To acquire wisdom, one must observe

BookTok worth it or not: ‘Anxious People’

I’m back! (Shocking!) My TBR stack at school is dwindling and I’m down to only five books out of the good 15-20 that I brought up with me from home. Basically, the point of this column is that I read books so that you don’t have to and tell you whether they are worth your time or not. Though I typically don’t write about the books I don’t like, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt because I am 100% biased. 

This week’s victim: “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman

As an anxious person myself I was very excited to read this book. It’s not as popular on BookTok as some of the other books I have reviewed here but I’ve seen it every now and then. I have to say, it is an absolute shame that this book is not featured on BookTok more. This book for sure deserves more hype on BookTok for its wit and the perspective that it brings into the story. I feel Backman gets more praise for his work “A Man Called Ove,” which I haven’t read but am now eager to start given how much I loved “Anxious People.” 

There were parts of this book where I was audibly laughing and other parts when I literally wanted to cry. Backman did an excellent job of bringing these idiots (his word not mine) to life and making you invested in their stories. 

Backman also manages to weave a delicate web of how lives are interconnected. He shows how the actions of one person can cause a ripple effect in another’s life, which is beautiful and thought-provoking. 

“Anxious People” is about a bank robbery and a bridge. Or at least that’s what the narrator directs your attention toward. Though truly, if you ask me, “Anxious People” is about regular people just trying to get by. It’s about people who are trying to be good even when the world has been terrible. It gives you hope that there is good in people and it sparks thought on how we interact with others in our own lives. 

Backman opens the novel with an apartment viewing in a small Swedish town. Inside the tour are eight strangers; little do they know they are about to become part of a hostage situation. Across the street from the apartment viewing, there is a bank, where a robber has entered. Upon learning that the bank has no cash on site, the robber flees as the cops are called. The robber escapes from law enforcement and ends up at the apartment viewing, pistol in hand, taking all of the viewers as hostages. 

You spend the course of the story learning the backgrounds of each of the characters—none of them perfect, all of them trying. We meet the father-son cop duo (which, side note, shows a great contrast between generations) working the case and the strangers who all found themselves as hostages—but none of them are telling the truth. 

The story does an excellent job of addressing very real issues like divorce, bank loans, suicide, trauma and anxiety. You meet characters from all walks of life, some young and confused, some older and lost. Despite being in various stages of life, these characters are able to interact and understand one another in what they are going through. 

The novel is uplifting and heartwarming. It makes you feel hope and joy in humans who can sometimes be awful but can redeem themselves. I think the best summary of the book is from Goodreads which describes the story as a “whimsical plot [that] serves up unforgettable insights into the human condition and a gentle reminder to be compassionate to all the anxious people we encounter every day.”

I would 10,000% recommend this book to a friend. It isn’t so dense with thoughts and ideas on the human condition as to make you feel existential dread. The narrative offers a balance between harsh truths of the human condition and witty banter between the characters. The book doesn’t take itself so seriously as to avoid joking around throughout the plot, which I think is something I really appreciated. 

Backman would throw some pretty serious stuff at you and then have the next chapter serve as comic relief so as to not overwhelm you with serious content. As someone who reads mainly for joy, sometimes heavier plots become too much to handle. I also genuinely loved Backman’s writing style. He did a great job of bringing to life the various characters and I never felt overwhelmed when introduced to a new character. 

He balances each individual’s storyline in a way that you can understand so you have to follow the web he leaves interconnecting each character’s life. Overall I think this book rivals “The Immortalists” by Chole Benjamin as my favorite read of 2022. 

So yes, go buy this book. Bree if you read these (I don’t think you do) just know this one I may not give back to you. 

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