Review: The Nordic Theory of Everything

June 18, 2016 non-fiction 12 ★★★★

Review: The Nordic Theory of EverythingTitle: The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life
Author: Anu Partanen
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: A bit repetitive and a mix of uplifting and depressing, but I really enjoyed learning about the government and social structure of other countries.

When Finnish journalist Anu Partanen moved to the United States, she found herself overwhelmed by anxiety. The lack of a social support system, especially public healthcare, and the complexity of everything from taxes to securing a child’s education was shocking compared to the ease and security provided to citizens in Finland. By comparing and contrasting the social services provided in the US and the Nordic countries, she “debunks criticism that Nordic countries are socialist “nanny states,” revealing instead that it is we Americans who are far more enmeshed in unhealthy dependencies than we realize. As Partanen explains step by step, the Nordic approach allows citizens to enjoy more individual freedom and independence than we do.” (source)

Even though I felt the last few chapters of this book got a bit repetitive, I enjoyed it all the way through. I mostly found it uplifting to read about places that sound as utopian as the Nordic countries and uplifting is important to me as I slog through writing my thesis!  It was also depressing at times, comparing our current system to that in Finland, but I think the author is doing a great thing just by making people aware that a system like that in Finland can work. The benefits of their system in terms of education, elder care, and work-life balance sound pretty incredible. It’s fair to say I’m a convert!

In particular, I admired the author’s ability to show how much better things could be in the US without being patronizing. There are clearly things she loves about the US as well as Finland. She recognizes the things that are done well here and ends the book with the description of the ceremony in which she became a US citizen. I think there are probably people who have such diametrically opposed political views to the author’s that they couldn’t enjoy reading or learn from this book. However, I think that’s no fault of the author’s. While she does clearly have strong beliefs, she’s never offensive or belligerent and I loved learning from her. Regardless of the implications of the book for US politics, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves learning about other countries. The compare and contrast with the US made this a great primer for an American interested in other cultures.

12 Responses to “Review: The Nordic Theory of Everything”

  1. Resh Susan

    I keep seeing about the education system and gov policies of Finland. (And their amazing education policies). SO I can imagine how difficult she must have been to be in another country. This would be a very interesting read indeed

    • DoingDewey

      It was so interesting! I think if I was planning on having children, I’d feel more as though I should move there. As is, I’m still jealous of many of their social policies, but I don’t think it would be enough to make up for the lack of sunlight so much of the year!

  2. Heather

    This sounds really interesting! Does she go into details about how their economy works as far as taxes, etc., and how the government allocates funds to different things to allow them to have the systems they do have?

    • DoingDewey

      She does talk about how their tax rates compare to those of other countries, but only a little about the relative distribution of money to different things, mostly in relation to whether wealthier or poorer areas receive more government money. It was as much detail as I wanted, but if you were really interested in that, you might be left wanting to read another book and see this one as a intro to the topic.

  3. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I started this one a few weeks ago, but the introduction — talking about how anxious Americans are and all the ways America makes us anxious — made me so distressed that I had to stop reading! I’m clearly not in the brain space for it right now, but I hope soon!

    • DoingDewey

      I can understand that! I vacillated between feeling optimistic that someplace with such great social policies exists and feeling depressed by how far we are from being there ourselves.

  4. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Sounds fascinating. I’m especially interested in how Partanen describes how the Nordic approach allows Finnish citizens more freedom and independence than we have. Opponents of social support systems love to cry “freedom!” so I want to see how she rebuts that argument.

    • DoingDewey

      I thought she made a very convincing argument that our current system makes us unhealthily dependent on employers for many things we fear depending on our government for. It was definitely a fascinating read 🙂

  5. Lisa @ Captivated Reader

    This book is on my ever growing reading wishlist!! I missed the opportunity to hear Anu Partanen speak at a bookstore in San Francisco, California where she talked about and signed copies of The Nordic Theory of Everything.

    Glad you enjoyed reading The Nordic Theory of Everything despite it being repetitive in parts.

    • DoingDewey

      I just moved to San Jose, but wasn’t out here when she did the signing. I’m so excited to catch more author talks now that I’m here! Are there any bookstores you’d recommend watching for author events?

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