Yule Book Flood

Yule Book Flood

Katie LaFond

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.


December 2020

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)

Recommended Books for Yule

by Sarah Rosehill

At our December Stories of the Season event, we featured some wonderful books for Yule and the winter season that focus on nature and pagan traditions, and we wanted to share that list along with a few other favorites in a way that would be easy to find later!

Photo by Leah Kelly from Pexels

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren (and the sequel, The Tomten and the Fox)
These lovely, lyrical stories are based on the poetry of Swedish Romanticist Viktor Rydberg and feature the Tomten (a little gnome-like being) going through a farm and reassuring the animals that spring will come. This one is appropriate as young as 2 and enjoyable for much longer.

Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven
This rhyming book tells about a baker who makes “sun bread: to lure the sun back to the skies after a long streak of wintery weather and includes a recipe you can try at home. (We did; it’s pretty good!) Also aimed at the preschool set, this has colorful illustrations of a town filled with animals of all types.

Grandmother Winter by Phyllis Root
This story for young children tells of Grandmother Winter, who lives alone with her flock of geese, and how she makes and then shakes a quilt to bring the snow. It has beautiful illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes and shows what people do when the snow happens and then how Grandmother Winter passes the winter herself.

Cozy by Jan Brett
A musk ox grows a thick winter coat and several animal friends come to shelter in it through the winter, requiring an increasing number of “house rules” that will sound familiar to any parent: quiet voices, gentle thumping, claws to yourself. This book is a little longer and aimed at the 3-5 year old set. Other Jan Brett winter favorites in my family include The Mitten, which is a shorter story about animals climbing into a mitten to keep warm (and comes in a board book for toddlers!), and The Snowy Nap featuring a hedgehog who desperately wants to stay awake to see the winter.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
This meditative book follows a young child on her first owling trip with her father. It’s longer — probably best for kids 5-8 — and evokes a peaceful, flexible relationship with the natural world. Sometimes there’s an owl and sometimes there’s not!

Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden
This longer book for early elementary schoolers tells the story of how the solstice and seasons came to be. The sun is lonely and finds a true friend, and then begins to spend more and more time out of the sky with his friend. When he realizes what he has done, his friend brings the problem to Grandmother Pine, who gives wise and measured advice.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
This is a beautiful illustrated version of the beloved poem: “And so the shortest day came and the year died/and everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world/came people singing, dancing/to drive the dark away.” We read it every year in my family!

Do you have a favorite we haven’t included here? We’d love your contributions to this list in the comments!