MostNorthern Christmas Book List (Or Books For Jólabókaflóð)

Iceland’s relationship with books is one that, as a writer and bibliophile, has me in tears. I could move to the the land of ice and fire quite happily based solely on how passionate everyone is about literature.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Icelanders will write a book in their lifetime and the small, Nordic country has more writers, more books published and more books read than anywhere else in the world.

It came as no surprise to  learn Iceland has a special celebration for books, one which practically the whole country participates in. It’s called jólabókaflóð which translates to the ‘Christmas Book Flood.’

The celebration actually begins in September, when the Icelandic Book Association posts a book catalogue to every home in Iceland. (The catalogue is called Bókatíðindi and you can browse this year’s edition here if you would like.)

So, from September onward there’s a book buying hysteria in Iceland, which culminates on Christmas Eve when people gift each other the books they’ve been frantically buying. The rest of the evening is then spent reading. I can’t think of anything more perfect than that.

I believe so strongly that we need to be more Icelandic when it comes to our relationship with books, that I’ve put together a list of northerly reads to inspire your own jólabókaflóð.

Icelanders give paperback books on Christmas Eve, but the ones I’ve listed here are all available on Amazon Kindle, so you can have them pretty much instantly to read. If you don’t have a Kindle, (I don’t) no stress, you can download the FREE Kindle app here for IOS, Android, Mac and PC.

Happy reading!

Ice Bear By Michael Engelhard

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I’ve been wanting to read Ice Bear ever since it popped up on Amazon as a recommended read a month or so ago.

While it’s the priciest book on this list, with the Kindle Edition coming in at a hefty £15.21 if you’re invested in deepening your knowledge of this most important and beautiful species, it’s entirely worth it.

“From Inuit shamans to Jean Harlow lounging on a bearskin rug, from the cubs trained to pull sleds toward the North Pole to “cuddly” superstar Knut, it all comes to life in these pages.

With meticulous research and more than 160 illustrations, the author brings into focus this powerful and elusive animal. Doing so, he delves into the stories we tell about Nature–and about ourselves–hoping for a future in which such tales still matter.” – Amazon.

Buy it here.

Dark Matter By Michelle Paver

Dark Matter is one of my all-time favourite books, and I featured it in my Top Ten Ten Books About The North list  back in February. It’s a gloriously creepy ghost story set in 51HeHhcACUL._SY346_the High Arctic and it leaves no nerve unturned.

For years I longed for a book like Dark Matter and when it came along, it was everything I wanted and more. There’s a really good reason this book has nearly 400 reviews on Amazon and almost a full 5 stars. If you choose Dark Matter, you’ll be up all night reading, I promise.

‘January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.

But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return – when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible.

And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

The Nordic Theory Of Everything By Anu Partanen

The Nordic Theory Of Everything is another book I’ve been longing to read, and now that it’s available on Kindle for 99p I’ll be delving into it this Christmas eve. Since living in Sweden, it’s come to my attention that, actually, not everything is as rosy as the majority of literature out there would lead you to believe…so it’ll be really interesting to read, reflect and no doubt debate the theories within its 432 pages, even if I’m outnumbered 10 to 1 this Christmas time.

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‘From childcare to healthcare provision for the elderly and tackling issues of homelessness, the Nordic countries are world leaders in organising society – no wonder Finland has been ranked among the happiest places in the world.

But when Finnish journalist Anu Partanen moved to America, she quickly realised that navigating the basics of everyday life was overly complicated compared to how society was organised in her homeland. From the complications of buying a mobile, to the arduous task of filing taxes, she knew there was a better way and as she got to know her new neighbours she discovered that they too shared her deep apprehensions.

The Nordic Theory of Everything details Partanen’s mission to understand why America (and much of the Western world) suffers from so much inequality and struggling social services. Filled with fascinating insights, advice and practical solutions, she makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild society, rekindle optimism and become more autonomous people by following in the footsteps of our neighbours to the North.’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

Reindeer An Arctic Life By Tilly Smith

I saw the cover of this book and thought to myself, ‘if I don’t enjoy this, I’m going to be really disappointed.’ I needn’t have worried though, as I took advantage of the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, had a read of a few pages and knew it was going to be a beautiful, captivating and enlightenment little read, from which I’d come away from a more learned and inspired reindeer obsessive.

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‘In this enchanting book, Tilly Smith leads the reader through the cold and extraordinary natural history of the reindeer.

A creature that is often used to adorn the winter season, the reindeer has been domesticated in Eurasia for longer than the horse while in North America it exists side by side with the humans, never tamed yet vital to the native settlements.

Despite the popularity of the image of the reindeer, they are rarely seen in real life.

This beautiful, comforting little book, peppered with anecdotes about the author’s own herd, is sure to kindle affection for one of nature’s most adaptable mammals, from fur-covered hooves to downy antlers.’ – The History Press

Buy it here.

 

Tales Of Iceland Or Running With The Huldefolk In The Permanent Daylight By Stephen Markley

While I’ve read (very) mixed reviews about this ‘fast, fun, educational and true story’ written by a journalist from Chicago who went to Iceland with his two friends, one of whom, Matthew Trinetti, is the main character in the book, it intrigued the hell out of me. And, seen as though I can get it free on Kindle Unlimited (if you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, get it. Seriously. It’s brilliant.) I thought why not.

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‘When American author Stephen Markley was a fresh-faced, impressionable university student in Ohio, he saw Quentin Tarantino describe a trip he’d taken to Iceland.

“Supermodels working at McDonald’s,” said Tarantino of the Icelandic. Markley never forgot those words.

Seven years later, Markley set out with two friends for Iceland, and adventure would ensue. The three young men found a country straddling Europe and North America, recovering from its 2008 economic crisis, struggling to regain its national identity, influenced by the entire globe yet trafficking in its singular Icelandic sagas and legends.

With Tales of Iceland, Markley delivers the fastest, funniest memoir and travelogue of an American experience in Iceland.

Beware: You will NOT learn how to say “Which way to the potato farm” in the Icelandic language. Nor will you learn how to locate the finest dining options in Reykjavik, or the best opera house. This is not that kind of travel book. Markley and his two irrepressible twenty-something American pals do not like opera, had no money to eat much besides eggs and skyr, and learned only how to say “Skál!” “Takk,” and “Skyr.” – Amazon

Buy it here.

Icebreaker By Horatio Clare

I only found out about this book and it’s author Horatio Clare today, but this book is on my ‘must read before the end of 2018 list.’

‘We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?’

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A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last adventure saw him embedded on Maersk container vessels for the bestseller Down to the Sea in Ships, discovers stories of Finland, of her mariners and of ice.

Finland is an enigmatic place, famous for its educational miracle, healthcare and gender equality – as well as Nokia, Angry Birds, saunas, questionable cuisine and deep taciturnity. Aboard Otso Horatio gets to know the men who make up her crew, and explores Finland’s history and character. Surrounded by the extraordinary colours and conditions of a frozen sea, he also comes to understand something of the complexity and fragile beauty of ice, a near-miraculous substance which cools the planet, gives the stars their twinkle and which may hold all our futures in its crystals.’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

Other Titles To Check Out

ScandiKitchen: Fika & Hygge By Bronte Aurell

Wild Guide: Scandinavia By Ben Love

Scandinavian Christmas By Trine Hahnemann

Finding Sisu: In Search Of Courage, Strength And Happiness The Finnish Way By Katja Pantzar

Folklore: The Northlore Series Edited By MJ Kobernus

 

 

 

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : Winter’s Light & Details

The temperature has been rising again, so today was very slushy and I was very miserable, so I’m going to share some shots from a few weeks ago when the air was cold enough to catch in my throat and the light was glorious.

The light of spring and summer doesn’t get to me the way winter’s light does. Winter’s softer light gives me an energy that I’m unable to find in any other season. In spring and summer, more often than not I find myself saying ‘oh, piss off already, sun,’ and I can find myself slipping into many a depression during the warm months, because there’s too much light and not the sort of light that feeds my spirit.

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The details of winter – iced streams, frozen spider webs – can hold me captivated for hours. Literally. I nearly always loose track of time when I’m walking in the forest in winter, and more often than not, find myself making my way home in the dark.

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I would love to know which seasons help your spirit thrive.

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : The Stress Of Being An Expat Parent

What’s happened to those videos I said I would be uploading, huh? Well, as you will have heard if you saw the one story I uploaded yesterday on Instagram, you’ll know that Saga has had a bad stomach the past few days, which has led to me spending most of my days changing nappies and most of my nights singing Blinka lilla stjärna (Twinkle little star) to a restless baby.

A friend of mine recently said to me that motherhood is like having two and a half jobs. I think motherhood as an introverted expat with bi-polar is like having four full-time jobs and half a dozen part-time ones on the side. The past few days have seen me wanting to burst into tears and swim back to England.

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Life can be difficult when you’re a sea away from family, a sea away from what was home for nearly 30 years and you don’t have a baby. It can feel almost impossible when you have a baby and a mental health illness. I’m not one for giving up, but I’ve said, well, whispered several times over the last 72 hours, ‘I just want to go home.’

I always took having my family close by for granted when I was living in England: ‘Hey mum, can I get a lift there? Hey mum, would you mind grabbing this, that or the other when you’re at Tesco? Hey mum, do you have time to dye my hair? Yeah, I know you said you’d never do it again after it stained the bathroom sink last time, but please!’

Then I came to Sweden and I didn’t have that anymore. There was no family nearby to ask for help, or to lean on when I needed support. It was tough before Saga was born, but I coped, most of the time. After she arrived, I often found myself, head in hands wondering ‘how the hell am I going to do this…’

Being a stay-at-home mum without my own mum around to watch her grow up and chip in with advice/hugs/offers to take Saga for a few hours is extremely fucking hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. But there are moments in the chaos and the difficulties where I can think to myself ‘I’m doing ok, I got this,’ and Saga will smile, and I’ll grab my phone and try and capture the smile, so my mum and I can share the moment, even though we’re a sea apart.

 

 

UTBURD – An Illustrated Short Story

It has been a while since I was posting here last, but MostNorthern has been on my mind every. single. day. I have something big coming up here on the blog, which I’ll tell you about in more detail once I’m done talking about UTBURD.

You may remember a while ago I interviewed Italian artist Alessia Brusco AKA Skogens Rymd. Well, shortly after that interview, I had an idea that we should collaborate on a book together.

So, I sent Alessia a short story about a mother in olden times Scandinavia who abandons her newborn in the forest, as was often done in the cold north when families were destitute. And hardly any time passes, before she returns to me these most extraordinary paintings that work so in harmony with the tone of the tale. You can see a few here…

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So, if you’re partial to some Scandinavian folk horror, you may enjoy our little book. It’s available on Amazon as a paperback for £8 and for those of you who like to go paperless, it’s on Etsy as a PDF version for £2.

As I mentioned before, there’s something big going to happen on the blog, and by that I mean for the whole of December, I will be documenting about what it’s really like as an expat living in Sweden.

You can expect to see what we have in the fridge, what it’s like hiking with a baby in the winter forest and, of course, what happens at Jul time. I hope you’ll come by and see for yourself!

 

#climatechangeartchallenge : To Go On Indefinitely

I thought it would be best for the #climatechangeartchallenge to go on indefinitely…if you want to take part, just make art whenever you have a free moment and share, share, share using #climatechangeartchallenge

This piece – along with nearly all the other art pieces – going up for sale as a print, tote bag, phone case, etc, in the MostNorthern shop.

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Now, just in case you’re interested, on Patreon I have shared the text from my first children’s picture book which I was inspired to write following the catastrophic wildfires that have been burning in and around the Arctic Circle this summer.

If you’d like to read the story before anyone else, and follow the behind the scenes of the creation, hop over to Patreon where you can become a supporter of my work for just $1 a month.

One of the benefits of being a Patreon is that I will send you a copy of everything I publish. This week I’ll be sending out copies of my newest collection of poems My Father The Wendigo. You will also have a code to use in my shops to get money off any art piece you want to buy.

Eyes On The Arctic : Need To Read Things

In this weekly post, I collect all the need-to-read arctic related things that I’ve found over the past several days, and put them here in a handy bundle of links for you to pick, click and read.

12526-snowflakeSurvival of one of the last migratory herds in North America

12526-snowflakeLearning a life lesson from Arctic explorer Will Steger

12526-snowflakeThe first traces of Palaeolithic man found 550 miles above the Arctic Circle

12526-snowflakeAbrupt Thaw Of Permafrost Beneath Arctic Lakes Could Fuel Climate Change

12526-snowflakeArctic Permafrost May Belch Huge Emissions Of Methane In The Future

12526-snowflakeVideo Series: Working with indigenous knowledge

#climatechangeartchallenge Day 3

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If you want to get involved, the challenge runs from the 1st to the 31st of August.

What you need to do:

  1. Make a piece of art every day on the theme of climate change. It can be anything from a painting, to a poem to a song.
  2. Once you’re finished, post your work to the 31 Day Climate Change Facebook Page and use the hashtag #climatechangeartchallenge
  3. If you have Instagram, post it there too, and use the hashtag #climatechangeartchallenge again so I can find it and share it on the MostNorthern Instagram page.
  4. Re-post and share your art wherever you can to spread the word about the challenge and climate change.
  5. If you come late to the challenge, don’t stress, you can still get involved!