_Part travelogue, part sociological examination, The Almost Nearly Perfect People is a fascinating romp through Scandinavia punctuated by Booth's witty, sometimes acerbic, observations._
Why I love it
Happiness—that elusive condition of ideal human existence—has been the subject of a number of books over the last few years, but none, perhaps, has delved quite as deeply into the contentment of a specific people as Michael Booth's _The Almost Nearly Perfect People_. The premise of the book is born out of this question, which seems to nag the author at every turn: Why are the Scandinavian countries consistently ranked as the happiest, safest, most fulfilling places to live? The Danes are egalitarians at heart; you're just as likely to meet a brain surgeon as a plumber at cocktail party there (and your boss won't mind when you explain why you're leaving work early). In Iceland, more people believe in the existence of elves than believe in God. Norwegians are by far the wealthiest of the lot, thanks to their generous oil reserves, with an average income of $74,000 a year. And while the Finns may know a thing or two about holding their liquor, their country boasts the best education system in the world. Finally, Sweden, the country that brought the world H&M and IKEA, shines as a paragon of style, social democracy, and economic success. Booth, a British journalist and correspondent for _Monocle_ magazine, is a genial and good-humored guide as he takes us through the highly nuanced cultures of the Nordic countries, nations the rest of the world tends to lump together out of convenience. What ensues is a detailed look at the quirks that define and differentiate each of these cultures and why their natural proclivities may lead them to the plum status of "happiest nation." Part travelogue, part sociological examination, _The Almost Nearly Perfect People_ is a fascinating romp through Scandinavia punctuated by Booth's witty, sometimes acerbic, observations. The formula for happiness, he discovers, may be simpler than we think: work some, but not too much, trust that your neighbors are generally good people, and know how to enjoy a beer when the occasion calls for it, even if it means leaving work early.