From Iceland — Niches Of Sjónarlind: Bergstaðastræti’s Bookstore Offers A Plethora Of Peculiarities

Niches Of Sjónarlind: Bergstaðastræti’s Bookstore Offers A Plethora Of Peculiarities

Published July 14, 2015

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Founded by Steinar Gunnarsson in 1981, the Sjónarlind bookstore has resided in its Bergstaðastræti location for more than three decades now, becoming an integral and rooted piece of the downtown community. While three different people have owned the shop since it opened, the overarching philosophy of the bookstore has always remained consistent. Offering a specialist selection of art, coffee table, and children’s books—predominantly in English— Sjónarlind has the type of niche hardcovers you’ll never find in the bigger stores.

According to the woman working there (who was silently poring over a book on Dorothy Thompson and Viveca West), most Sjónarlind customers come in hoping to fulfil a specific yearning — photographers looking for photo books, travellers looking for travel guides. But with the varied and eclectic stockist, Sjónarlind can also be the perfect place for a little literary exploring. Just peruse for minutes, and bibliophiles will find everything from glossy hardcovers on gothic architecture to illustrated child editions of ‘Arabian Nights’—a true bookstore for bookstore-lovers. With such an eccentric selection, we decided to highlight some of the weirder niches of Sjónarlind. Come check it out!

Children’s books in any language

Anyone can buy the latest literary craze, but only in Sjónarlind can you pick up a new copy of ‘Igrzyska Smierci’ (that’s Polish for ‘The Hunger Games’). Along with a large section of Polish young adult novels and English chapter books, Sjónarlind offers picture books in a variety of languages ranging from Italian to Vietnamese. The store sells not only light storybooks, but also sticker-books and language learning workbooks. So your kid has wanderlust? Sjónarlind gives you a great (and cheap!) way to let your young one get global.



DIY is all the rage, and with massive amount of hobby books, Sjónarlind will probably be able to cater to all your crafting whims. But considering the lack of endemic Icelandic trees, there does seem to be an unusual amount of woodworking books in the store. The woman at the till explains this: Sjónarlind supports a small but very active community of Reykjavík woodworkers. With workbooks covering everything from making chests and cabinets to carving fantasy figurines, Sjónarlind is the place to go if you’re looking to get into a hands-on hobby. Watch out for splinters!

Radical texts

Everyone wants to be on some sort of list, so why not join one that’ll make your time at Keflavík Airport even longer and more exciting? Fight the power at Sjónarlind with three shelves of radical political nonfiction imported directly from the extremist hubs of the U.K. and U.S. Covering everything from ‘Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide’ to ‘Change in Putin’s Russia’ to ‘NHS SOS’, the store will give you all the information you need to become popular at dinner parties. Come get cynical or idealistic—Che Guevara t-shirt not included.


Comic art books

Reykjavík is the city of graffiti, and now you can bring that tagging spirit inside the home with large coffee table books showcasing the art of comics (a’hem, graphic novels). Sjónarlind’s love of the medium is global, with ‘Anime Techniques’ and ‘Manga Female Clip Art’ right alongside ‘The Art of Harvey Kurtz’. Trust us: a prominent display of love towards Superman is guaranteed to impress any potential date. But tread lightly—you don’t want to become that smelly guy wearing a Pokémon hat at Stofan. We all need limits. Respect yours.

Sjónarlind won the Best Bookstore award in our Best Of Reykjavík 2015 guide. Read the full list of winners here.

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