Book Reviews

Book Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman: Raw, ridiculous and refreshing, all at the same time

Anxious People is a fascinating work of fiction by the popular Swedish author, Fredrik Backman. This book is an ideal companion for your travels, or simply even for a weekend read. If you enjoy expressing yourself in the written word, it implies that you have something special for the written word. That’s the reason why writers are by definition, good readers. You can be a lousy writer and yet also be an exceptional reader. And no one sets the standards as to what books can be deemed as good. Because, the wise opine, ‘There are no bad books; only bad readers.’ I always had a thing for stories. It began with my parents and grandparents narrating them to help me fall asleep, to the very same people popping up with books as presents for every other special occasion in my life. Comics, storybooks, short stories, novels, …

Maybe I fell in love with reading when I realized the fictional world is a lot more exciting than the real world. Or maybe when I realized I can know everything about the people in books unlike those from the real world. Books made me feel at home at times when that has hardly possible. Despite all that, when technology grew at the same pace that I did from a child to an adult, I changed. As a child, my bookshelf was small and contained few books that I read and reread because I never felt enough. As an adult, my bookshelf expanded, so did the books in there, but hardly 10% of them had I read, even once. That’s how badly I was addicted to my phone. So, one day like the protagonist in your favorite book, I had an epiphany. And that’s how this reading challenge started.

Table of Contents

How I came across Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman Book
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman Book Cover. Image by Amazon

I once read somewhere on a writing motivation blog, ‘If you want to read a story and it hasn’t been written yet, then you should write it.’ I pined to write a story, or rather an idea of a story (because I was too lazy to develop it), for a long time. Then a few days back, I ordered a random book on the internet. For no particular reason really, except that I loved the title because I could relate to it. When the book arrived, it was called Anxious People, by the way, I read the first page. I always do that. For me, the first page determines it all. If I’ll enjoy the journey or not. It was good. A mystery was set, from the very first page. And I root for mysteries. They make life interesting.

I read page after page. I wasn’t supposed to do this yet, because I had at least three unfinished books glaring at me from the bookshelf. It’s like when you make a new friend and start spending more time with them and your older friends suddenly start feeling jealous. But I couldn’t help it. Do you remember I said, I had an idea of a story that I wanted to write and didn’t? Well, of course, you do, because I said it in the previous paragraph. As it turns out, that idea was written after all. Now you can imagine why I couldn’t stop reading this book.

You would have expected me to be upset because I didn’t get to write it after all. But on the contrary, I am glad; relieved, to be completely honest. Because I wouldn’t have written it so well myself. If all I had was an idea which I was too directionless to work on, the author here gave it wings, and the most beautiful ones anyone could ever imagine, mind you. What could make a reader who’s also a writer happier?

Anxious People Book review

Anxious People Book Review
Anxious People Book Review

For me, reading Anxious People was like talking for hours and hours with a friend whom I hadn’t met in years. A friend who might have been only an acquaintance in the past. But then we meet suddenly after years and greet each other, and start talking. Initially you mean only a decent small talk. You know, for formality. But then, they talk in terms of exactly how you perceive life, and a connection sets in somewhere deep inside. And when you respond in the conversation, they feel the same about you. So, you talk and talk, and before you know it, hours have flown away. You might even not meet them again to repeat such a heartwarming experience. But then, deep in your heart you know, that this one encounter is more than enough to cherish them as one of your good friends for a lifetime.

Anxious People is a fictional book, in the sense, it tells you the story of a group of characters in a particular situation. But more than once you end up wondering if how it isn’t the story of your own life. The story is raw; real to the core. So, you won’t have any difficulty visualizing it. But you’ll need the patience to get through it; there’s a lot of mystery going on. You think you know something, and then, on the very next page, you realize you were wrong all the while. But not wrong in a sense that makes you feel stupid. Wrong in a sense that makes you feel human. And what’s not to like about that? To put it in a nutshell, this book captures the very core of all human emotions; pain, love, humor, empathy, stupidity, forgiveness, and most importantly, letting go.

Anxious People summary

Anxious People Book by Fredrick Backman
Anxious People Book by Fredrick Backman

This is the story of a bank robbery. Or perhaps something more. Well, there is a bank robber in it, for sure. And then there are a few more idiots, like you and me. Idiots, because we are a know-it-all when it comes to our jobs and investments and futures, but total lunatics when it comes to living. I can’t say anymore because it would spoil the mystery for you. But there’s absolutely no mystery in the fact that any human being would be able to relate to the eccentricity that this book is. You’ll feel peculiar at multiple instances, but it’ll be a peculiarity that you are familiar with, that you are comfortable with.

What I really liked about Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

  1. For starters, like I said, it’s full of emotion. This book will make you burst out laughing; it will also make you cry inconsolably. It will make you feel pain, angry at yourself even, but will also make you feel happy to be alive.
  2. There are so many riddles going on from the beginning to the end. Multiple character arcs, flashbacks, individual stories of each character playing in the background… And somehow, they all come together to make sense, like in a well-crafted puzzle. The riddles might seem tricky at first, but gradually you learn to decipher them. It especially helps if you know a thing or two about life.
  3. There’s no match to Fredrik Backman’s use of literary metaphors. God, he’s like a magician! You just freeze with awe for a moment, thinking how can someone describe something so flawlessly. Hats off, to that!
  4. Because I am an emotional creature, I feel for the characters of all fictional stories I read. But never have I felt so much admiration, pity and hatred for the same character ever before, as much as I feel for Zara from this book. Won’t say more; more like, can’t say more. Sorry.

Some Anxious People quotes that I found most appealing

If you know me, you know that I can’t read a book without a pencil in my hand. I usually underline the lines and excerpts that I find really impressive. I also write one-word remarks if I feel especially overwhelmed about a particular line. In this book’s case, I believe I’ve given the author a run for his money when it comes to the number of words we each have contributed, to a page. The book is full of remarks. And the paragraphs are heavily underlined. I can’t include all of them here, so here’s a few I felt that especially deserve to be mentioned.

“… just because you don’t much like life doesn’t necessarily mean you want the alternative.”

“‘You don’t fall in love with a gender, Anna-Lena. You fall in love with an idiot.’”

“… no one in the world shared her prospects, and that’s the greatest loneliness in the world: when no one is walking beside you towards your destination.”

“Being seen through isn’t pleasant, you tend to pull your clothes a little tighter when it happens, especially if you’re usually the one who sees through other people.”

“That’s the power of literature, you know, it can act like little love letters between people who can only explain their feelings by pointing at other people’s.”

“The most expensive thing you can buy in the most densely populated places on the planet is distance.”

“One of the most human things about anxiety is that we try to cure chaos with chaos.”

“… children don’t need the world’s best parents, just their own parents.”

Genre, style and narrative of the book, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People is one of those books that cannot be categorized into a single genre. It would be correct to say that it is a combination of humorous fiction and psychological fiction. Haven’t you seen those adverts for some food products on television that say, a perfect mix of sweet and spicy? Well, I think it would make sense in here. There’s humor, undeniably so. And then there’s suspense, pain, bizarrerie, and a perspicuous angle of psychology.

Like most fiction books, Anxious People uses both narrative and descriptive styles of writing. The book is written in third person omniscient narration, i.e., the author is the all-knowing narrator of the story. I would like to point out an additional detail here. The book is originally written in Swedish, which is the first language of the author. It was translated to English by Neil Smith.

About the author: Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman Author of Anxious People
Fredrik Backman Author of Anxious People

Fredrik Backman is an acclaimed Swedish author who made his literary debut in 2012. His first book, A Man Called Ove was a huge success and was also adapted into a 2015 film. It won several prestigious honors as well as two nominations at the Academy Awards. The author is known for imparting a unique sense of emotion into his works; a combination of humor, compassion, and wisdom. Another appealing feature is that his works are all realistic and fresh, where people don’t have to be perfect to be protagonists. His books have been translated into over 45 languages and have sold over 12 million copies worldwide.

Some other Fredrik Backman books that’ll add delight to your bookshelf include:

Fictional works:

  1. A Man Called Ove
  2. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
  3. Britt-Marie Was Here
  4. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
  5. The Deal of a Lifetime
  6. Beartown
  7. Us Against You

Non- fictional works:

  1. Things My Son Needs to Know about the World

How much would I rate the book, Anxious People?

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is one of the most unique humorous books I’ve read in a long time. I would easily rate this book a 9.5/10.

Where to get the book, Anxious People latest edition?

We can understand that it has become a difficult time for all bibliophiles, to not be able to visit your favorite bookstore every once in a while. So, if you are wondering where to get Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, then we have the answer for that. Click the link below and you can easily order the book online.

For whom is this book for?

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a delightful read for all alike. You don’t need to be a particular kind of person to admire and enjoy this book. Being a human being is just enough.

Note-Our writer Anjali Kesavan has taken 52 weeks Reading challenge, so we will be publishing book reviews for all the readers out there! -Team Godofsmallthing. You can also check out some more book recommendations from our end like and hey! Each link will open in a new tab so you don’t have to miss out on reading this review 🙂 If you want to read some more book reviews! Head over to our book review section and explore lists of fiction, non-fiction, dystopian, and other recommendations. Book Reviews by Godofsmallthing

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