. The strength of the positive reaction she received inspired her to make this connection more permanent.

We guided Anne on her journey to create a not-for-profit company called Refuge in Literacy UK with two meta goals:

  • Ensuring children in refuge own copies of books signed by their authors
  • Teaching parents how to support their children’s learning how to read successfully

Refuge in Literacy UK soft-launched in November 2021 with an in-person conference-style event to bring the CIC’s stakeholders together for the first time and to share the vision for the future.

At Christmas 2021, the company has a board of 10 people and is working to send more signed books to refuges, with around 30 authors in the scheme already. It is also creating reading prompts that will help parents read the books with their children.

Christopher has agreed to become a non-executive director of Refuge in Literacy UK in the New Year, advising on strategy and fundraising at the company’s biannual board meetings. The social enterprise is set to grow rapidly in 2022.

Theme of the month at Founders and Mentors

In October 2021 we were delighted to publish a month of themed content in The Creative Collective community at Founders and Mentors, the free-to-access platform that supports pre-launch founders, inventors and creatives with free mentoring to launch startups, inventions and creative projects more successfully. This content comprised information, polls, questions and a ‘call to action’ for member s to consider making Jolabokaflod part of the way they celebrate the festive season, whether or not they celebrate Christmas.

The Wisdom of Coffee

The month of promotion was backed up by the Wisdom of Coffee network, both at its eponymous Founders and Mentors community (The Wisdom of Coffee) and at its Meetup group (The Wisdom of Coffee), remaining members to get involved with the Jolabokaflod tradition.

Secret Santa with a twist

We ran a pilot scheme at Founders and Mentors to run a ‘Secret Santa’-style promotion with a Jolabokaflod flavour: Secret Jólasveinn

We invited members of the Founders and Mentors global network to participate in a scheme to buy and send a book of their choice to the person they selected at random ‘out of the Santa hat’. Seven members participated in the pilot.

Although this was a small group of people in the inaugural event, everyone enjoyed the activity as a way of engaging with each other and the wider Founders and Mentors community.

We shall scale up the Secret Jólasveinn project for Christmas 2022, so that everyone who wants to take part can do so, wherever they are in the world.

What’s next?

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is surging as we post this update. The future is unclear from this vantage point as to when everyone will be able to resume their lives unaffected by protocols imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. There are a few things, however, that we can predict with some degree of certainty:

  • The end of the pandemic is not currently in sight, especially if vaccines and other treatments are not shared globally by countries with the resources to do so
  • Life will be different for all of us once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror
  • Our collective tastes and preferences may change in the light of our experience of living through a pandemic.

With so much unknown about the future, Jolabokaflod CIC will continue to stay agile in how we promote the ‘Christmas book flood’ tradition around the world. We have plenty of ideas in the pipeline, which we shall reveal and promote at the appropriate time – and as the pandemic allows.

Enough from us – now enjoy the rest of the festive season and go bury your head in a book.

Jolabokaflod CIC


Jolabokaflod for the ages

In 75 years of celebrating Jólabókaflóðið in Iceland, never has there been a greater need for ‘The Christmas Book Flood’ than this holiday season in 2020. As the pandemic lingers throughout the world, reading for pleasure gives all of us (Icelanders included) the opportunity to escape our social isolation, whether or not we are in lockdown where we are living.

This evening, people in Iceland have celebrated their main Christmas meal, perhaps drinking Jólabland (a traditional mix of brown ale and fizzy orangeade), exchanging presents – with books a highlight, chosen from this year’s Bókatíðindi catalogue of new titles – and snuggling down to read their new gifts over the holidays as the perfect way of leaving the stresses of life behind for a while.

Here at Jolabokaflod CIC, 2020 has been a year of preparation for the future. We had to pivot from our plans for the year when the first lockdown in the UK took hold in March. While we have not promoted Jólabókaflóðið visibly in 2020, this year of fallow times has given us the chance to prepare for a coming period of activity for everyone to see once the forthcoming vaccination program allows. We have not been idle behind the scenes.

So, let’s life a glass of Jólabland to celebrating Christmas this year in the best way we can and raise a toast for the promise of the New Year. We are exciting about starting to share our plans for 2021 very soon.

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Turning the page on Book Bulletin

Today is World Social Media Day, which marks the last day of the Winter 2019 edition of Jolabokaflod CIC’s Book Bulletin. We choose this day to close the book on our annual catalogue every year as the end of June completes the first half of the year, when all the titles in publishers’ Spring catalogues (January to June) – often promoted at the London Book Fair – have been released.

To celebrate the moment when the next edition of the Book Bulletin will start to be compiled – from 1 July 2020 onwards – we are choosing this time to launch our Summer Recommendations campaign on social media. Led by curated content on Instagram at @Jolabokaflod_cic, in two week-long series – My Top 7 Summer Recommendations and My Favourite Summer Read – we are re-engaging with digital and social media in a regular and systematic way.

We shall start to publish content on this blog and on other platforms much more regularly, as well as post daily at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Welcome to the start of the next issue of our Book Bulletin, which will be filled with your recommendations for the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, giving you plenty of great ideas for gifts to give loved ones for Christmas, summer holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and every other type of special occasion.



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And the winner is…

Drum roll, please….

Our panel of nine judges and a chairman completed a blind-jury short questionnaire about the shortlist (in which names, email addresses and locations of the entrants were not revealed), giving each of the six entries a different score from 1 to 6 (with ‘1’ being the top mark) and saying ‘why they chose their favourite entry’, ‘why reading for pleasure is a great leisure activity’ and ‘why Jolabokaflod is a terrific literary tradition’. The entry with the lowest cumulative score is declared the winner of the £500 cash prize and a bespoke crowdfunding campaign at CrowdPatch (to be launched soon) to make the idea happen in the real world.

So, lights down; envelope, please…

The winner of the 2019 Jolabokaflod ‘Reading for Pleasure Prize’ at 12R Prizes is….

Alison Jones, winner: ‘Reading for Pleasure Prize’ 2019 (photo:

One of our judges, Debbie Williams (Course Leader for BA and MA Publishing degrees at the University of Central Lancashire), said:

‘Personalisation is the name of the game at the moment. Although not an entirely unique or new idea, the pitcher does seem to have really thought about how this is used, where and who.’

We are excited to work with Alison to make her idea happen over the coming months, especially – as Debbie infers – the gifting of books (both to yourself and to loved ones) captures the true essence of the Jolabokaflod tradition.

Details about our crowdfunding campaign to make BookDate happen will follow very soon. Here’s hoping you will feel inspired to follow its progress and to get involved.


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Reading for Pleasure Prize shortlist announced

All of the 20 eligible entries received for our Reading for Pleasure Prize were of an exceptionally high standard. It was rewarding and gratifying to tap into the creativity and talent of the ‘wisdom of crowds’.

Of the entries received, 75% of them met the four criteria for the competition and were serious contenders for making the shortlist:

  • Originality
  • Impact
  • Feasibility
  • Public interest

Six entries were shortlisted on 1 January 2020 for consideration by a international panel of nine judges and one chairman (from the UK, USA and Iceland) representing a range of different perspectives of the book trade, including award-winning authors, literary agents, sales and marketing publishing executives, literary charity trustees, social entrepreneurs, publishing academics and postgraduate students. All the entries we received are displayed at IdeasNest, showing the numbers of likes and views each one received. The list below comprises the shortlisted suggestions in the order they are displayed on the ‘Reading for Pleasure Prize’ page (starting from the top row and reading from left to right) and provides links to each idea pitch:

The judging process takes place over the first week in January, with a decision reached for announcement on Twelfth Night, 6 January 2020, the day when the last of the Yule Lads leaves Icelandic homes for another year to travel back to their lair in the mountains.

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There’s 4.19 books born every minute

Never one to miss an opportunity to make analogies, today – 5 May – is International Day of the Midwife. Whilst the medical world of baby sherpas have their awareness day in the sunshine – this year the emphasis is on defending women’s rights – here at Jolabokaflod Towers we can extend the metaphor to include authors giving birth to their work (all 2,200,000 per year around the world). Once you suspend disbelief to compare and contrast the process, there are similarities:

  • The decision to write a book can be years in the making
  • Aspiring authors can attend ante-natal classes to learn about the publishing process
  • Research is a key factor in planning for a new arrival
  • The act of consummation involves love, foreplay, mind games and active imagination
  • The foetus moves through many evolutionary drafts
  • Authors often don’t know how their work will turn out until it is completed
  • Gestation of a manuscript in an author’s room often takes around nine months
  • The birthing process is often painful and may need to be induced with coffee and/or alcohol, depending on the time of day and the severity of the discomfort
  • There is often a room in the house that needs painting, even if this is only a displacement activity
  • Delivery of a manuscript via an agent is usually a joyous occasion
  • Finding a place for a moulding the future of a manuscript, taught by publishing tutors, can involve moving house
  • Some authors prefer their offspring to be home-schooled
  • The growth of a book is part nature, part nurture
  • In the genetic make up of successful books, X marks the spot and Y gets an answer
  • The First Day at School is celebrated in the company of friends and colleagues with free-flowing, warm white wine, liberal helpings of cake, copious tears of pride and a few congratulatory speeches

So, please be up-standing – and raise your glass of flat Prosecco with us – to toast the author-parents of the world and their publisher-midwives, as well as – obvs – the unsung heroines (and heroes) that help to bring our real-world babies into the universe.

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The reading of business (and vice versa)

According to Ananthanarayanan V (Founder and CEO: Techdivine Creative Services) in Entrepreneur India magazine ‘books are a great source of learning for entrepreneurs’. Why would this be so? The article argues that this comes as a result of ‘wisdom from industry leaders who have brought forth their decades of rich valuable experiences and learnings in the form of a book.’

The article identifies nine sub-genres of business that benefit from the slow release of information over the chapters of a book. The links provide recommendations for great books on each subject:

Entrepreneurs will always seek out the wisdom in books – and will seek to impact their own wisdom by writing books of their own. This is a never-ending positive spiral of creativity, flair and the opportunity to start businesses and make money.

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Happy Sant Jordi’s Day

Spring is in the air – a time for flowers, courtship and reading, encapsulated by the long-established Catalonian tradition of celebrating St George’s Day on 23 April with a celebratory festival that combines love, books and roses.

The Festival of Sant Jordi in Barcelona marks the victory over the eponymous crusading St George over the dragon, symbolised by our hero giving his rescued princess roses formed from the blood of the beast he has just slain. Patron saint of the region since 1436, booksellers in Barcelona took up the writer Vicente Clavel Andres’ idea of using St George’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Spain’s best-known author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (on 22/23 April in the Gregorian calendar) – known to the world as Cervantes – by merging a festival around gifting books (like Cervantes’ masterpiece, Don Quixote) with the religious commemoration and the legend of courtly love and floral displays of affection. The Festival of Sant Jordi was established in Barcelona in 1923.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-99), Federico Mayor Zaragoza, wanted to bring his native city’s festival to the world. In 1995, he led UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris that year, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone to access books: World Book and Copyright Day was established and quickly took root around the world.

On World Book and Copyright Day 2019, current Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, circulated her official message to mark the occasion. She referenced UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages (in 2019) and announced the start of Sharjah’s tenure as World Book Capital 2019.

The date 23 April was auspicious: it gives the world the opportunity to celebrate the lives of many writers of global significance, including:

Date of birth

Date of death

Other celebrations on the day