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The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  5,379 ratings  ·  800 reviews
A Finnish journalist, now a naturalized American citizen, asks Americans to draw on elements of the Nordic way of life to nurture a fairer, happier, more secure, and less stressful society for themselves and their children.

Moving to America in 2008, Finnish journalist Anu Partanen quickly went from confident, successful professional to wary, self-doubting mess. She found t
ebook, 448 pages
Published June 28th 2016 by Harper
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Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: february, 2016
Utterly charming and incredibly informative -- though a side effect of reading it will be an incredible desire to move to a Nordic country, because America is stupid.
Jess Sohn
Anu Partanen does not convince me of anything new about America and Nordic countries. This book was a tiresome, shallow, didactic experience of a Finnish woman lecturing about America's problems, after less than a decade of living in this country. Partanen's perspective is privileged, unrelatable, and unsympathetic to most Americans who actually live here for a significant time, and under conditions that are actually oppressive and debilitating. (If your worst concession is that you'll have to m ...more
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Americans, please don't read this book. If more Americans would read it, they will probably invade the Nordic countries. ...more
The beginning of this book impressed me, because the author makes a fresh argument about how the lack of a social safety net in the US actually makes us less free, not just by constraining our opportunities based on our family background, but also by forcing our social relationships to bear the weight of responsibilities like health care and education. Why should your health care depend on a spouse or your education on your human, fallible parents, and why do we equate that with freedom? What th ...more
April Spaugh
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book at the library because the title was intriguing and I liked the look of the cover. After reading the dust jacket I thought it would be a lot of socialist drivel but decided to read it anyway.

The author was born, raised and worked in Finland. She moved to the United States in 2008 and married an American. She became a US citizen in 2013 and still lives here.

I ended up being extremely impressed with this book overall. The main premise is the comparison between the governments
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it

I kept having to put it down, because it was too depressing.

A Finnish journalist, now an American citizen, breaks down the way the Finnish system of healthcare, school, and taxation works to show how absolutely SCREWED America is unless we make drastic (but perfectly logical) changes. She talks about the Nordic theory of love: by freeing up families from the burdens of working extra hours to afford healthcare or better schools or elder care, you free them up to love their families w
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I believe that as a Canadian, I was the perfect audience for this book. Since I am not Finnish (or from any other Nordic country) I am not bored by the topic. Since I am not American, I am not insulted?

Canada has a lot of Nordic leanings (or at least we are much closer than the States in many things), which means it would be even easier to make some of the changes. Especially with school and parental leave and vacations and sick days!

Mostly I wish every country in the whole world had the Baby
Jacob Simmering
Feb 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
In short:

Partanen claims things are great in the Nordic states and terrible in the US and uses apples-to-oranges comparisons and cherry-picked data combined with personal anecdotal claims to support this argument. Even more surprisingly, she does not seem to understand, or potentially even be aware, of the social history of the United States and how 1) that social history differs from the Nordic states and 2) the extent to which social history determines, or at least constrains, the present and
Peter Herrmann
Aug 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm sympathetic - even envious - of Nordic culture (gone to Iceland twice, Norway once ... and would move to Iceland if my wife would - but it's not in the cards). The reasons I rate this book - am still reading it - 3 stars vs 4|5 are: A) too verbose B) doesn't delve deeper into key underlying differences between the Nordics and U.S. : culture & tradition. On page 77, for instance, "An American friend ... fumed to me about a female colleague of his who was asking to work part-time from home af ...more
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The ideas shared by Anu Partanen are practical, beneficial to all, and make (to me) strong common-sense, provoking in me a response of "Why aren't we doing this here?" (with "here" being the United States.)

Yes, I know. The U.S. is a larger, more diverse country than the Nordic countries. But that is not the point. The point lies in the philosophy of how we believe people should be treated. Partanen's book covers education, health care, family values, human-organization relationships, and the No
Oct 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
This was disappointing. I wanted much more but this turned out to be a very shallow overview of the differences between the U.S. And Nordic countries. I knew I wouldn't like this when the author quoted David Brooks and made the argument that the U.S. should institute more humane policies because they make people better workers. Yikes. My main gripe with this book is that it didn't dive deep into the reasons why the U.S. doesn't have sufficient public healthcare, parental leave, and childcare inf ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
Do not be fooled - this is not one of the currently-trendy books about 'hygge' and all the ways that Scandinavians excel at coziness and contentment. Rather, this is a treatise on how Scandinavian social policies create a better life for all because they are ultimately based on what the author calls the Nordic Theory of Love. Essentially, as the author says, "Henrik Berggren—put together their observations on individualism and formulated something they called “the Swedish theory of love.” The co ...more
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book makes me want to move to Finland.
Graeme Roberts
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Nordic Theory of Everything is a must-read for people everywhere, but particularly for residents of the United States. Anu Partanen is a Finnish writer and journalist who fell in love with an American writer at a conference, and eventually moved to New York. She relates her experience in moving from a society that takes care of everything, including education, health care, maternity and child care, maternity and paternity leave, old age care, unemployment and more, to an America in which man ...more
This was almost nothing like The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth, which I read last summer. I liked that one a lot, too, but that was a sort of travelogue and humorous survey of all the Nordic countries by a non-Nordic admirer of the lifestyles and social policies of the five nations. This book, by contrast, is told by a Finnish journalist who moves to the USA for love and then applies her Finland-honed sense of justice to her new country, comparing and contrasting Finland and the ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I originally picked up this book because I was curious about the Nordic countries and the social policies that underpin their economic strength and happy populations. I learned a great deal about the successful education, healthcare, and labor policies there, but what I also got was a comparison of life in the Nordic region with life in the United States. These two parts of the world share many democratic values such as freedom, independence, and equality. But they differ in their practical appr ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
I seem to be on Nordic kick, devouring books right and left about this stretch of Europe that seems to hold so much promise for a better way of life. I've read at least two Anglo-goes-to-Denmark books, and this seemed like it would provide a nice counterpoint, insofar as the author is Finnish and moves to New York to be with her long-distance partner.

Now, I should preface this by saying that the author seems like a nice person. She worked as a journalist in Finland, and the book has a kind of j
This book reinforced what I've been thinking about: the United States can--and must--do better by its citizens. While far from perfect, Partanen portrays a society in which children have a much better opportunity for social mobility than is currently the situation in the U.S. Work is much more integrated into life, giving generous parental leaves and allowing parental responsibilities to be better and more comfortably met, not only by more reasonable working hours than we currently have here in ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5. The argument is not bad, but the execution isn't great. It's pretty simplistic for 300 pages, it's unnecessarily long-winded, and it doesn't get to some of the real reasons the American system is so difficult to change. ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I’m ready to move to Finland. I’m used to ice, snow, and wind here in South Dakota, and Finland’s approach to freedom from want seems very attractive.

What could be wrong with a system that provides each of its citizens with health care, day care, excellent schools from Pre K through PhD, and a reliable pension system? Taxes you say? If you count the cost of day care, after school care, health insurance, and a university education, the Finns get a better deal financially. Taxes in Finland are no
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was really impressed with this book. The author, Finnish-born, is a journalist with both personal and professional perspectives on Scandinavian policy, government, and culture. She has lived in the States for many years and her specific comparisons of what I now understand as the "well-being state" (as opposed to the "welfare state" or the "nanny state") and our current policies regarding the health and welfare of our citizens are clear and persuasive. She speaks often about smart policy being ...more
Jun 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Its an interesting book, but despite her pages and pages of bibliography in the back, I felt that this book lacked any valuable depth. Her common theme (on every single page of the book) is that the US government doesn't take care of its citizens and look how wonderfully the Finnish government does. Look how it easy it is to implement this. Why can't you do it America? It got really tiresome towards the end. She lives in two worlds, New York and Finland. Although her appreciation and love for Am ...more
Laila Collman
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist, examines the disparity between the American dream and its current reality, and shows how America might adapt its current healthcare, childcare, education, and taxation approaches to resemble more effective models demonstrated by Scandinavian countries. She points out the irony of a county forcing the majority of its people into systems of inequality and dependence under the illusion of preserving their freedom, while asking the relevant question: can you truly ...more
This book provided some interesting insights and the writing was great. I'm looking forward to reading more about Sweden and it's history. ...more
Derick Edgren
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
TL;DR: What begins as a compelling deconstruction of the American dream and its impossible access in a country that denies its people basic rights becomes a shallow and feverish love letter to the US, glorifying the country as a diverse and beautiful melting pot founded on freedom and liberty ( wasn’t).

I find the first half of the book is far more compelling than the second. Leading by explaining why the United States is in fact more socialist than a Nordic country for our dependence on spo
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a hugely important book that every American should read. Anu Partanen offers a fascinating description of what life could be like under more progressive government policies, and expertly dispels many myths that Americans hold about Nordic countries. Moreover, she clearly explains the problems and contradictions at the heart of American society, and presents an incredibly useful template for explaining the benefits of more universal "wellbeing" policies in terms that Americans will unders ...more
Chris Aylott
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finnish-born journalist Anu Partanen is too polite to say it herself, so I'll say it for her. Compared to what the Finns and citizens of other Nordic countries are doing, the way Americans handle wages, unemployment, health insurance, and education stinks.

Parnatanen shows how the Finnish system fosters ambition and success by securing each individual's connection to basic resources, education, and medical care. The key to understanding the system, according to her, is that it is not altruistic.
Jul 24, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked it and wish our schools adopted Finnish methods. If I was younger and had school age kids, I would be thinking seriously about moving to a Nordic country--though their winters are not appealing to me after living in Arizona for 15 years.

From the book: “Fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than a citizen of the US.”

“The US has strayed from its own ideals, and in reality, Americans today enjoy less o
May 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
Just.Cannot.Finish (or should I say Finnish?)

May be if this book was more about how to implement "The Nordic Theory of Love" (if I hear that phrase one more time I may gag) within the confines of everyday life here in America, it would have been helpful. But what we get instead is a "This is what's wrong with the US. This is how we do it better." And yet... the author choose to give up that life to move to the US. Several of her points are valid, and my grandmother was 100% Swedish so I understo
Ryan McCauley
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
For anyone who’s ever wanted an honest and clear comparison of America and the Nordic ways, this is for you. Everything from politics, universal health care, paid vacations, the psychology between all existing human relationships, etc. are all covered in this book. Slightly depressed at how much work needs to be done in America, but so excited at the potential there really is.
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