• How Iceland Changed the World

  • The Big History of a Small Island
  • By: Egill Bjarnason
  • Narrated by: Einar Gunn
  • Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (142 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

"[A] joyously peculiar book." (The New York Times)

"Bjarnason’s intriguing book might be about a cold place, but it’s tailor-made to be read on the beach." (New Statesman)

The untold story of how one tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic has shaped the world for centuries.

The history of Iceland began 1,200 years ago, when a frustrated Viking captain and his useless navigator ran aground in the middle of the North Atlantic. Suddenly, the island was no longer just a layover for the Arctic tern. Instead, it became a nation whose diplomats and musicians, sailors and soldiers, volcanoes and flowers, quietly altered the globe forever. How Iceland Changed the World takes readers on a tour of history, showing them how Iceland played a pivotal role in events as diverse as the French Revolution, the Moon Landing, and the foundation of Israel. Again and again, one humble nation has found itself at the frontline of historic events, shaping the world as we know it, How Iceland Changed the World paints a lively picture of just how it all happened.

©2021 Egill Bjarnason (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A chronicle of those thousand-plus years is breezily and likably unfolded in Egill Bjarnason’s How Iceland Changed the World.” (Wall Street Journal)

How Iceland Changed the World is not only surprising and informative. It is amusing and evocatively animates a place that I have been fascinated with for most of my life. Well worth the read!” (Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author)

“Egill Bjarnason has written a delightful reminder that, when it comes to countries, size doesn’t always matter. His writing is a pleasure to read, reminiscent of Bill Bryson or Louis Theroux. He has made sure we will never take Iceland for granted again.” (A.J. Jacobs, New York Times best-selling author of Thanks a Thousand and The Year of Living Biblically)

What listeners say about How Iceland Changed the World

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant

I will preface this review by stating that I spent 10 days on a small wooden sailboat in the fjords of East Greenland with the author (who at the time was one of the boats crew) and as such I wanted to enjoy the book-which I absolutely did. The long and storied history of Iceland is presented in both a factual and very humorous way. The author does a fabulous job detailing parts of Icelands history with their larger impacts on the world as well as how world events also influenced Iceland. The narration and flow of the book is superb. I often listen to audiobooks while cutting my grass and found myself enjoying the book so much that I stayed on my mower cutting a large swath of my yard twice.

9 people found this helpful

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Just couldn’t get into this book

This book lacked something. It was not a good book to listen to. The history line just didn’t flow in a way that held my attention.

4 people found this helpful

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Entertaining

A good overview that could be even better if not for small detail inaccuracies e.g. The initial agreement between Iceland and Denmark from 1918 was for 25 years, allowing Iceland to break the ties with Denmark on December 1st 1943, becoming a huge debate on when to declare Independence, curtesy to the King, and questionable status of both countries being occupied by opposing forces. Or the fact that 10 years of mandatory schooling was not introduced until way later than the introduction of swimming lessons. Or the fact that the then candidate Albert Guðmundsson did not assume to a ministerial role until in the cabinet of Steingrímur Hermannsson 1983-1987, thus he was not formally minister of Finance once he ran for president, though he played a role in the formation and the rule of Prime minister Gunnar Thoroddsen 1980-1983.

2 people found this helpful

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A Perfect Ring Road Companion

Bjornason’s history is a perfect companion for a road trip around Iceland’s famous ring road.

2 people found this helpful

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I Love ❤ Iceland

I've been to Iceland twice and this book only made me miss it. thank you for this book. great performance. detailed. Will listen to it again.

2 people found this helpful

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Fun and engaging

If you are looking for a very in depth narrative of Iceland this may not be for you, but I still recommend it, as the author found ways to make everything he talked about fun and interesting. Definitely covers a wide range of events and cool facts. Worth the read.

1 person found this helpful

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what a listen

really fun romp through the history of this fascinating little country punching high above it's size on the world stage

1 person found this helpful

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Way more entertaining than I would have guessed!

I listened to this prior to next week's trip to Iceland and am so glad I did! What an entertaining and interesting telling of a fascinating country, and I'm glad the author didn't dive too deep into minutia of history. More excited than ever about my upcoming trip! It ends in the Pandemic--so the writing feels (in 2022) fresh.

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good book

very entertaining history of iceland. it was light-hearted and very enjoyable to listen to.