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Publisher's Summary

Journalist Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians for more than 10 years, and he has grown increasingly frustrated with the rose-tinted view of this part of the world offered up by the Western media. In this timely audiobook, 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, the secrets of their success, and, most intriguing of all, what they think of one another.

Why are the Danes so happy, despite having the highest taxes? Do the Finns really have the best education system? Are the Icelanders as feral as they sometimes appear? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastic oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes?

In The Almost Nearly Perfect People, Michael Booth explains who the Scandinavians are, how they differ and why, and what their quirks and foibles are; and he explores why these societies have become so successful and models for the world. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterized by suffocating parochialism, and populated by extremists of various shades. They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn't easy being Scandinavian.

©2014 Michael Booth (P)2015 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"[A] quick and enjoyable read that is perfect for readers interested in deeper understanding of the cultures behind the headlines." (Library Journal)
"Narrator Ralph Lister does a splendid job covering this informative and often humorous look at Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.... Lister's sterling pronunciation of personal and place names as well as regional terms adds to the feeling of being in each distinct country." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Amazing! Anthropological, historical, entertaining

This is a deep dive into the Nordic/Scandinavian societies of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It goes through each country, compares, contrasts, and is all written by a cynical Brit who is surprised to hear that these countries are consistently ranked among the happiest in the world.

It weaves in enough data and information to be meaningful, but keeps it in the form of a story enough that you're entertained.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Delightful Treck Through The North!

I recommend this work as good primer on all things "Nordic". Good humored, well observed and analyzed there is plenty enough to interest just about every curiosity. Some of the later chapters are even a bit intellectual; though perhaps the author might plead inebriation in mitigation.

Further, I do not find the author prejudiced, simply at times irreverent. For instance, he is oddly insistent against all constitutional monarchies. As a Yank I rather enjoy the authors own "House of Windsor" royal family and do not begrudge the various Scandinavian crowned heads.

In summary: A book well done and well read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Half Genius

First of all the reading is absolutely great, the perfect match to the source material.

The book itself I would split into two halves: the incredible travelogue half, which masterfully describes the cultures and is full of hilarious stories, and the lefty political half which is just muddled and naive (especially given the current climate in Europe). If you have any interest in Scandinavia please do listen to this audiobook, the practical stories and observations here are incredible. It's all just a little weighed down by the authors' politics.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A fabulous tour

What a fabulous tour of Scandanavia and the Nordic peoples, places, prospects, and problems. We join Booth as he glances at the nations and regions from both below and above, enabling us to put into context the admiration and opprobrium cast from afar and lodged from within and among the residents of these states. I'll let it simmer for a couple of weeks and then listen again!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Interesting topic but very opinionated author

Scandinavia and the Nordic countries are fascinating. The author unfortunately is rather opinionated and very biased. There is a lot of British bias which makes it seem as if he is eager to criticize or find fault. It is strongly biased enough that it sometimes makes it frustrating to listen to, even though it is often also enjoyable. In particular the chapters about Iceland are judgmental and biased to the point of being unfair. Hi travel very frequently in the Nordic world and was excited to see a book about the politics and culture of this area. It was just too pedantic and judgmental. Enjoyable only because of the topic but frustrating at times because of the authors delight in fault finding even if it means purposely ignoring evidence and facts.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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the stuff you find 😊

in looking for information on my family's Norwegian blood line, I came across this book. From the "sample" I was hooked, thru Audible I was able to share with my family great humor and person-to-person conversation-like writing that Mr. Booth accomplishes in this book. thank you 👍

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Almost Nearly Un-Derisive View of Scandinavia

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No. Beware the British author who lacks the wit to fulfil his perceived birthright to be a travel humourist. He introduces one of the chapters on Finland by referencing a lyric about Lenin in the Pet Shop Boys' song West End Girls. That's the level of wit.

What was most disappointing about Michael Booth’s story?

Honestly, the title should have been a clue, but I didn't expect the author to be quite SO disdainful about Scandinavia (outside of Finland, which apparently is Nordic, but not Scandinavian). I wasn't expecting the understated, but appreciative, tales of a Bryson book, or a hard-hitting political expose. (The latter hitting closer to the mark in some places). But I did hope for there to be some semblance of affection for the region. Nope. (Except for Finland, of course). Outside the random nice word about this festival over here or that high street design over there, or the natural beauty, it's uniquely lacking in admiration for the area, and for the people in particular.

Which character – as performed by Ralph Lister – was your favorite?

No characters, but he did quite sufficiently capture the snark of the author. More's the pity.

Was The Almost Nearly Perfect People worth the listening time?

There is a good book in there SOMEWHERE. But between the shrill, sarcastic whining of a British ex-pat living a miserable life in Denmark, and the seething polemic against Swedish totalitarianism, I kept wishing for the book to end. (Full disclosure: by the last half dozen chapters, I was running it at 2x). There is a point, about 3/4 of the way, in the Finland chapters, where it becomes slightly more tolerable. But then it turns into a raving loony screed about the fascist history of the Swedes. He does apologise for being a "snotty Brit", and touches on the positives by the end, but it's too little, too late. I wish he'd spent more time covering the positives IN the book, rather than in the wrap-up.

Any additional comments?

I tend to choose books carefully, and on topics that interest me. So I rarely have the misfortunate of having to write a negative review. I took this book because my knowledge of this region is woefully scant. I feel none the wiser after this ramble, however. The one saving grace may be that it has piqued my interest to find the true nature of Scandinavia. Perhaps it is as bad as is presented here, but this book is just unpleasant.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Now understanding my Scandinavian roots!

This book was incredibly entertaining for me as I am part Danish and Norwegian. I was shaking my head in laughter at many of the traits I have and had no clue why. Now I know! we just returned from a visit to Iceland and Sweden last month and the writer was spot on about these cultures as well. The narrator was excellent as well, He really brought the book to life.

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Entertaining but of little use.

The author does a wonderful job of telling a story and has a lovely wit. I enjoyed the book as an introduction to a part of the world I knew relatively little about.

The narrator does an excellent job. it's hard to believe that the narrator is not the author as he clearly understands and expresses every nuance perfectly. The narration is probably the strongest aspect of the audiobook.

I read nonfiction to clarify my view of the world and my understanding of human nature as well as to refine my own view of how things should be politically. This book was of no help in that regard as the author shows upsides and downsides to every aspect of life in each of the Nordic countries. Too often, he contradicts himself by playing devil's advocate a bit too enthusiastically.

Finally, like the book, The Spirit Level, which the author frequently references, he draws far too many inferences from correlation, rather than extending the argument to actual evidence of causation.

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good book

I loved listening to the cultural exposition but am not too keen on his self described grumpy attitude towards the countries and people he writes about. however I believe that he tempers these comments fairly well with humor.