7 books for Jólabókaflóð, your new favorite Icelandic holiday
What is jólabókaflóð, you may ask? Only the greatest holiday you've never heard of. Since returning from Iceland last month, I've been annoyingly obsessed with the country and culture. Sorry to everyone who's had to listen to me, but I don't think this is ever going away. While doing some research, I stumbled across jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic tradition of giving each other books on Christmas Eve. And just like that, I found my favorite holiday.
We've decided to incorporate this into our holidays this year, and there's still time for you to join in on the nerdy fun. Below are seven books that I've either recently read or can't wait to read that would make perfect gifts for jólabókaflóð. As always, send me your books recs on Twitter or Instagram!
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
This is probably the most gorgeous book I've read in recent memory. Like, it's actually gorgeous: each of the six faerie tales in the book comes with a stunning illustration that grows on each page. The stories, too, are perfect: heartbreaking, sensual and even grotesque at times, these are the feminist faerie tales you've been waiting for. Plus, they feature heroines who aren't your typical white, blonde princess.
Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
As you can probably tell by how often I talk about the library, I very rarely buy books. I am devoted to my local library. But I actually bought this long-awaited prequel to the His Dark Materials series. I've always loved the series (the whole reason I wanted to see the Northern Lights was because of The Golden Compass), and I've heard the new novel is a stunning addition to the series. I've only just started, so no spoilers please!
Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan
I've written about Crazy Rich Asians, the first book in the trilogy, before, but now that I've finished the entire series I'm even more obsessed. Reading these books is like watching a soap opera: everyone has a secret family or forbidden lover or killed someone and is trying to keep it quiet. The stories are over-the-top ridiculous and so much fun that I want Kwan to write a million more installments.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
You had me at "feminist short stories." I haven't gotten my hands on this one yet, but based off of reviews and recommendations from friends, I'm pretty sure this is right up my alley. GoodReads describes it as "earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious," and I'm here for all of that. Someone buy me this, please.
The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
I'm on my library's wait list for this, and I'm fangirling really hard about it. This is the first version of The Odyssey ever to be translated by a woman, and it's getting some fantastic reviews. Apparently, Wilson takes an entirely new approach to the translation, keeping the sentences simpler and less poetic than past translators. Plus, she dares to look at the characters in a clear light, without the hero-worship past translators had for Odysseus. Can you tell I'm really geeking out about this?
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
I have no idea why this book is as good as it is: it's a fairly simple story about a teenage girl watching her best friend go through a bad home life and an eventual breakdown. But the writing is haunting and really got under my skin; even after finishing the novel, I can't stop thinking about it. If you don't typically read YA, don't let the categorization put you off. This book is creepy and gorgeous and perfect for adults as well as teens. (Teacher friends, recommend this to your more mature students.)
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King & Owen King
Stephen King is one of my problematic faves. I'm not always crazy about the way he writes women, which makes me a little nervy about this story, revolving around a world where all women either fall asleep or become feral. But I'm intrigued by the concept and eager to see what he can do with his son as a co-writer. There's currently 10 people ahead of me on my library wait list, so if someone just wants to get this for me that would be great.