Editor’s Note: Katie LaFond began the Jolabokaflod tradition for the EarthSpirit Community in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic — when most of us were isolating and unable to see each other in person — as a way of connecting as community. She wrote this two years ago, but just recently submitted for publication. This is the third year (2022) that Katie has run an EarthSpirit Jolabokaflod. 2022’s Book Flood is underway! If you haven’t had a chance to participate and are interested in it for next year, watch the EarthSpirit Facebook Group and Page for information and sign up right around Samhain.
This year was unlike any other, so I shared one of my family’s traditions with the community, in the hopes that it brought some joy to your homes.
Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood) started in Iceland during World War II, a time of rationing for many people. Paper was one of the few things that wasn’t rationed, so people gave each other books. Today, the tradition as I understand it, is that people give each other gift-wrapped books and on Christmas Eve they stay up all night reading them and eating chocolate. This is definitely a tradition I can get behind. If you’re interested in learning more about the Icelandic tradition, there are many wonderful resources available.
My ancestry is from all over, but the grandparent I was closest to (and who survived long enough for me to have deep conversations with) was Scandinavian. While my family identifies as American, I have always been fond of Scandinavian traditions, and they’ve made my winter seasons so much happier and fulfilling living in the Hills of Western Massachusetts.
I’m a fan of traditions and have built many with my young family. We have a prayer we say at each meal, we have an annual Dumb Supper at Samhain, and we love Jolabokaflod. Simply put, we give each other books on Yule eve and sit by the woodstove in our jammies, eating chocolate and reading them late into the night. We wake up in puppy piles, kindle a Yule fire, and sing up the sun eating cinnamon buns and drinking spiced coffee.
This year it was my pleasure to extend our tradition to all of you. We each found a book in our homes that we had read and enjoyed and were ready to send on to someone else who might enjoy it. We signed up with a google form, I organized an exchange, and sent out names, addresses, and genre requests to each person. Despite some shipping delays, most people ended up with a book to tuck into, with a mug of hot chocolate perhaps, and a quiet evening of enjoying a good book.
Here are the books that we sent each other this year, in alphabetical order.
Title. Author (genre, if listed)
- Assassin’s Apprentice. Robin Hobb (fantasy)
- Beggars in Spain. Nancy Kress (sci fi)
- Blink. Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction/science)
- Blood Heir (Kate Daniels series). Ilona Andrews (fantasy/romance)
- Braiding Sweetgrass. Robin Wall Kimmerer (nonfiction/spiritual)
- Caste: the origins of Our Discontents. Isabel Wilkerson (non fiction)
- Chronicles of Chrestomanci Volume I. Diana Wynne Jones (fantasy)
- Code Talker. Chester Nez
- Do What You Want: the story of Bad Religion. Jim Ruland (non fiction/memoir)
- Dreamblood: The Killing Moon. N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
- Dreamblood: The Shadowed Sun. N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
- Fledgling.Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
- Flesh and Fire. Laura Anne Gilman (fantasy)
- Free Play. Stephen Nachmanovitch (nonfiction/art)
- Hex Appeal. PN Elrod (anthology)
- How To Be ultra Spiritual. JP Sears (comedy)
- Howl’s Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones (fantasy)
- Love the World. Todd Parr (board book for ages 0-3)
- Mind of the Raven. Bernd Heinrich (science)
- Minecraft Dungeons: The Rise of the Arch-Illager. Matt Forbeck (young adult/fan fic)
- My Abuelita. Tony Johnson (kids book)
- Norse Mythology According to Uncle Einar. Jane Sibley (comedy, Norse mythology)
- Pagan Consent Culture. Edited by Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow (non fiction)
- Press Here. Herve Tullet (board book for ages 0-3)
- Prodigal Summer. Barbara Kingsolver
- Quarantine and Constellations. Katie LaFond (kindle book, memoir)
- Rosemary and Rue. Seanan McGuire (fantasy)
- Songs of the Seven Gelfling Clans. J.M. Lee (fantasy)
- The Buried Giant. Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. Jeremy Narby, Ph.D. (nonfiction/science)
- The Divine Thunderbolt. Jane Sibley (nonfiction/spiritual)
- The Hammer of the Smith. Jane Sibley (historical fiction)
- The Lies of Locke Lamora. Scott Lunch (fantasy)
- The Long Lasting Love of Lady and Lord: The Bonding. Darrell A Roberts
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie (Mystery)
- The Mystery of Mercy Close. Marian Keyes (mystery)
- The Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern (fantasy)
- The Night Fairy. Laura Amy Schmitz (children’s fantasy)
- The Rakess. Scarlet Peckham (romance)
- The Shortest Day. Susan Cooper (picture book/poetry)
- The Way of the Wise. Jane Sibley (nonfiction/spiritual)
- The Wishing Spell. Chris Colfer (fantasy)
- The Word for World is Forest. Ursula K Le Guin
- Tigana. Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy)
- Trace: memory, history, race and the American landscape. Lauret Savoy (memoir/travelogue/science)
- Twelfth Night. Shakespeare (drama)
- Wild. Cheryl Strayed (non-fiction memoir, semi-spiritual)