ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



October 2022



How Iceland Changed The World by Egill Bjarnason

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone with some interest in world history, or Icelandic history.

In a nutshell:
Author Bjarnason provides a condensed (and at times humorous) history of Iceland.

Worth quoting:
“…claim, respectively, that Icelander live for up to 150 to 300 years — because of the pure climate, or course. Which I’d say is fair reasoning: the human body is organic, and we all know that vegetables and other organic things last longer in the fridge.”

“Few countries are as vulnerable to global warming as Iceland. Glaciers have retreated by about 850 square miles since the end of the nineteenth century…”

Why I chose it:
I have a goal of spending one year living in Iceland. I visited in summer 2018 for four days and absolutely loved it, and have been trying to sort out how to return ever since.

Aside from transiting through the airport a handful of times, I didn’t get to properly visit Iceland until about four years ago. We stayed outside of Reykjavik, and visited a few of the amazing natural wonders, such as Gullfoss and where the continental plates meet. I’m pretty desperate to visit in the winter and see the Northern Lights. If you read my book reviews, you also know that I’m a fan of the crime novels that the nation has produced. So naturally when I saw this book I figured I would need to read it, and I’m so glad I did.

This is not a book of anecdotes or cute facts to share at parties. But it contains many of them. It’s a chronology that follows many hundreds of years of life on that very small island at the top of Europe, known to many outside of it as the place with the volcano that stopped air travel in 2010, or the place with the men’s football team that knocked England out of the Euros in 2016 (despite having a very tiny pool to draw players from). Maybe it’s known to you as the place where that Will Farrell / Rachel McAdams Eurovision movie was set, or where they filmed parts of Game of Thrones?

However you might know about Iceland, this book will likely teach you things you didn’t know. For example, did you know that a woman from Iceland reached North America about 500 years before that genocidal asshole Columbus? Or that Iceland played a role in the creation of Israel? That it featured in the space race and the Cold War?

Bjarnason is a great writer, making history interesting. I was able to picture every era and place he described, and I chuckled quite a few times as he wove his factual accounts with a little bit of humor. Books like this can be tricky to pull off, but he does it and does it well.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend and Keep

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