The Almost Nearly Perfect People. Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.
Vintage 2015, 393 pages
I’d say this would be the perfect gift for your favorite Scandinavian, but you’ll probably end up keeping this for yourself.
Michael Booth is a British gentleman (read the book and you'll understand why I use this particular word!) who lives in Denmark and has traveled throughout the Nordic countries in order to take a deeper look at the societies and peoples of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. He has interviewed politicians, historians, philosophers, scientists, artists, and Santa Claus.
This book made me laugh every few pages and I’ve spent the last couple of days reading passages out loud to the rest of my family.
And I’m not raving about this just because he writes: „I think the Finns are fantastic. I can’t get enough of them. I would be perfectly happy for the Finns to rule the world. They get my vote, they’ve won my heart.“ (Well, maybe a little...we’re all suckers for this kind of flattery, aren’t we?) It’s his unpretentious style and dry British humor combined with loads of cultural, historical, and economical information that makes this worth reading.
He tries to find out why Denmark is considered to be the happiest place in the world, gives a short description of the economic crash in Iceland and there’s a bit about elves too (they had nothing to do with the crash), and delves into how the discovery of oil has changed Norway (and explains why the country ran out of butter in 2011).
His sauna experience in Helsinki will make you (or any Finns reading this anyway) laugh out loud, as will his description of the day he decides to go about Stockholm "behaving as un-Swedishly as possible, the theory being that, by acting in diametric opposition to Swedish social norms, I would be better able to identify and observe said norms.” (So read the book and find out what happens when he crunches through a bag of chips and slurps his coke next to a ‚no eating or drinking‘ sign at the Nobel Museum, crosses the street while the light is still red, and so forth.)
After you’re done reading, you can take a couple of minutes to watch the youtube video he recommends, titled simply ‚Danish Language‘ before booking a flight to the Nordic country of your choice.
Also, I’m almost nearly sure that it’s the Scandinavians who will be most amused by this book!