Norway — Books as far as the eye can see.

I read a lot of books. Aside from a brief fanfic stint in my early teens, I’ve largely left writing one to the experts. I don’t have the time, the original ideas, or the patience to put thoughts to paper and then see it through to an actual published book. Hats off to the people who do, though, we wouldn’t all be here listening to me blather on about books if you didn’t.

All that said, though, I know at least at a basic level what it takes to go from a Word document of jumbled plot points, character sheets, place descriptions, and hand drawn maps to succeeding (or, more probably, failing) at getting something published. It takes up-front money, a lot of patience, and a lot of luck. Publishers don’t like to take chances on things that seem too out-of-the-ordinary, and so a lot of truly valuable books die on the vine. Sometimes a book gets published and then, for any number of reasons, goes overlooked by the general public and the author is politely shown the door by the agency, even if what they’ve published is valuable. Let’s not get into the gamble that is publishing a book (or, several books as it usually takes) and then actually making money from doing so. Or, heaven forbid, making enough money to live off of. Perish the thought.

I ran into a little factoid on Reddit a few weeks/months/I don’t remember how long ago about Norway that I didn’t know before. Perhaps people who are more worldly than I am already knew this, but I am only mortal and can’t get to all the places I would like to visit in my lifetime on a part-time library aide paycheck. Norway is actually extremely friendly, extremely positive, and extremely supportive of authors, books, and reading. The single factoid I ran across that led me on this journey of discovery was that Norway’s Arts Council actually purchases 1,000 copies of every Norwegian book published and donates them to libraries across their country. The idea behind this is to encourage Norwegian authors to publish books, to safeguard Norwegian cultural items, and to provide authors something of a reliable wage for their efforts. Being a library worker myself and seeing how poorly libraries in America are treated in terms of funding and demands, the idea that the nation is so supportive of libraries and authors is phenomenal.

Some additional pro-book factoids about Norway I uncovered include that it boasts a 100% adult literacy level, 93% of adults in Norway report reading at least one book last year, and 40% of those having read more than 10. When compared with the literacy rate in the United States (79% as of last year) or the number of adults who read just a single book in a year (72% in 2018, I was unable to locate statistics for 2019) I found those statistics fascinating, inspiring, and encouraging. At my small library, movies and video games are checked out far more than a book, any book at all. As someone who really loves reading and who tries to encourage everyone to read, it’s somewhat disheartening to see. I just want people to enjoy my hobby, man.

Another super interesting literacy-forward factoid about Norway is that there are so many books, bookshops, and book-minded people there that there are many small towns that boast more books than people. Mundal, in western Norway, has a population of 280 people (you really have to love your neighbors there), but contains more than 150,000 books. Free libraries, book shelves, and book shops line its streets. Most books sold in this town are used, as the residents believe strongly in preserving old books in an increasingly digital age. As someone who almost exclusively buys used books, this is an effort I support.

So, I suppose in closing, if you want to visit someplace as bookish as you are, consider Norway. If Norway wants to sponsor me doing a travelogue from your beautiful country, call me! 🙂

Source links, for additional reading:

Why Norway is the best place in the world to be a writer

The scintillating Norwegian publishing scene

Book towns are made for book lovers

This picturesque Norwegian town has so many more books than residents that roadside libraries and bookshelves line the streets