November 19, 2020

Abbreviations #110: Anxious People, Untamed + Big Friendship

Anxious Peopl
e is the third Fredrik Backman novel I’ve read, and it has fully cemented him as an author whose work I enjoy. This novel has a premise that’s pretty out there: a would-be bank robber ends up holding a group of people attending an apartment viewing hostage. But this story is about more than just this singular encounter. It’s actually the story of each individual we meet, including their lives prior to and after the incident that ties them all together. Like the previous Backman novels I’ve read, Anxious People is less about the actual plot and more about the characters; this really works for me as a character-driven reader. Backman has a knack for capturing human complexity in his work. He writes nuanced personalities that transform from mere character caricatures (which is where they tend to begin) into individuals that feel real. Throw in his usual ability to organically weave in themes like mortality, adulthood and relationships and a dash of funny and charming bits to break up the tension, and it all really came together well by the end. Admittedly, Anxious People isn’t the easiest read (what with the unlikable characters, a nonlinear narrative and difficult content including suicide, depression, addiction, death of loved ones, violence, etc). But Backman’s work continues to impress me with its quality, cleverness and thoughtfulness, and I can’t wait to read more of his novels. (I also want to give a shoutout to the translator and the audiobook narrator for their part in my experience of this novel!)

Anxious People was released on September 8, 2020 by Atria Books.
I received an advanced listening copy (ALC) through Libro.FM.

I rarely ever pick up non-fiction by individuals I’m unfamiliar with, and it was only because of my family book club (my sisters and my cousin) that I ended up reading Untamed. In this collection of short stories pulled from her own life experiences, Glennon Doyle writes about how many women tend to be brought up to be a certain way versus listening to your own natural guiding instincts. Part memoir, part self-help, Untamed ended up being a quick, interesting read. My biggest takeaway from this book, as well as the thing I appreciated the most about it, was that Doyle really managed to identify and put into words a variety of feelings and thoughts that I’ve had myself. It also made for a great discussion when we met up to chat about the book, as we each latched on to different aspects of what Doyle shared. While I did feel like it wasn’t as organized or fluid as I would have liked, I do think Untamed succeeded in detailing its main argument. It was enjoyable, and I appreciated the reading experience overall.

Untamed was released on March 10, 2020 by Dial Press.

I’m not entirely certain what I was expecting from Big Friendship, but it definitely wasn’t what it ended up being – and that’s not a bad thing! Big Friendship is co-written by two best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (who run the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, which I was unfamiliar with prior to the book), and it’s about the evolution of friendship… specifically theirs. My expectations were that this was a book about friendship, especially the long-distance variety, so it caught me off guard to discover that the bulk of this novel is actually about each woman’s story and their actual friendship history and growth (which does include long-distance friendship). While I didn’t necessarily end up enjoying the reading experience as much as I’d hoped to, I did still appreciate the insights on friendship (especially in terms of growth and evolution). (P.S. The audiobook was a solid listen, as it’s narrated by the pair and a few guests that they invite/consult at different points in the novel.)

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close was released on July 14, 2020 by Simon & Schuster.


  1. I have all three of these books on my library list! I especially love the cover of Untamed.

  2. While "Anxious People" presents challenges as a read due to its portrayal of unlikable characters, nonlinear storytelling, and exploration of heavy themes like suicide, depression, addiction, loss, and violence, Backman's writing maintains its impressive quality, cleverness, and depth. Despite these difficulties, I am continuously impressed by his work and eagerly anticipate delving into more of his novels.I recommend a useful resource to save time for your favorite activities.


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