I was intrigued by this book when I read a brief review of it in The Seattle Times before Christmas. The review was by Melinda Bargreen, who reviews classical music and books and does a grand job of both. Here’s her take on this book: “The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life” by Anu Partanen(Harper). Highly annoying, to the point where I almost wanted to smack the self-satisfied author, this book nonetheless made me think harder than anything else I’ve read this year about how America could do better for its people in the realms of education, health care, workplace possibilities and … well, attitude. This Finnish immigrant to the USA (by marriage) compares life in the America with the Nordic countries. At first glance this would seem facile, a simple contrast between free-market capitalism and the social democracies of Scandinavia. But it is all very much more complex than that, and the author very helpfully puts us Americans in our place around our general attitudes towards child-rearing, education, health care, business, and the pursuit of happiness.
Her main premise is what she calls “the Nordic theory of love.” She claims that children being nurtured as independent individuals, growing with their needs well met and basics such as education and health care provided, establishes people as more confident and secure for all of their life. I especially appreciate her detailed assemblage of facts comparing the US to the Nordic countries. It does make me, as Bargeen suggested, “think harder” about how we live and what we provide – or don’t provide – so that people can live, learn, grow, and thrive. Although her writing is a little bland, the book is well-researched (copious notes and bibliography at the end) and is a good perspective to enter as we in our country try to decide what government should and shouldn’t do.
I’m not quite done with the book, so I may have some additional comments later on. Share your comments if you’ve read it in all or part. I think it’s an important conversation.