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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Contemporary fiction

Anxious People

BOTY FINALIST

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

by Fredrik Backman

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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

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky

    Quirky

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Puzzle

    Puzzle

Synopsis

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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Free sample

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

1

A bank robbery. A hostage drama. A stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea.

 

This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is. Especially if you have other people you’re trying to be a reasonably good human being for.

Because there’s such an unbelievable amount that we’re all supposed to be able to cope with these days. You’re supposed to have a job, and somewhere to live, and a family, and you’re supposed to pay taxes and have clean underwear and remember the password to your damn Wi-Fi. Some of us never manage to get the chaos under control, so our lives simply carry on, the world spinning through space at two million miles an hour while we bounce about on its surface like so many lost socks. Our hearts are bars of soap that we keep losing hold of; the moment we relax, they drift off and fall in love and get broken, all in the wink of an eye. We’re not in control. So we learn to pretend, all the time, about our jobs and our marriages and our children and everything else. We pretend we’re normal, that we’re reasonably well educated, that we understand “amortization levels” and “inflation rates.” That we know how sex works. In truth, we know as much about sex as we do about USB leads, and it always takes us four tries to get those little buggers in. (Wrong way round, wrong way round, wrong way round, there! In!) We pretend to be good parents when all we really do is provide our kids with food and clothing and tell them off when they put chewing gum they find on the ground in their mouths.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (48,980)

  • Lori N.

    Canton, MI

    Wow! The writing is so funny & the subject matter is poignant & relevant for the times we’re living in. Laughed out loud the first 300 pages & read through tears the last 30 pages. Must Read⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Cassondra H.

    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! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Tiffanie E.

    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. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Laryssa G.

    Sebewaing, MI

    THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I’VE READ. It is a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book. Its deep and meaningful and a beautiful story about empathy and grace. I think in todays society this is a book the world needed!

  • Jessica W.

    Weston, WI

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Not my typical read - but definitely enjoyable and endearing. This book is quirky and funny, but layered with some serious topics that we all can relate, and lessons that left a smile.

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