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The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  8,770 ratings  ·  1,200 reviews
Journalist Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians for more than ten years and 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, th ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 6th 2014 by Jonathan Cape
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Anca Yes, it has been entertaining and I loved the author's humorous tone. Also, there are quite a lot of things I learned about Scandinavians and their so…moreYes, it has been entertaining and I loved the author's humorous tone. Also, there are quite a lot of things I learned about Scandinavians and their society, which makes me want to go back there and experience it all for a while, this time from a new perspective.(less)
Barry Davidoff The book is very accurate. I lived in Sweden for 7 years. The book depicts the problems of taxation and stagnation. As I write this in Dec. 2018 Swede…moreThe book is very accurate. I lived in Sweden for 7 years. The book depicts the problems of taxation and stagnation. As I write this in Dec. 2018 Sweden had deadlocked for 4 months on a new prime minister. The author correctly predicted the rise of the Swedish far right party.(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  8,770 ratings  ·  1,200 reviews


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Caroline
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books, world
This is a book about Scandinavia - judged time and time again by various polls to be the happiest and most satisfying place to live in the world.

Yet we British ignore it. I came to this book with high levels of ignorance.... It made me realise how much we look south - towards France, Italy, Spain and Greece. We want sunshine and olives, and Mediterranean waves lapping at our feet. We don't give a hoot about the northern lands, and their strange cold habits.

Well, more fool us. This book is fascin
...more
Diane
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Diane by: Caroline
This is my new favorite book, and I'm excited to start pestering others to read it.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People is my idea of a perfect read, with its elements of travelogue, history, anthropological and sociological observations, all peppered with British humor. A blurb quote on my copy described it as "Bill Bryson goes to Scandinavia," which is a good description.

Michael Booth is a British journalist who lives in Denmark. One day he saw a story in the newspaper about the Danes being ranked
...more
Gini
Jan 08, 2015 rated it did not like it
I really wanted this book to be good.
And I am SO mad that it was terrible!
Ugh.
This is exactly the topic that I want to read about--why do we have this pervasive envy of all things Scandinavian? Is it deserved? What are the Scandinavian countries really like, are they really paradise on earth? What aren't we seeing through our worship of them?
This book looks like it will answer these questions, but it answers none. It is a poorly written blog post of a book. "Here is a personal anecdote about the
...more
Esil
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I listened to the audio of The Almost Nearly Perfect People. It was entertaining, interesting and thought provoking. Michael Booth is a Brit who has moved to Denmark, as his wife wanted to return to her home country. From this vantage point, Booth sets out to write a book about the people of Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and to explore what makes their lives different, better, worse and odd, compared to each other and especially compared to the rest of the world. His starting poi ...more
Terje Enge
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am a Scandinavian who was based in Norway for more than sixty years, this book shows that I'm not even close to perfect.
But this book is: It is good written, it is funny and it even gave a Norwegian new insight(!).
It is both a critique and hymn to the supposedly the happiest, most trusting and successfull people on this planet.
I always loved Denmark, I even planned to move to Copenhagen once upon a time. After having read this book I'm glad I didn't. I learned that the Norwegians are even more
...more
Marianne
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
"I'm from Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Iceland/Finland, don't you know WHERE THAT IS?" *Cue offended eye rolling*

Yes, we're all been there. At some point in our lives we all learned a valuable lesson, even some Europeans don't know where our countries are situated.

If you're from any of the Nordic countries, you'll most likely have been asked one or more of the following questions more than once:

1. Norway? Isn't that the capital of Sweden?
2. All Swedes are blond, so why is your hair brown?
3. Denmark? O
...more
Henna Pääkkönen
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I am still laughing out loud here, having just finished this book.
As a typical Finn, i enjoyed reading about how a foreigner sees my fellow countrymen, as well as having a good laugh about it, but this book was in fact much more. It is an insight into the Nordics (country by country) by an Englishman who has lived 10+ years in Denmark and set on a mission across the Nordics to understand these societies...
The book is hilarious, and drills into the national stereotypes, jokes about them and tries
...more
Andrew Davis
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
A set of observations on each of the Scandinavian countries, including Iceland by a journalist married to Danish woman. An interesting as a personal view or set of observations but without much background in history or sociology. A bit pedestrian, especially that some of the views are strictly personal without too much support in facts or wider analysis. Still managed to get through 80% of the text but run out of patience when reading about Sweden - the last country discussed. Apart from Malmo a ...more
Becky
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely engrossing look at the people and societies that make up the Nordic countries. I should probably come clean and admit that I have a deep fondness for this part of the world, a fondness that in the case of Finland probably extends into pure adulation. I have spent happy times in the various countries, love the films, avidly read the books and cheer on the sportsmen. If the whole place wasn't so very expensive to visit, and if speaking/hearing the languages didn't so often gi ...more
Ken
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting tour through the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Only Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are technically "Scandinavian" and they're thick as thieves if you consider their history (which none of us has, truth be told).

Michael Booth goes with the winsome tone of a happy-go-lucky, sometimes wise-guy traveler. His topics are odd ones at times. For instance, in Denmark there's a chapter called "Hot Tub Sandwiches," in Iceland, one called "Elves" (yes, m
...more
zachary
Michael Booth is a British journalist living in Denmark and he's determined to figure out what makes the Scandinavians so special. What is a myth and what is truth? Is anything true? Is anything a myth? Moore takes it upon himself to solve the mysteries of the North; heading out to an adventure that takes him from offices of politicians to Santa Claus' home in the middle of summer.

As someone who is Scandinavian, this book definitely appealed to me because... well, it's always nice to see how fol
...more
Sara Sather
Dec 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
I abandoned this book because it seems the author's point of view was negatively established prior to writing it. Dude doesn't dig the Scandinavian way of life, and that seemed like the thesis statement for the book. If I wanted to read someone's complaints and twisted judgements, I'd find some right wing blog. ...more
Mina
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Mina by: Euroman.dk
The narrator is by turns startled, amazed and britishly shocked as he recounts his Mr. Bean-like antics in the Nordic countries. If culture be expressed and passed on through stories, as a journalist, Michael Booth strikes a good balance between analysis and anecdotes. The narrator offers a general, simple (perhaps simplistic) bird's-eye view of Nordic cultures, as well as an accessible take on thorny issues from many perspectives.

Alas, this is how I imagine people felt when they learned there w
...more
Owlseyes


“Where to Invade Next” becomes almost giddily optimistic once Mr. Moore visits Norway to investigate that country’s prisons; the maximum sentence is 21 years. Even convicted murderers are housed in the equivalent of small Manhattan studio apartments equipped with televisions and cookware, even sharp utensils. No one is locked in solitary confinement, prisoners have a lot of mobility and the principal punishment is separation from the rest of society."
in:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/mov
...more
Chaunceton Bird
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining and enlightening journey through the five Nordic nations. As an Englishman, Michael Booth's writing is witty enough to keep one chuckling throughout. This is also filled to the brim with statistics about each nation, and, coupled with the author's personal experiences and interviews conducted in these countries, Mr. Booth's book really covers all the bases. I recommend this to anybody interested in what makes these nations world leaders in everything important. ...more
Neil Fox
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
The World currently finds itself besotted with all things Nordic - our prime time TV features Danish detectives, we are in awe of Swedish minimalist design, Scandinavian cuisine is all the rage in New York and Educationalists from around the Globe traipse around the Finnish school system on a weekly basis to marvel at and pay homage to what is touted as the World's best. Seemingly we can't get enough of what this previously ignored frigid corner of Northern Europe has to offer.

Michael Booth, a l
...more
Caroline
(Full disclosure: book abandoned on page 76 [out of 416 pages].)

Dry. I was expecting an engaging book in the vein of Bill Bryson's work, but Michael Booth is--at least in the first 76 pages--preoccupied with tax issues and finely detailed history of Denmark (the book's first chapter). It reads like a textbook.
...more
Pink
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting premise, but too long and repetitive in nature to hold my interest until the end.
Amanda
Several revellers have climbed on to the tables and are dancing gingerly, but with enthusiasm, arms in the air, silly hats akimbo, their shirts still tucked firmly into their shorts. It is time for me to crawl off to a darkened room.
This is Sweden.
This is so not Sweden.

Let's be honest, this isn't going to be a review. It'll be a long list of my favorites quotes (and, because there needs to be some constructive criticism, I've put that in the end for anyone who's interested). Also, most of th
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is basically the world’s longest magazine article. I kept reading because the author had a great idea for a book: we in the English-speaking world are always idealizing the Nordic countries, but we don’t actually know much about what it’s like to live there, nor do we visit them very often or learn their languages. So the author, a Brit married to a Dane and living in Copenhagen, proposed to travel around these countries and report on, as the bookjacket claims, “how they may not be as happy ...more
Justin
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I should state off the bat that this won't be an objective review. I know the author and I have done plenty of writing myself about the foibles and fortes of the Danes, my hosts and neighbors for the past four years.

But in The Almost Nearly Perfect People, Michael Booth has written something more comprehensively informative and hilariously opinionated than I could possibly hope to do about my adopted country. If that weren't enough, he did the same for Denmark's four Nordic neighbors: Sweden, N
...more
Holly
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads, audio
I was under no delusion that the Nordic countries were utopias. There's some endemic racism, for example. But it surely can't hurt for us (Americans) to strive to be more like Norway or Finland! The author of this book, a Brit living in Denmark, sets out to dispel those impressions of Scandinavian utopias, but Booth happens to truly and unabashedly love these countries too. So he mixes the myth-busting with fascinatingly detailed discussions of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden - and ...more
Niels Wang-Holm
Nov 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
What a bunch of crap - it would be funny, if just half of what he wrote was based on some sort of factual evidence. But it seems he is just picking it up from the top of his head as he goes along.
Also, in his writing style he comes of as an arrongant neoliberal conservative, complaining about taxes and equality, wishing that that things were as they are in his home country the UK - so if things are better in the UK, why does he and his family choose to live in Denmark? Maybe because of the welfa
...more
Emily Fortuna
Oct 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
Could not finish this. I was really disappointed with how the author conflated "happiness" and "well being" with outward, public displays of joy. The author conflates these two different things for the effect of entertainment rather than providing an honest representation. ...more
Kristen
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Booth's look at the politics and culture of Scandinavia is highly funny and readable. What I found most interesting is how much of what we take for granted as a fact of life is really dependent a nation's culture. In Denmark and Sweden, for example, doing or saying anything that might suggest you are better than someone else in any way is considered incredibly rude. People do not talk about winning awards or how well their kids are doing in school. Booth spends a lot of time talking about this a ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The question of everyone's mind these days seems to be: What's so great about Scandinavia? Michael Booth, an Englishman living in Denmark, decides to explore this question and ventures out to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark and tries to put his finger on what makes the people of these countries so happy. Booth manages to take a close look at the social nets in place, the comprehensive health care systems, the amazing educational systems, and the Scandinavians' perceived happiness a ...more
Amy J.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After almost nearly 400 pages of witty snark, I could have done without the wimpy epilogue which felt like either an afterthought or a 'wow, I've just insulted five entire countries so now I should apologize' realization. (I think that if you're going to take on an entire world region: own it). Either way, I thought that it detracted from this laugh-out-loud view of Scandinavia and the idea that it's the happiest region on earth. For many reasons, these countries are not perfect (because they ar ...more
Lena
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, dnf
DNF page 94

It started off amusing and even, then descended into Dane bashing. Everything from the fact that they like flags to their love of cozy evenings can apparently be reduced to racism. Then there was the smugness:
Well, I don't mean to correct a Harvard business school teacher but...
Well, I know you've been studying and writing tax code since the 60s but...
Well, I know you wrote the happiness index but...
Well, I know you define Scandinavian as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden but...
I did not en
...more
Jo
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Booth is a Brit married to a Dane and resides in his wife's homeland. Here he decides to explore the myth that Scandinavia and the people who live there are perfect, affluent and happier than the rest of the world. I found this really interesting and I feel like I learned a lot of things too. Would recommend this to anyone interested in the Nordic lands. ...more
Bettie
(view spoiler)

NB On sites that allow 1/2 stars this is showing at half a star.
...more
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Michael Booth is an English food and travel writer and journalist who writes regularly for a variety of newspapers and magazines including the Independent on Sunday, Condé Nast Traveller, Monocle and Time Out, among many other publications at home and abroad. He has a wife, Lissen, and two children, Asger and Emil.

In June 2010 Michael Booth won the Guild of Food Writers/Kate Whiteman Award for wor
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