Volcanos, Elves, and Bjork

Beginning May 11th, Icelandair will be offering direct flights from DIA to Iceland's capital, Reykjavík.  A paltry 8 hour flight will get you to this geothermal wonderland where 10% of the population believes in the existence of elves* and phone directories are organized by first names.

While you can always pick up a travel guide, it can be much more interesting and engaging to do some primary source research when visiting a foreign culture.  Whether you are seriously considering a trip to Iceland or just curious about their cultural exports, get started with these items from the library:


  • Bjork: For many people of my generation, Bjork, is synonymous with Iceland.  Her eclectic music (and fashion) tend to be polarizing, but always memorable.  You can also check out her former band, Sugarcubes.
  • Sigur Ros:  Known for their ethereal music and live shows, their tour documentary, Heima, not only introduces you to the their music, but also visually depicts the amazing landscapes of Iceland.  Their lead singer, Jonsi Birgisson, also performs similar music under the moniker, Jonsi.
  • Of Monsters and Men: This buzz-generating band is the latest group of Icelanders to hit the U.S.  For fans of Edward Sharpe or Mumford & Sons.  Look for their debut album, My Head is an Animal, in our catalog soon.
  • Emiliana Torrini: Torrini has already made an appearance on our blogs so head here to read more about her.


  • Halldor Laxness:  Iceland's only Nobel Prize winner wrote prolifically in the 20th century including plays, poetry, and novels.
  • Olafue Olafsson: An O. Henry Award winner for his short stories as well as an accomplished novelist.
  • Arnaldur Indridason: A popular crime fiction writer known for his Dectective Erlendur series.


  • Baltasar Kormakur:  This director has had the most success beyond his homeland and his films are shot almost entirely in Iceland.
  • LazyTown:  While you may not have heard of LazyTown, ask a random smattering of kids under the age 10 and someone will be able to tell you all about it.  It is now syndicated in over 100 countries but started and continues to be filmed near Reykjavík.

A few books have recently highlighted Iceland including Michael Lewis's Boomerang which looks at the nation's economic shift from fishing to finance and the disastrous results.  Eric Weiner also profiles Iceland in his book, The Geography of Bliss, where he ponders why populations in colder climates tend to be happier.

So if the land of fire and ice isn't in your travel plans, you may want to reconsider.  I've known a few folks who have visited and I've heard nothing but positive reviews whether it's a quick stop on the way to Europe or the final destination.  Any input from Iceland natives or past visitors?

*For more quick interesting facts about Iceland, check out this article.

Written by Bobby on April 5, 2012


Peabody on April 15, 2012


Why is their music so bad?

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