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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



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.

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 (48,174)

  • 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. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Sarah D.

    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 ❤️

  • Nicole A.

    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.

  • Danielle A.

    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