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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Contemporary fiction

Anxious People

Each year thousands of members vote for our Book of the Year award—congrats to Anxious People!

by Fredrik Backman

Quick take

Of all the ways to botch a bank robbery, this one takes the cake. Cue the hilariously flawed hostages.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Puzzle


Why I love it

Jenny Lee
Author, Anna K

First, a confession: I am not one of the millions of people around the world who read A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman’s previous best-selling book. I picked up Anxious People because, well, it seemed like reading about other anxious people might make me feel better about my own anxiety. I had also heard from a friend that Backman has a good sense of humor, and as a TV comedy writer, I love to laugh. As soon as I started reading, I knew I had made the right choice.

What begins as an idiosyncratic book about a bank robbery-gone-terribly-awry unfolds into an astute and beautifully rendered character study of a random group of people who are thrown into a very stressful situation as a botched robbery suddenly turns into a hostage situation. Jumping to different points of view—from the Swedish police officers, a father and son team in charge of the case, to the hostages—we get a variety of glimpses into the cross-section of humanity affected by this incident, the bank robber included.

Typically, my favorite books are character-driven stories that offer a deep dive into the people involved in the story, and Anxious People was just that. This tragicomic tale of a really bad collective day resolves in the most unexpected and poignant ways. When I finished the book, I was moved to actual tears. It has been many years since a novel made me cry. My waterworks weren’t from the story being so sad, but because of the kindnesses shared within a group of strangers during one of the most anxiety-filled days of their lives. The bottom line is this book really touched me, and I was reminded that there can still be beauty and hope even in the most trying of circumstances.

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Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Anxious People.

Member thoughts

All (39470)
All (39470)
Love (23163)
Like (12580)
Dislike (3727)
40029 ratings
  • 58% Love
  • 31% Like
  • 9% Dislike
  • Bondsville, MA

    I read this slowly so that I could savor each page. It’s not often you come across a book that is so well-written and so unlike many other books. Beautiful, thought-provoking, and funny! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Rigby, ID

    These characters spoke to me. I have a soft spot for character driven situational comedies. It was the perfect amount of funny, heart breaking, and sentimental. I would highly recommend. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Wichita, KS

    The first page of this book is my favorite first page of a book, ever. This is a story about idiots - idiots who are just doing the best that they can. Funny, heartwarming, & relatable. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Cabot, PA

    I struggled with this book in the beginning, but this book is about, just being human. “We’re doing the best we can...” I ended up loving this book! It’s definitely super relatable and well written ❤️

  • Patchogue, NY

    While I was reading this I thought, “oh, this is cute.” But once I got to the end I almost cried. A beautifully written story about how we’re all connected somehow & our actions impact other’s lives.

  • Waltham, MA

    I loved it. I cried more with this than with his other stories. I don’t know if it’s because we’re in a pandemic & the story about connection hit hard during these times...but this one is my favorite.

  • Colorado Springs , CO

    I loved and hated this book so much! Every time I’d open it I’d read something I’d relate to anxiety-wise and while it was nice to be SEEN, it was sometimes hard to read lol. Still! It was amazing.5/5

  • Bay City, MI

    This book was not what I thought it was going to be. This is the third book I’ve read from this author. They all have different plots but they all weave in the importance of connecting with others. 

  • Pontiac, MI

    This was honestly one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read in my life. As Larry the cucumber said, “I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob.” Never thought I’d quote a cucumber, but hey, it fits

  • Seattle, WA

    I loved this book. The way the author twisted each character’s story into another’s... and the way you never really know what the story is TRULY about (left for reader’s interpretation)... brilliant.

  • Lakewood, CO

    I’m constantly disappointed by ‘literary fiction’ that is pretentious and lofty. This book was the antidote to all those stuffy full-of-themselves books. Sweet and profound and beautiful. I loved it.

  • Chillicothe, OH

    I don’t know that I can put words together in a way that will express how much I loved this book. So for now I will just say this: I really, really loved this book. I already want to read it again ❤️

  • Millbury, MA

    This is my favorite book I have read this year. LOVED IT!! I loved the unique writing style and the realness of the characters. There were so many lines in this that I said “oh my god that’s so true!”

  • Seattle, WA

    Honestly the story wasn’t very compelling. However this was some of the most interesting writing I’ve read. The quirky characters & the writer’s wit really blended well. This book will stick with me.

  • Murfreesboro, TN

    This book is moving, brilliant, & everything in between. I couldn’t help but feel “The Breakfast Club” vibes- the character development did not disappoint! I laughed, and I cried, because- anxiety!

  • Lubbock, TX

    Backman is a genius and I’ve loved him since Ove. This was just as exceptional. He doesn’t write novels about characters, he writes about connections. And filled within the storylines are life truths.

  • Greenville, NC

    This book.... was so odd but i couldn’t bet enough of the story. It was relatable and you understood each person’s anxiety more than you planned to. Unconventional, different, and utterly heartwarming

  • New York, NY

    At first I was very unsure, but this was surprisingly touching and full of really poignant, profound moments. Really happy I went out of my comfort zone and read this book!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Brooklyn, NY

    This now ranks in my top five novels. I put it off for a while, as the description doesn’t do it justice. Seamlessly poignant without feeling sappy—and funny, too! Backman created something masterful.

  • Haslett, MI

    Your jaw will drop. Your stomach will clench. Your heart will race and break and mend. And if you’re like me, you will emerge from the pages healed in a way that you hadn’t realized you needed to be.

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