2017 INL Reads! Selection is “Ivory Vikings” by Nancy Marie Brown

By Angel Johnson-Nelson

 Attendees of the 2017 Icelandic National League of North America convention were the first to learn that a recently published nonfiction book is this year’s choice for the 2017 INL Reads! Program.  Ivory-Vikings-hi-res book cover

 Author, historian, and Icelandic Online Club member Nancy Marie Brown is the author of four non-fiction books on Icelandic history, myths, science, and sagas. She drew from these same sources of knowledge for her first work of fiction, The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler. Her latest book, and our 2017 INL Reads! selection, is Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them.

In the early 1800s, on a Hebridean beach in Scotland, the sea exposed an ancient treasure cache: 93 chessmen carved from walrus ivory. Norse netsuke, each face individual, each full of quirks, the Lewis chessmen are probably the most famous chess pieces in the world. Harry played Wizard’s Chess with them in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Housed at the British Museum, they are among its most visited and beloved objects.

Questions abounded: Who carved them? Where? Ivory Vikings explores these mysteries by connecting medieval Icelandic sagas with modern archaeology, art history, forensics, and the history of board games. In the process, Ivory Vikings presents a vivid history of the 400 years when the Vikings ruled the North Atlantic, and the sea-road connected countries and islands we think of as far apart and culturally distinct: Norway and Scotland, Ireland and Iceland, Greenland and North America. The story of the Lewis chessmen explains the economic lure behind the Viking voyages to the west in the 800s and 900s. And finally, it brings from the shadows an extraordinarily talented woman artist of the twelfth century: Margret the Adroit of Iceland.

Ivory Vikings came out in paperback in September 2016 from St. Martin’s Griffin. In a starred review, Booklist calls it “a delight” and “endlessly fascinating.” The New Yorker chimes in with “exciting” and “absorbing,” while according to The Economist, “the story bristles with fascinating facts.”

 Ivory Vikings is “a true cornucopia, bursting with delicious revelations,” says advance reader Geraldine Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. “Whether your passion is chess, art, archaeology, literature, or the uncanny and beautiful landscape of Iceland, Ivory Vikings offers rich and original insights by a writer who is as erudite as she is engaging.”

 The Icelandic Online Club plans to enhance the other INLNA clubs’ book reading experience by providing a reader’s discussion guide and an exclusive post-read interview with the author.

 Nancy’s book can be purchased at:

 Amazon: amazon.com/Ivory-Vikings-Walrus-Created-Chessmen/dp/1137279370/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420161317&sr=1-1&keywords=ivory+Vikings

 Barnes & Noble: barnesandnoble.com/w/ivory-vikings-nancy-marie-brown/1121270042?ean=9781137279378

 Ask your local bookstore to order ISBN 978-1-137-27937-8 (hardcover) or ISBN 978-1-250-10859-3 (paperback)

 For an autographed copy, contact Kim at Green Mountain Books and Prints at:


Phone: (802) 626-5051

 For more information about Nancy and her books go to: nancymariebrown.com

To schedule an event, contact Nancy directly at: nancymariebrown@gmail.com

To join her in Iceland, see: America2Iceland.com

 Follow her blog, “God of Wednesday,” at: nancymariebrown.blogspot.com

 Find her on Facebook at: facebook.com/nancy.marie.brown

About the author:

Nancy Marie Brown writes about Iceland and Vikings, science and sagas. Her books combine extremes: medieval literature and modern archaeology, myths and facts. They ask, “What have we overlooked? What have we forgotten? Whose history must not be lost?”Nancy Marie Brown headshot

She is the author of six general interest books and one young adult novel: Ivory Vikings (published in paperback September 2016), The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler (the novel; published in June 2015), Song of the Vikings (from 2012), The Abacus and the Cross (from 2010), The Far Traveler (from 2007), Mendel in the Kitchen (from 2004), and A Good Horse Has No Color (published in 2001).

For 20 years, Nancy worked as a science writer and editor for Research/Penn State magazine, published by Penn State University. She holds a B.A. in English (from the Writing Option) and an M.A. in Comparative Literature (with emphases in Arthurian Romance and Icelandic Saga), both from the Penn State. She turned to writing books full time in 2003, when she moved to a farm in northern Vermont where she and her husband, author Charles Fergus, keep four Icelandic horses and an Icelandic sheepdog. She spends part of each summer in Iceland, offering history and horseback tours in collaboration with the company America2Iceland.

 For more information about Nancy and her books go to: nancymariebrown.com

To schedule an event, contact Nancy directly at: nancymariebrown@gmail.com

To join her in Iceland, see: America2Iceland.com

Follow her blog, “God of Wednesday,” at: nancymariebrown.blogspot.com

Find her on Facebook at: facebook.com/nancy.marie.brown

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Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler chosen for 2015 INL Reads!

Saga-of-Gudrid-hi-resAttendees of the 2015 Icelandic National League of North America convention were the first to learn that a recently published novel is this year’s INL Reads! selection.

Historian Nancy Marie Brown, who is the author of four nonfiction books on Icelandic history, myths, science and sagas, drew from this same source of knowledge for her first work of fiction, The Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler.

Brown had become quite familiar with the story of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, one of the first Viking women to explore North America half millennium before Christopher Columbus traveled there.

Brown first encountered Guðríður (or Gudrid, in English spelling) in the Vinland Sagas while a college student. Years later, through her career as a science writer, she reconnected with this Viking woman while working with an archaeological team exploring a Viking Age house on the farm Glaumbær, Gudrid’s home in the sagas. Through these personal encounters and years of research Brown wrote the nonfiction work, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman (2007).

With her nonfiction account completed, Brown still felt the tug of Gudrid’s story urging her to explore further. Brown said the Vinland Sagas contained many contradictory facts about Gudrid that led Brown to make suppositions about her. In one account Gudrid was married twice, in the other account three times. One account described her as poor. The other said she was rich. Writing nonfiction Brown could only report “possibly this or possibly that” happened. She felt after publication there was more to be said about Gudrid and this led her to decision to write the novel.

Brown said, “The biggest problem for me was genre: Who was I writing for? Where should I begin and end Gudrid’s story? How long should the book be?”

These questions would help focus her writing over the next several years, and she discovered in the process that the story she originally thought would be written for an adult audience turned into a story written for young adults.

Brown said, “The best audience for Gudrid’s story, I decided, were readers Gudrid’s own age when she went exploring: between 14 and 21. These readers would be unlikely to read The Far Traveler, yet they are the ones with whom Gudrid’s story will resonate.”

She added that “It’s been a nice surprise to learn that Gudrid’s story is captivating older (and much older) readers as well.”

Determining the 2015 INL Reads! selection also took a new path by turning to the INL of NA’s Icelandic Online Club to make the choice. Club president Angel Johnson-Nelson polled club members and they chose The Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler, whose official release date is June 2015. The online club plans to enhance the other INL of NA club’s discussions by providing a discussion guide and interview with the author on the INL Reads! website and the club’s facebook page. Other clubs are considering how they might record and post a book discussion with author Nancy Marie Brown who said she would be willing to join club discussions by phone or online chat if scheduling permitted.

The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler should be widely available from your favorite book sellers starting in June 2015.

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2013 INL Reads! Selected at the INL of NA’s Seattle Convention

the young icelander book pic

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2012-13 INL Reads! Selection Made at the 2012 INL of NA Convention

The delegates to the 2012 Icelandic National League of North America in Brandon, Manitoba, selected What the Bear Said, by W.D. Valgardson as the second selection of our INL Reads! program.

You can read more about the selection by clicking the “2012-13 INL Reads! Selection” link. Grab a copy of “Bear,” start reading, and meet back here to discuss!

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Questions and background links for Independent People discussions

Here are some questions some of our INL Reads! readers have posed about our first book, Independent People.

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W.D. Valgardson blogs on Laxness and Independent People

This is a wonderful meditation on Laxness, the nature of genius, the novel “Independent People,” and Icelandic society’s uneasy relationship with all of the above. It is a great opening to formulating your own thoughts or discussions on the novel.


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An Icelandic “Lord’s Prayer”

At a moment in “Independent People,” when the community of sheep farmers was faced with another death, they searched for a way to honor the deceased. They passed around a borrowed copy of Hallgrimur Pjetursson’s “Passion Hymns,” only to discover that none in their party attend church frequently enough to know the tune of the chosen hymn. Reaching deeper into memory, Old Thorthur of Nithurkot was asked to recite the “Lord’s Prayer.” Continue reading

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