I COMPLETED THIS Ink with Pen & Brush last week, based on the photograph of a piece of art depicting Icelandic life in the late 18th century. Noticeable are structures that call to mind what we often associate with certain Western European countries.

I chose to use this as the Art for today’s Thought—Jolabokaflod. Recognize this word? Neither did I until December 22, when at breakfast Marj and I were reading from Our Daily Bread devotional booklet. If you also read from this devotional you may remember the word and its translation.  If not, I’ll explain the meaning and a positive challenge I see connected as we enter 2021. 


Each Christmas Eve

IMAGINE THIS: It’s Christmas Eve and after receiving a brand-new book from your family, you cozy up in your favorite reading nook, in front of the fire, with a mug of hot cocoa, to spend the rest of the evening reading.

That’s exactly how Icelandic people celebrate Christmas each year. This tradition is known as Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly in English to “Christmas book flood”. I’m just curious: Did you receive a book as a Christmas gift this year?  Interesting.


JOLABOKAFLOD STARTED during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts while other commodities were in short supply, turning them into a country of bookaholics to this day, according to In fact, a 2013 study conducted at Bifröst University found that 50 percent of Icelanders read more than eight books a year and 93 percent read at least one. Its reported that each year this nation [pop. about 370,000] publishes and reads more books per person than any other country.

Book Bulletin

EVER SINCE 1944, the Icelandic book trade has sent out a book bulletin to each household in the middle of November when the Reykjavik Book Fair happens. People use this catalogue to order books to give to their friends and family on Christmas Eve, the main gift-giving day in Iceland. After all the presents are open, everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their books.

Why do I read?

EVER ASK YOURSELF: Why do we read books?  Why do I read books?  Inspiration, Education, Entertainment are three big categories that come to mind. In fact, I think it the better part of wisdom to have a balanced diet with servings from all three. Have you set a reading goal for 2021?  Good for you!  To me, every goal starts with good intention to do something, followed by invention of a plan, adhered to by initiation or get started and finally completion.!

Our Experience

THE LAST THREE books I read are: The Very Good Gospel by Lisa S. Harper, 2016, The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen, 1979; To Change the World, by James D. Hunter, 2010

It was the gift of At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, more than two decades ago, that launched a new reading practice for Marj and me.  We both wanted to read the book and decided to read it to each other. We read all 14 volumes in the series…twice! Through the years, we’ve read more than 200 books of fiction together.  We just began the 4th volume in a Kindle series by a British author.  Since retirement, we read twice a day: after lunch and again after dinner.  Reading of these novels falls in the ‘Entertainment’ category but, as is the case with good writing, the reader learns lots more in the process. 

We read independently for most of our Inspirational and Educational reading.  We are both primarily morning readers. I touched on my schedule in last week’s blog.  I must confess two things: First, I did not keep a record of titles I read in 2020.  I plan to improve on that for 2021.  Secondly, books that I value most I will read more than one time, spread out over several years.  I read The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard nine times in the past nineteen years.  I may have another go at it in 2021!  Why re-read a book?  The book doesn’t change, but I do. I can see it through a new paradigm!

Need a Plan Suggestion?

Intention: My goal is to read_____books in 2021.

Invention My plan is to read ____ days a week for ____minutes per day.

Initiation My first book is __________________________ beginning _______________.

Introspection:  My reflection on each book will be in written form…Journal perhaps?

Don’t forget your hot drink…cocoa…coffee…tea?

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.  2 Timothy 4:13

2 thoughts on “Jolabokaflod

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