Iceland: Land of the Sagas, reviewed here last week, to my small collection of travel literature about Iceland. Nineteenth-century visitors included William Morris, Richard Burton, and Bayard Taylor, but most travel accounts of Iceland go out of print quickly. New ones, however, keep appearing.
Just published is Summer at Little Lava by Charles Fergus. The author, an American, spent a summer with his wife and young son in a house on a farm on the west coast of Iceland, about 50 miles north of Reykjavík. I've been there myself. A world of crashing surf, marshy fields, mountainous backdrops, screeching birds, and endless sky, it looks like the absolute end of the earth.
Taking as his model Henry Beston's classic TheOutermost House (about a meditative stay in a lonely cabin on Cape Cod), Fergus writes with quiet passion about life in this isolated setting. He also has the range of knowledge and the special gift for description a writer needs here, bringing to vivid life the birds of the region, the volcanic terrain, and the breathtaking scenery.
But beware. If you read Summer at Little Lava, you will almost certainly want to visit Iceland yourself.
For further background, you might want to read Jules Verne's 1864 novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. You won't be following his route down through the volcano Snaefellsjökull, but Verne's detailed description of Reykjavík and the warm (if dour-looking) Icelanders might have been written last week.
And there's a thoughtful piece about Iceland by Jan Morris inheressay collection, Destinations.
Now, of course, you'll need some current guidebooks. There are two excellent ones. Lonely Planet's Iceland, Greenland, & the Faroe Island, 640 pages long and now in its third edition, offers a ton of maps and information on culture, natural history, where to go and what to see, and everything else you'll need and want to know. Insight's Iceland covers the same ground thoroughly but more briefly and provides hundreds of enticing color photos.
Reykjavík is inexpensive to visit in winter, with great shops, museums, bars, and discos, and that weird darkness 22 hours a day.
See you there. I'll meet you in the bar of the Saga Hotel.
Alan Ryan, bn.com