And a merry Jolabokaflod to all

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading.

They call it Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

According to the BBC, Iceland has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world.

I’d guess that we, in the Pacific Northwest, are towards the top of our national average, but nowhere near Iceland.

I’ll admit to being more than a bit biased here; but to my mind (literally) there is nothing better than a habit of wide-ranging reading.

You never know what beast, mystery or life-puzzle you might encounter – or what once-cherished value or belief you might find challenged. There’s a perfect book – or gift out there waiting for you.

In Iceland, the book industry is driven – and maintained – by the majority of people buying several books each year, rather than the North American pattern of a few people buying a lot of books.

And they, like a few of us here in the Pacific Northwest, prefer actual, physical books.

No battery-pulsing photons for us, please…

It might be habit, or nostalgia or sheer sentimentality, but I doubt if my affection to physical books will ever fade.

They are the one thing I can’t resist collecting, to read and re-read, to beautify and personalize my home, to pass on to friends and family as needed.

As you might have guessed, I read almost anything.

And, as you can see from the representative photo across the page, I generally avoid fiction and prefer books that make me think, and perhaps even inform or inspire me to grow, change and challenge my previous assumptions.

In no particular order, here is my introduction/review of those books.

Made in California, by George Geary is a profile of fast-food places, diners and speciality food places that (almost) define American food.

Yes, that would mean A&W Root Beer. Foster’s Freeze. IHOP. Der Wienerschnitzel. See’s Candy. Jack in the Box. And many others.

You name the American food icon, and chances are its roots are in California. Food historian and chef George Geary tells the remarkable stories of the early 20th-century food startups that captured America’s hearts and stomachs, from Bob’s Big Boy to McDonald’s, Winchell’s Donuts to In-N-Out, Peet’s Coffee to Taco Bell. With more than 200 historic and contemporary photos.

This is not a glance-through coffee-table book, this is a treatise on the culinary contributions that most of us take for granted, but, yes, they started in California.

Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation, by Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and bestselling author of eight books that have been published in thirty languages in more than fifty countries and have sold more than two million copies.

The premise of this book is very simple; when it comes to the many challenges to the environment – especially when it comes to something as vast and multifaceted as climate change, most people in the world remain disengaged, and we need a way forward that engages the majority of humanity.

Regeneration is an inclusive and effective strategy compared to combating, fighting, or mitigating climate change.

Regeneration creates, builds, and heals.

This book is full of practical and realistic responses to all kinds of interactions with the living world from transportation to the origins of our food and clothing.

Regeneration, as their website puts it, “is what life has always done, we are life, and that is our focus. It includes how we live and what we do—everywhere. We have a common interest and that interest can only be served when we come together.”

Smorgasbord; The art of Swedish breads and savory treats [a cookbook] by Johanna Kindvall.

What has a stronger Pacific Northwest vibe than the hygge centered illustrated cookbook on the classic breads and savory foods of a Swedish smörgåsbord that can be enjoyed for parties and holidays as well as for snacking and small meals?

This book includes traditional and contemporary Swedish recipes for dishes such as Rye Bread, Chicken Liver Pate, Elderflower Cured Trout, Fresh Cheese, Swedish Deviled Eggs, Buttery Red Cabbage, and infused aquavit liqueurs.

Last, but certainly not least, was the most unexpected among these books.

Rat on a Rat, by Liza Morado starts out as fairly straightforward memoir of a young girl’s wholesome, protected and simple life with loving parents in a rural small town of seemingly sheltered and safe Americana.

As her life expands, she meets a key new friend and begins to see that not every family has “normal” parents.

And, perhaps like many of us, she unintentionally runs into some she’s not quite sure about – in her case, possibly one of the primary and most mythological characters of Pacific Northwest lore and legend.

A “Memoir with a Twist” in this case, is an understatement.

These books, with local resonance and roots, are solid reminders that how we live what we eat and who we serendipitously run into in our lives defines us far more than we might ever imagine.

Each one of these books is worth cuddling up with on a cold and drizzly evening in the Pacific Northwest.