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The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia [Kindle Edition]

Michael Booth
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and pay the highest taxes.

'Neutral' Sweden is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.

Finns have the largest per capita gun ownership after the US and Yemen.

54 per cent of Icelanders believe in elves.

Norway is the richest country on earth.

5 per cent of Danish men have had sex with an animal.

Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic that has engulfed the rest of the world.

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 each other. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.

Product Description


"Comprehensive and occasionally downright hilarious... I was laughing out loud" (Mariella Frostrup Observer)

"An affectionate and informative study of a region." (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)

"[An] entertaining, warts-and-all, English expat look at the Nordic miracle." (Daily Telegraph)

"A thoroughly entertaining read, written brilliantly" (Bernard Porter Literary Review)

"A welcome rejoinder to those who cling to the idea of the Nordic region as a promised land...the substance, more often than not, is spot on." (Financial Times)

Book Description

A revealing, often humorous journey through Scandinavia and its curious tribes

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2113 KB
  • Print Length: 418 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099546078
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (6 Feb. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,191 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Almost Nearly Perfect People 7 Aug. 2014
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
The author has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off for ten years, and is perplexed initially how the Danes appear to be the happiest people in the world, having consistently come out top in a Satisfaction with Life index - indeed other Scandinavian countries have also done well in similar surveys. But given the author's own experiences, he wonders what makes the people of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland so unique - and so much the way that they are? Was there a Scandinavan template for a better way of living? To find out, the author has blended his own experiences with conversations with various authorities - "historians, anthropologists, journalists, novelists, artists, politicians, philosophers, scientists, elf-watchers and Santa Claus". The result is a book that is informative and factual-based, laced with humorous observations. For instance, I did not know that in Denmark "pre-empting the green man [on the crossing] is a provocative breach of social etiquette" liable to result in people tutting audibly at the transgressor.

There is much to admire in this book; it's true, I think (certainly from down here in New Zealand) that Scandinavian countries hold a certain aura of mystery about them - not only the snow-covered mountains and fjords, but also the history of these areas means that they are considered with some degree of `unknowableness' (if that's a word). So to try to encapsulate their similarities and differences as a group of people is a worthwhile endeavour, and a highly interesting read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical but in a respectful way... 8 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Michael Booth has a great sense of humor. He respectfully, but critically takes on the so-called Nordic Miracle. He writes about the positives and the negatives of the region. He bursts the bubble of several of the myths and also updates the reader on the changes that have taken place in the region over the last several years. I came away still respecting the Nordic countries a great deal, but with a more in-depth understanding of each of the nations and their people. I did not wait for this book to be available in the United States. I ordered it as soon as I saw it in British newspapers and I am not disappointed. In fact, I ordered several copies to give to friends.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was intrigued by this book, having lived in Norway for the last 6 years or so. The various interactions in the comment sections of various Guardian articles gave a taste of things to come - the English humor and overly serious Nordic responses.
However, in the book, the author comes across as a serious Nordophile who is genuinely interested in understanding what made the place like it is. His approach is - surprisingly - well balanced, looking at many social characteristics and traditions; and weighing up many different explanations from reports, popular sociology theorizing (although he seems to have missed out of Putnam for social capital!) and interviews with leading (and, sometimes, slightly dodgy) academics and politicians. Overall, this makes the book a real contribution to the conversation many of us ex-pats have regularly around the coffee machine.

At the same time, it contains tremendous insights into various Nordic social mores, many of which I recognize (even Danish ones, common in Norway); but have not seen or heard described as well before. The potted histories are good - touching on important things, although missing out a few impotent events (eg the UK having to abandon Norway at the start of WW2, that the Norwegian sovereign fund was the idea of an Iranian, but then, it's not a history book), and giving a good overview of how the countries see each other, as well as think of themselves.

Of course real people don't fit nicely into potted analysis of national characters. But it's the exceptions which prove that there is a rule - and much of what's written here is palpable in daily life.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. V. Stewart VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
You know that moment when you're a couple of chapters into a new book and you're enjoying it so much that you turn to the front to see what else the author has written? This is one of those. It's a delightful and thought-provoking analysis of the Nordic countries; I'm particularly impressed with his range of enquiry, which runs from the minute details of social interaction through to some pretty penetrating economic and political analysis, taking in several centuries of history on the way. It's a book that I'll be recommending to friends esteemed for their curiosity, because I can imagine how much pleasure it'll give.

One thing I did want to say, though: this was Book Of The Week on Radio 4, and for once I think that the editing didn't do it justice. The reading concentrated too much on the trivial (and on the intra-Nordic rivalries, which are fiercer than I knew); so much so that I was surprised - pleasantly - when I found that the author gives more in-depth analyses of more serious subjects. It's much more than the advanced 'misogynist guide' that the radio programme conveyed.

It has, of course, made me want to visit almost everywhere, although I've now been warned not to expect too much by way of chatty conversation, to be prepared for very high prices, and at all costs to avoid any delicacy made from shark. And if I were lucky enough to be more than a hovering tourist, this book will have helped me understand much more of what I'm experiencing. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well observed but disappointing to find not more of interest.
Published 14 days ago by Flicka
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good read
Published 17 days ago by Meryl Gentry
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, entertaining, informative
Review courtesy of Disclosure: I read this as an advance reader copy.

Scandinavia is often referred to as some sort of paradise, where all is... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Nicholas
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Enjoyable and informative read
Published 29 days ago by Margaret Nash
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking book
Bought as a christmas present and heard nothing but good reviews from it, my boyfriend won't shut up telling me what goes off in the book every time I see him, he's hooked! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Charlotte
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for your truthfulness
Booth is a sexual refugee in a land he would never have chosen otherwise.
His account of Denmark is honest and will be greeted with grateful recognition by other expats. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Prof. Nancy Graham Holm
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly researched
The book is badly researched and full of errors. Here are some of the most blatant ones about Iceland:
1) Booth maintains two times that Iceland, a former colony of Denmark,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Una Margrét Jónsdóttir
4.0 out of 5 stars Pierre Daninos does Scandinavia
Laughing is a social thing. It’s something you do with other people, or at the very least in their presence. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Athan
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 1 month ago by Space
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
One man's view
Published 2 months ago by J Garstang
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