The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth – a review

This is the book that stirred some considerable debate, by a man that knows the Nordic region well.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People is a light-hearted look at the Nordics by Michael Booth, a journalist for Monocle magazine who previously wrote a series of cookery and travel titles.

Booth, who like fellow Scandophile Helen Russell lives in Denmark. Unlike Russell Booth is married to a Dane, giving him a further insight into the Danish mindset in particular.

Booth’s book was launched to much fanfare, with an editorial in the Guardian that aimed to display the ‘grim truth’ behind the Nordic miracle.This caused considerable upset, and led to a response from writers from each of the five Nordic countries.

Yet surprisingly the book is not particularly critical of the Nordic region, and I suspect the article was as much a publicity-seeking stunt as much as anything else.

Of course Booth mentions the fact that Finland has a high rate of gun ownership and that Danes are some of the biggest users of antidepressants in the world.

He also touches on the darker sides of the region, in particular mentioning the emphasis on conformity and also the problems with integrating immigrants found in many Nordic countries.

However the book is extremely funny, particularly when he describes trying to ‘violate’ the codes of social behaviour in countries such as Sweden.

It is also organised by country, with sections on Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland (clearly Booth does not think Estonia is a Nordic country).

The book is one of the most well-written works by an English-speaker on the region.

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