Many of my childhood favourites were books written in Icelandic by Icelanders and have never been translated into English (although several exist in Scandinavian, Dutch and German translations). I am leaving them out of the list as they can’t possibly be of interest to the majority of my readers. .
- The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. I was given his collected fairy tales as a christening present and was familiar with many of the stories before I could read them for myself. My mother used to read from them to me, but it was a proud day when I was able to read them by myself and discover all the dark stories she never did read, like The Red Shoes and The Shadow.
- The Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. I first discovered these on the book-shelves of some friends of mine, and later I would borrow them repeatedly from the library.
- Enid Blyton’s Adventure books (and to a lesser extent, the Five Find-Outers and the Famous Five). Enid Blyton’s books were in the process of being republished in Icelandic when I was between 6 and 12 years old, so I got given a number of them for birthdays and Christmas presents, and they cemented my love of detective stories and mysteries at a young age.
- A children’s version of the first two books of Gulliver’s Travels. I loved these books, never realising they were bowdlerised versions until I decided to read them in English. Gulliver’s Travels (the full, English edition) is now among my favourite books.
- Norse and ancient Greek myths. The books I first read (and still own) in this genre are wonderfully illustrated versions for children that are (sadly) long out of print, but for adult reading I recommend the perennial Bulfinch’s Mythology, especially for the Greek/Roman myths. I also read and loved the Gylfaginning part of Snorri’s Edda, which is the main source of the Norse mythology you find in modern books on the subject.
- The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. This came out in an Icelandic translation when I was 8. I don’t think I read it until I was around 14, but my mother read it to me and my brother several times and we both love it to this day.
- The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. I can’t remember which I did first: read the book or saw the film, but possibly I may have read the book after I learned that they were filming part of the film in Iceland. My brother, on the other hand, was an Emil of Lönneberga fan.
- I am David by Anne Holm. I found this in my grandmother’s library when I went to stay with her one summer, and have read it many times over the years since.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I unearthed an ancient, rather antiquated translation of this in the local library, and I think I went back and borrowed it every year after that, until I moved away from home.
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. My mother had translations of the first four books, and I read the first three over and over as a young girl. I only read the fourth as a teenager, and didn’t like it much.
- The Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting. Politically incorrect as they are considered in today’s society, when I was growing up I never heard anyone mention racism in connection with these books. It was the animals that interested me.
- The Village that Slept by Manique P. de Ladebat. Based, apparently, on true events, this book about two children who survive a plane crash and survive alone in an abandoned village for many months before they are rescued, struck a chord with me, and I read it over and over again. I recently acquired a copy and re-read it, and while I still think it’s a good story, I spotted a number of inconsistencies in the narrative and found the translation a bit stiff. Thus are the favourites of childhood revealed to be less than perfect in retrospective.
- A Bear Called Paddington and its sequels, by Michael Bond. Someone started giving these books to my brother as they were issued in Icelandic translations, and we both loved them deeply.