Anu Partanen is the author of The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life (Harper). Originally from Finland and now based in the United States, she is an expert on the ways parental leaves, education, healthcare, and other social policies affect everyday lives. Over the course of her two-decade career as a journalist she has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Fortune, and covered politics, technology, culture, and the arts.
Moving to America from Finland in 2008, Partanen found that navigating the basics of everyday life in the U.S.—from buying a cell phone and filing taxes to education and childcare—was much more complicated and stressful than anything she encountered in her homeland. At first, she attributed her crippling anxiety to the difficulty of adapting to a freewheeling new culture. But as she got to know Americans better, she discovered they shared her deep apprehension. To understand why life is so different in the U.S. and Finland, Partanen began to look closely at both. In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Partanen compares and contrasts life in the U.S. with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships—parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens. 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. She makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild our society, rekindle our optimism, and restore true freedom to our relationships and lives.
In her native Finland Partanen has held many positions ranging from managing editor to columnist, features writer to news reporter, lecturer to on-air commentator. Her past responsibilities include working as a staff writer for Helsingin Sanomat, one of the largest daily subscription newspapers in the Nordic region, serving as the managing editor of a monthly general-interest magazine called Image, debating news trends and current affairs on a live television program called Pressiklubi (Press Club), and teaching magazine writing at Tampere University. She has also been a regular columnist for Helsingin Sanomat, Image, and the Metro newspaper. Partanen holds a master’s degree in social sciences and studied for a year both in France and Australia.
In 2009 Partanen was a visiting staff reporter at Fortune magazine in New York City through the Innovation Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, and more recently her work has appeared in The New York Times and The Atlantic.
Partanen is married to American writer Trevor Corson, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo by Kristiina Wilson
Praise for Anu Partanen:
“Anu Partanen delivers a fact-filled, straight-talk perspective of the Finnish education system that is brimming with enthusiasm, optimism, and ideas for Americans. Her workshop at the 2012 Education Innovation Summit at Hathaway Brown School was one of the most sought-after sessions of the entire conference, drawing a standing room-only crowd and generating much discussion. Her presentation, ‘Excellence Through Equity: The Philosophy, Policy, and Practice Behind Finland’s Rise to Prominence as the West’s Reigning Education Superpower,’ was so popular that we decided to continue the conversation online after the summit, with Anu headlining a special live chat that brought people around the country together to learn about Finland’s approach to teaching young people. At the end of the chat, several participants remarked that Anu’s description and characterization of her native country’s system were ‘inspiring.'”
--Kathleen Osborne Director of Communication and Outreach Hathaway Brown School, Shaker Heights, Ohio
Praise for The Nordic Theory of Everything:
“This is a wonderful, hopeful book about what American society could be -- not by adopting Nordic 'socialism,' but by embracing the values that have allowed Nordic citizens to enjoy more freedom and equality than in present-day America. The American Dream was once an inspiration to the world. Anu Partanen shows us how to rediscover it."
-- Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy and former U.S. Secretary of Labor
"If Americans really understood how bad we have it -- how unjust and wrong-headed our policies are when it comes to child care, education, and medicine -- we'd take to the streets. Anu Partanen rips up all the stale stereotypes about Nordic welfare states and shows us how many kinds of human flourishing were missing out on. This is a dangerous book. Don't let it fall into the wrong hands."
-- Judith Shulevitz, Author of "The Sabbath World"