Michael Booth – The Almost Nearly Perfect People

There’s been a huge amount of interest in all things Nordic over the last while, particularly with the chattering classes falling over themselves to expound the virtues of the latest imported drama or the next work of Nordic noir we should be reading. Michael Booth has been living among the people that we’ve become so fascinated with and seeks to debunk some of the myths surrounding the area.

It goes into the nitty gritty of the much vaunted healthcare, childcare and education systems. He highlights how many here see their high taxes as a badge of pride, something that makes everyone feel they’re part of a worthwhile system but also outlines how many of those in Denmark that can afford it are now turning toward private healthcare. We also see the way Norway has managed it’s oil windfall and the general level of social care that residents can enjoy throughout the region.

He’s very enthusiastic about pointing out it’s not all a happy clappy party though. He outlines the rise of the far right and some of the objections to immigration and we’re given some of the darker tales of recent times, with church burnings in shootings in schools.

Booth’s tone is often humorous and always very conversational without veering into the mundane. It gives a mix of history, social analysis and some more whimsical anecodes and facts about the various countries. He interviews a wide range of characters and there’s a fair amount of conversation about the various differences between the residents of the Nordic region.

In spite of the problems outlined throughout he holds the systems in these countries as something the rest of the world could aspire to if they’re seeking a new model. Particular praise is given for their level of trust, cohesion, equality and the manner in which they’ve handled their economy. It’s a bit scattershot at times but the book certainly makes for a great overview of these intriguing countries.

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