Icelanders are justifiably proud of their literary heritage. The Icelandic language has remained relatively unchanged for centuries, giving Icelanders access to literature from early times. Throughout these past centuries, during the long winters, families would huddle together and read to each other. Today the country boasts a near universal literacy rate.
The Icelandic sagas remain the country's most recognized contribution to the world literature. Mostly written between the 12th and the 14th century. Believed to be based on somewhat enhanced versions of real-life people, these Sagas tell of the deeds of the nation’s early settlers, and are full of violence, intrigue, romance, and wisdom for early living. The Sagas have also influenced many English authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Iceland’s only Nobel Prize winner was recognised in 1955 in the category of literature. Halldór Kiljan Laxness published prolifically (over 60 novels), about themes ranging from Icelandic national identity to global communism. His most famous works in English are Independent People, The Atom Station, and Iceland’s Bell.