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The Almost Nearly Perfect People [Paperback]

Michael Booth
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
Price: 10.49 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Feb 2014

As heard on Book of the Week, Radio 4

The whole world wants to learn the secrets of Nordic exceptionalism: why are the Danes the happiest people in the world, despite having the highest taxes? If the Finns really have the best education system, how come they still think all Swedish men are gay? Are the Icelanders really feral? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastical oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes?

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, whether it be for their food, television, social systems or chunky knitwear.

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 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.

They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn't easy being Scandinavian.


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The Almost Nearly Perfect People + The Xenophobe's Guide to the Finns (Xenophobe's Guides) + The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swedes (Xenophobe's Guides)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224089625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224089623
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A lively and endearing portrait of our friends in the north." (Mariella Frostrup Guardian)

"An enjoyable, funny romp through the region...[Booth's] enthusiasm is contagious." (Telegraph)

"Every page contains at least one extraordinary fact about one or other of the Nordic countries." (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

"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)

"Booth is an assiduous excavator of entertaining facts." (Damian Whitworth The Times)

Book Description

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


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable journey through all things Nordic 10 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What`s behind the statement that the Nordic cousins are "the happiest people on the planet"? It deserves an investigation. Michel Booth a resident of Copenhagen provides a good extended synopsis; written with a dry sense of humour.
What makes these nations enjoy an unrivalled security; cradle to grave social care? The recurring concept of "hygge" (an untranslatable that means a complete absence of anything annoying). A word that appears in everyday speech in Denmark, but a concept that permeates the Nordic world. However, if all is well in the northern front, why not an en masse migration from their European cousins? However, let me say this: with the "trust" and "social cohesion" that exists in countries like Denmark, I would rather live there any day. So, Perhaps all is not well in the "state of Denmark" and its Nordic neighbours, but they are "nearly perfect". The author explores the paradoxes, and taboos that permeates the Nordic world. A great amusing and educational read. The best book I have read in the last decade.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
I eagerly anticipated this book having long been fascinated by the nordic region and Denmark and Sweden in particular. Copenhagen is my favourite European city. Booth , using a " Bill Brysonesque" style of interview, history, politics,personal bias, humour and insight gradually explores and explains these reserved egalitarian societies. Finland and Iceland were new to me in all senses and these chapters I enjoyed most. If the west is to match the bric and mint countries then we all need to learn from the nordic model and how they have achieved success.
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7 of 8 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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6 of 7 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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost excellent 10 Feb 2014
By Jon
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is a lot of interesting fact, thought and analysis here. The presentation style is relaxed and the structure is sensible. Things that irritated me were small facts that are clearly wrong. Sweden switched from driving on the left to the right in 1963, if that's wrong what else might be? And he does let himself down with a sudden anti-monarchist rant but it doesn't go on tooo long.
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By annie
Format:Paperback
I found it very amusing in parts, probably because I have spent a lot of time in Scandinavia and recognised many of the 'types' (or stereotypes) described. The use of numerous sets of statistics (some scientific, others less so) were, on the whole, less interesting and I skipped large chunks.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars so made a great
Not available in the US, so made a great present
Published 6 days ago by Mad Marky
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit heavy going
As an exercise in comparing the various Nordic peoples this is reasonably successful. However I found it concentrated a bit too much on the Danes and yet failed to pick up how... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mrs J Johansen
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening, intelligent and entertaining
This tongue in cheek book was very well researched and informed and very witty. A thoroughly entertaining Brit's eye insider look at the Nordic phenomenon. Read more
Published 24 days ago by MrsM
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Nearly Factual
FYI: I grew up speaking English and have lived in Sweden for 15+ years. It’s impossible for me not to want to make a comment. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jonathan D. Stubbs
5.0 out of 5 stars A painless and pleasant way to learn a little more about our...
We here in the UK hear very little about our Nordic neighbours Denmark, Sweden, Norway which in this book also includes Finland and Iceland. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John M Ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars as a Brit living in CPH for 10yrs now, I confirm Mike has firmly...
This is an insightful review, arguably a dissection, of Nordic society illustrated with a mixture of high profile interviews and denigrating personal experience. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting indeed!
An obviously subjective, but nevertheless fascinating insight into the life of Scandinavians. A must for any 'Nordophile'! Would thoroughly recommend this to anyone though!
Published 1 month ago by Bohuslav Romanenko
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended - fascinating insights on life in modern...
One of the most well observed and enjoyable books about what it means to live in Scandinavia today. As a fellow Brit living in Norway (as opposed to Denmark) there were plenty of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and informative book
As I was going to Denmark to visit friends this book seemed the right one to read. I was right. It is very wittily written and full of useful information. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Martin Booth
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Informative Read
Entertaining and informative at the same time. An easy read from an author who not only knows his subject but did his research and delivered it without over facing with statistics.
Published 1 month ago by A Good Book
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