On the North of happiness, wealth and sauna

Nonfiction book review.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia
By Michael Booth / Vintage Publishing, February 2015. £7.99. ISBN: 9780099546078

Michael Booth is a British freelance Journalist and award – winning for his numerous non – fiction books. His field of interest: food and travel, Japan and France and most importantly, Nordic countries. Hi book ‘The almost nearly perfect people’ is the writer’s hit of uncovering what it is behind of the Nordic countries’ wealthy and happy global reputation, by using neologisms, euphemisms and sometimes, sarcasms.

Booth introduces the topic with an extraordinary sense of humour, preparing the readers for future pleasurable pages. His definition of ‘who Scandinavians are’ warns the readers about his confidence, in regards to the topic. How come he dare to add Finns and Icelanders in the exclusive circle of wealthy people with fancy furniture?

Hygge, happiness & Wealth. The Danish section is a compilation of good connections between Gini’s index and happiness as variable. Connecting hypothetically wealth with happiness, he tried to discover the complexity behind of those associations in a way that let the readers formulate questions and amuse by extension. Is it possible to live in a very expensive country and smile 24/7? The country is ranked as one of the best countries to live as per quality of life index. Sarcastically, to reach such a happiness, do we have to live as ordinary Danish? Maybe the happiness is a matter of personal definition, readers could think.

Jumping up to the Norwegian land. Booth’s tone and his sense humor, reflected on the nickname ‘Dubai of the North’, seems to be different. Starting with 17th of May parade seems to be the perfect strategy to relax the audience for what he will tell us soon. Booth drives the audience’s attention towards two main points: Norwegians and immigrants and Norwegians and oil. Booth highlights past episodes: the murder of a young foreigner by radicals and how the oil shaped the society and determined the protectionist, closedness and indifference Norwegian behaviors. By the end of this part, Booth claims a truce, when he ends the chapter by telling the public: “It would be suit the Norwegians so much better to show a little more openness and generosity of spirit.” (p. 215)

Having an enjoyable time at the sauna. Booth’s sense of humor seems not have bounder when the reflector is on Finland. He opened the chapter by using a comical neologism which makes the reading more pleasurable. Here a bite: “If you ask me, they should just change the word ‘fantastic’ to ‘Finntastic’. Helsinki? Heavensinki more like” (p. 221). The climax is reached when he described his own experience at the Fins sauna, through the controversy of the nakedness rule. It must be admitted that the historical connection between cultural factors and the obsession for alcohol is well structured and motivates the audience to understand taciturnity Finnishness.

As per Sweden and Iceland. The sense of humor as a speech device does not change. He used it to uncover Elves’ belief and the defects of the democracy. Unfortunately, this chapter of the book do not present a well informed and strong connections as presented before, even if he uses allegorical resources to picture the iconic of each country, for instance Bjork.

The book is just a perspective from which it is possible to understand these cultures. The book is just an enjoyable reading while commuting work or waiting for the hairdresser. The Booth’s unique selling point is his writing style, but it never must take as a guide to understand a whole culture.

If you enjoy this book review, please subscribe for newsletter or  Contact me.