The Christian Science Monitor's #1 Best Book of the Year
A witty, informative, and popular travelogue about the Scandinavian countries and how they may not be as happy or as perfect as we assume, “The Almost Nearly Perfect People offers up the ideal mixture of intriguing and revealing facts” (Laura Miller, Salon).
Journalist Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians for more than ten years, and he has grown increasingly frustrated with the rose-tinted view of this part of the world offered up by the Western media. In this timely book he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success, and, most intriguing of all, what they think of one another.
Why are the Danes so happy, despite having the highest taxes? Do the Finns really have the best education system? Are the Icelanders as feral as they sometimes appear? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastic oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes? In The Almost Nearly Perfect People Michael Booth explains who the Scandinavians are, how they differ and why, and what their quirks and foibles are, and he explores why these societies have become so successful and models for the world. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterized by suffocating parochialism, and populated by extremists of various shades. They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn’t easy being Scandinavian.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We admit to being jealous of British writer Michael Booth’s assignment to travel around the Nordic nations—Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden—and figure out the secrets behind the region’s enviable status as the most egalitarian, just, and happy place on earth. A successful journalist and nonfiction author, Booth interviews experts and everyday people, drinks beer, visits sites of historic and cultural importance, eats herring, and has many odd and interesting experiences. With bone-dry wit, hilarious observations, and a sharp eye for white lies and hypocrisy, Booth tarnishes the Scandinavian mystique while still managing to make it sound like the closest we know to an enlightened society.
In his latest cultural exploration, British journalist and travel writer Booth (Eat Pray Eat) covers the countries that invariably dominate the top ten lists of best/healthiest/most egalitarian places to live: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Beginning with his adopted home of Denmark, Booth sets out to address whether the quality of life in Nordic countries is really so high, and if so, why. He describes the Danes relaxed attitude toward work and their almost aggressive egalitarianism. The latter is a trait shared by many of their Nordic neighbors and epitomized by the Jante Law (a Danish ten commandments of sorts), which states that one shouldn t think he s better than anyone else and that no one should be made fun of. That s tough for Booth, whose dry wit permeates the book, but he skillfully avoids mockery (he treats Icelanders persistent belief in elves with restraint). Norway s decentralized population of small, isolated communities speaking hundreds of regional dialects, coupled with a heightened respect for their natural surroundings, are two of the keys to understanding the Norwegians, Booth writes. But he also discovers some chinks in the utopian armor: isolationism, persistent racism, a distrust of foreigners, and growing fissures in a classless society (as more and more Danish parents steer their children toward private schools, for example). Booth has written an immersive, insightful, and often humorous examination of a most curious culture.
Almost perfect + cold weather
Entertaining, well written, full of anecdotes and useful infos. The author made his point, but I still prefer the North just for a Summer vacation. :)
Pleasing to Read, But Some Reservations
I am something of a Scandi fan--contemporary books, great looking landscapes and was intrigued by the author's premise that the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden) are very near to being great places but-----. I definitely agree with his feeling that most of the world has only a vague idea of the differences between these countries. All that info was very interesting and he is a very funny writer. The many surveys, indices and writings he sites to support his feelings about the countries are not directly connected to something that could easily be checked. A mention here, a claim there. Are these really trustworthy? Seems a little doubtful to me. GDP for instance is a controversial method of deciding economic health. I came away feeling a little disappointed. Do I really want to travel in those countries. Are the people a little too mediocre and boring? Are they drunken louts and bigots? Lazy welfare cases???
Informative and hilariously funny at times
Informative and hilariously funny at times, Michael Booth’s, ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia’ is an insightful read for those who have traveled, or ever wanted to travel, in Scandinavia.