Whether you are struggling through a heartache, stuck in a rut, or just attempting to make sense of your life, Fredrik Backman has written a story you’ll empathize with. His magnetic prose and masterful storytelling shine a brilliant light on the quirky misfits of the world, making all his readers feel a little less alone. I felt so strongly for all of his characters because Backman writes them in such a way that readers can’t help but bleed for their offbeat, yet often tragic lives. His latest novel and Book Club Favorites July pick, Anxious People, does this in the most heartfelt way possible. I am a devoted fan of this poetic Swedish writer. So with Backman on my brain, I decided to round up the top five reasons I pushed Fredrik Backman’s books to the top of my TBR pile—and why I suggest you should do the same.
His books make great discussion prompts.
Fredrik Backman continuously leaves the reader with a concept to contemplate, making his novels perfect for book club discussions. Rooted within each simple story is a deeper lesson of love, loss, and acceptance. In his latest novel, ANXIOUS PEOPLE, the lives of several strangers are weaved together as Backman makes bold and relatable claims about our existing society. After failing to properly rob a bank, a robber flees to an apartment building where an open house is taking place. Within the apartment is an assortment of complex strangers, each with their own personalities, baggage, and view on the world. As the bank-robbery-turned-hostage situation unfolds, the pack of strangers relate to each other on intimate levels, realizing they are much more alike than they would have imagined. Beneath each of their facades, Backman illustrates the messy truth of being human.
An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, the new novel from the author of A Man Called Ove is a “quirky, big-hearted novel….Wry, wise and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure” (People).
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Proving once again that Backman is “a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives” (USA TODAY), Anxious People “captures the messy essence of being human….It’s clever and affecting, as likely to make you laugh out loud as it is to make you cry” (The Washington Post). This “endlessly entertaining mood-booster” (Real Simple) is proof that the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope can save us—even in the most anxious of times.
His writing is unmatched.
It’s undeniable that Fredrik Backman has a bizarre yet brilliant way with words. I find myself getting lost in his prose as he evokes every emotion. Throughout his novels, I belly laugh, cry ugly tears, shriek in shock, and contemplate my very existence. In picking up a Backman book, you will certainly not be disappointed in his depth. His novel, MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY serves as the perfect, outlandish example, especially with beautiful lines like: “Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.”
Elsa is seven, and her crazy grandmother is seventy-seven. Despite the age difference, the two are best friends. Together, they imagine incredible tales of a far-off land where nobody needs to be normal. But when Elsa’s grandmother dies, leaving behind a series of letter addressed to people she has wronged, Elsa’s true adventure begins.
A charming, warmhearted novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller A Man Called Ove.
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.
His novel’s themes always provide a lesson.
Aside from Fredrik Backman’s unique way of narrating the world, I always appreciate the lessons I’m left with at the end of his novels. A favorite of mine, BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, does a fantastic job of reminding readers that it’s perfectly acceptable to let your guard down and begin your life again—no matter how old you are. Britt-Marie is socially awkward, a bit anal, and fussier than people tend to tolerate. But hidden beneath her strict demeanor is a woman longing for acceptance and love. After making the tough decision to walk out on her cheating husband, Britt-Marie is left with no money, no job, and no home. Fending for herself in the small, dreary town of Borg, she finds herself the caretaker of the local recreational center. In this position, she is given the seemingly impossible task of coaching the children’s soccer team. But for Britt-Marie, this fumbled fresh start may just be exactly the sort of thing she needs.
The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry “returns with this heartwarming story about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.
But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.
When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?
Funny and moving, sweet and inspiring, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the importance of community and connection in a world that can feel isolating.
His novels can shift your perspective.
After reading a Fredrik Backman novel, I always close its pages feeling immensely satisfied with a character’s growth. Bestselling novel A MAN CALLED OVE is the perfect example. Ove is a miserable curmudgeon who spends his time sulking in anger. In Ove’s eyes, he is done with this world and is determined to off himself. But in his attempts, Ove is continuously (and thankfully) interrupted. After a chatty young family moves in next door, an unexpected friendship sparks. Readers will sit in heartfelt wonder as a cranky and miserable old man once again opens his heart, and the story continues to unfold in ways that’ll open your own heart in turn.
“If you like to laugh AND feel moved AND have your heart applaud wildly for fictional characters, you will certainly fall for the grumpy but lovable Ove (it’s pronounced “Oo-vuh,” if you were wondering).”
His novels inspire a sense of hope.
If there is one thing I hope readers walk away from a Fredrik Backman novel with, it’s his empowering sense of hope. Backman’s characters are always aching for a bit of hope, longing for a dream, and reaching for something bigger than themselves. Especially the characters in his novel, BEARTOWN. Beartown is a tiny community nestled deep in the forest. At the center of the town is a lake, built generations ago by the men who founded the community. The residents invest all their faith and hope into that lake when it freezes over and becomes an ice rink—more specifically into the junior ice hockey team gearing up to compete in the national semifinals. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Heartbreakingly enough, the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized. Accusations are made, leaving no resident unaffected. BEARTOWN explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes to go against the grain.
Now an HBO Original Series
“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People
Named a Best Book of the Year by LibraryReads, BookBrowse, and Goodreads
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anxious People, a dazzling and profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
By the lake in Beartown is an old ice rink, and in that ice rink Kevin, Amat, Benji, and the rest of the town’s junior ice hockey team are about to compete in the national semi-finals—and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Under that heavy burden, the match becomes the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown.
This is a story about a town and a game, but even more about loyalty, commitment, and the responsibilities of friendship; the people we disappoint even though we love them; and the decisions we make every day that come to define us. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
Photo credit: Off the Shelf