While coming back from our last trip to Iceland, I was walking around the airport bookstore and this book caught my eye. The book’s covers were tongue in cheek and I made a mental note to read it. I for one have definitely had the author’s experience, seeing the endless surveys and headlines about how great the Scandinavian countries are. Having visited Iceland a couple times I couldn’t help but agree, but maybe there was something I had missed. In The Almost Nearly Perfect People, Michael explores the 5 Nordic countries, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden and tries to discern what makes them tick. He explores if everything we read in the newspapers like that they are the happiest people in the world is actually true.
What is most striking about the book is he’s able to dig through some dark topics in each nation while still making the reader smile. It was fascinating to read about their past ties to Nazis and how some of their citizens have strong anti-immigration sentiment while others are pushing to expand their large welfare state and espouse their progressive attitudes. Clearly, as homogeneous as these nations appear they still have divergent opinions. Aside from the dark topics he also shows what works about these nations, how they are able to leverage their collectivist attitude to garner universal trust, self-control and openness and how they are so successful financially.
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia