"The culture of giving books as present is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday," says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association. "Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it's the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland."
From: So Cool! Iceland’s Tradition is to Give BOOKS for Christmas
In the months before Christmas, publishers compete for the attention of Icelanders in a season known as Jolabokaflod, the "Christmas Book Flood." According to NPR, "The Flood begins with the release of Bokatidindi, a catalog of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association distributed free to ever Icelandic home."
The tradition is especially fitting for Iceland, as it's famous for being a highly literary culture. As the BBC pointed out in 2013, "This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world." Las month, the New York Times reported that "At least 90% of Icelanders age 16 or older read at least one book a year just for pleasure." In comparison, only 72% of American adults read a single book last year.