Sitzbook Review: ‘The Year of Living Danishly’ by Helen Russell

I took this picture–yes, despite using all those stock photos in recent posts, I can take pictures myself–in Copenhagen in 2005.

[Update, 2018-09-18: I’m dumb. Here’s another post that explains why, while also adding a quote from the book I review in this post.]

I was looking for options for quick blog posts for today (it’s still Semtemblog, after all, and it’s getting late in the day!), so I looked back at the books that I’ve read recently. However, none of them really stood out when I looked at the list, and I didn’t really feel very strongly—either positively or negatively—about any of them, or at least not enough to make me want to write a review.

But there was one exception: The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read several books about happiness and Denmark over the last few years, including Michael Booth’s The Almost Nearly Perfect People and Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge. Those were both fantastic—and I might have to write reviews of them, also, but it’s been a while since I finished them. Still, this one surpassed the others by quite a bit.

The premise of this non-fiction book is simple. Russell and her husband moved to Denmark when he was offered his dream job at LEGO. Before they left their native England, she researched more about the country and discovered it was famous for having the world’s happiest people (a title which Costa Rica also lays claim to, but that’s a story for a different day). She therefore decided to see if living “Danishly” could help her and her husband become happier also.

Their original plan was to stay for a year, so the book is divided into chapters that cover one month each. The writing is excellent. Russell’s sense of humor is wonderful and slightly dry without being mean or negative, and that spirit carries through to the end of the book.

I’ll let you discover the book yourself so I won’t tell you any more about their conversion to Danish living. But I will say that as a person who has Danish ancestors and who’s spent a few months in Denmark visiting relatives and even learning the language, I found this book very charming, even when it was pointing out some flaws and negative aspects of life in Denmark. In fact, that personal heritage certainly made it more intriguing for me, but you can likely enjoy this book no matter what your background is.

I’d be very interested to hear from anyone else who’s read this book. If that’s you, let me know.

Thanks for reading!

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