The Almost Nearly Perfect People

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

Book - 2015
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A WITTY, INFORMATIVE, AND POPULAR TRAVELOGUE ABOUT THE SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES AND HOW THEY MAY NOT BE AS HAPPY OR AS PERFECT AS WE ASSUME

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.

Publisher: New York : Picador, 2015.
Copyright Date: ©2014.
ISBN: 9781250061966
1250061962
Characteristics: viii, 388 pages :,map ;,22 cm.

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g
GLNovak
May 29, 2018

I have to say I really enjoyed reading this book. Originally I thought it was going to be a bit dry and stuffy with lots of statistics but no, it was full of the author's impressions, a bit of comment from selected 'authorities', some history, and lots of anecdotes. Booth lives in Denmark and so has the most to say about the Danes (and their apparent love of singing). His comments about the Scandinavian countries include Iceland and Finland also, countries we normally don't include. Each of the five are unique in their own way but all share a love of the North, and exhibit the accommodations we Northerners (as a Canadian I can somewhat relate) make for the climate, the sparse population and the brief summers. From the singing, the religion, the strong sense of caring for the community, blistering hot saunas, to the many outdoor pursuits they cherish, we are given a tour of the countries and their peoples and the way they relate to each other and to the world outside. Be prepared to enjoy this read and to smile indulgently along with Booth as he goes on his adventure of discovery.

t
Trcr
Jul 27, 2017

I was enjoying this book, until I got to the chapter on Sweden. What was up with that? I don't know if the author has a deep seated hatred for Sweden or he had an agenda and none of the other Scandinavian countries allowed him to vent it.
I read the book because I am interested in these countries and how they manage social issues. But I am not so interested that I want to read boring histories or dry political essays. This seemed a much more readable and approachable option. But I found myself constantly shaking my head in the chapter on Sweden. Without coming out and saying it he has some very politically right wing attitudes. But he never convinced me that the horrible totalitarian state was Sweden or that it was such a bad thing for the people. At the same time he seems very pro immigration and critical of Sweden for attempts to maintain their culture.
The rest of the book had some interesting information and anecdotes and it was very readable, so worth the time just skip the whole Sweden part.

martha_w Nov 27, 2016

One of the cover blurbs describes this book as "Bill Bryson goes to Scandniavia", and as someone who loves both Bill Bryson and Scandinavia, that description alone was enough to make me snatch this up. It's also a pretty accurate description -- Booth's book is a bit less travelougey that a lot of Bryson's tend to be, but he has the same light tone and dry wit that make Bryson such a joy to read. Booth covers each of the Scandinavian countries in turn, and does a really excellent job at explaining the differences between each country -- a somewhat difficult task when describing a region that, to many outsiders, seems so homogeneous. The end result is a book that is both entertaining and also highly insightful and informative -- but honestly, this is worth reading for the bit where he goes to a Finnish sauna alone. Trust me.

s
stewstealth
Aug 10, 2016

A lighthearted look at the "Nordic Way" and if it is all it's hyped up to be. Not an erudite, annotated essay, the book is more akin to a travelogue but ins't entirely devoid of research. Worth reading if you interested.

s
Sublurbanite
Aug 08, 2016

I loved this book. Booth is witty and I found myself laughing often. My favourite part is when he describes visiting a Finnish sauna.

He also does a fantastic job explaining Nordic life, culture and history. I truly feel like I understand more about Scandanavia because of this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who would like a light but educational read.

Bunny_Watson716 Jun 17, 2016

Curious about the so-called "Scandinavian utopia"? Try this book. Ex-pat British author Booth writes about the Nordic countries in a lighthearted way. A fun and interesting read.

d
daysleeper236
Apr 11, 2016

What Bill Bryson did for Australia in "In a Sunburned Country", Michael Booth does for Scandinavian countries in this fascinating read. Insightful, thought-provoking and hilarious. Highly recommended.

b
bibliomutti
Mar 26, 2016

Like many Canadians, I have been intrigued by all things Scandinavian for some time. I absolutely loved pondering all that Michael Booth had to share in this book. There is much depth of thought, supported by intelligent observation and some research. There is also a lot of humour.

One minor criticism is that he is not always correct when making a few fleeting references to Canada. I think he needs to spend some time here. He does get it right on page 331, when quoting a Swede, who groups Pierre Trudeau with Olof Palme as an aristocratic radical who came to power during the 1960's.

Well, actually, I also wondered about the reference to a "Romanian" spotted in Sweden (pp. 300-01). I would guess this person was a Roma, who may or may not also have been an erstwhile Romanian.

i
info_crush
Nov 17, 2015

A witty and often hilarious survey (in the vein of the self-deprecating and sarcastic Bill Bryson) of the Scandinavian countries. A highlight was the section on Swedish workers at the Norwegian banana-peeling factory (and um, Norwegian oil wealth).

t
thebritlass
Nov 01, 2015

Covering the five northern European countries, the information ranges from hilarious to surprising, but is always interesting. Contains insights and perspectives not available in your typical travel guides.

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