Fredrik Backman is not necessarily new to the game, but these last two years have made him one of the bigger names in modern literature, and his rapid success has recently soared to new heights.
First published back in 2012, Backman’s A Man Called Ove was an instant hit. A Man Called Ove was a big enough hit to be translated out of its original language, Swedish, and into 40 other languages almost instantaneously. It sat in the New York Times bestselling list for 42 weeks following its release.
Now, only five years later, A Man Called Ove is going to be made into a major motion picture-- starring Tom Hanks.
But that’s not even the start of Backman’s success. He’s released multiple books since, including My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (2013), Britt-Marie was Her e (2014), and most recently, the Beartown Series . These books have also won several awards: more NY Times Best Sellers and an Amazon Editor’s Pick, among several others.
But these extensive accolades are nothing without the audience that follows behind him. Backman’s works are something we haven’t seen before. They capture the ordinary lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways. There are no brutal serial killers, no haunted houses, just real people living real lives.
So why is this interesting?
Mainstream books these days always involve some external factor. They reflect the growing mindset that we are to put up with our environment. Backman’s stories focus on our insides. They broadcast raw human emotion and serve as important reminders for several human values. In our modern world, this is everything we need. The media now tells us about tragedy after tragedy, mass shooting after mass shooting, it rambles on and on about all the things going wrong. Backman grows in popularity because we can’t comprehend mass tragedy. We are only capable of establishing true sadness and true emotion when we become attached to something. We cannot comprehend the deaths of hundreds of people because we can’t grow attached to that many. Backman gives us the raw emotion we need to fill this growing hole inside of us.
When I first picked up Beartown, I fell for it because of its pastel cover and beautiful font. I know people always say not to judge the book by the cover, but that’s what I did. What ensued was a tale of a small town that I felt like I was a part of. I fell in love with all the characters and their unique selves in a way I had never connected with characters before. Backman’s ability to capture characters at their most vulnerable is incredible. His ability to play with emotions allows us to feel connected as a whole. From there, his other books matched up with equal quality. He is an author that is extremely consistent in how moving his pieces can be.
His books all have simple concepts, there’s no doubt about it. They are about ordinary people doing ordinary things. But his magic comes in because we understand raw, ordinary things. We don’t understand massive, extraordinary things in the world today. We don’t understand why mass shootings occur, why terrorist organizations continue to move around, why climate change is occurring or what it’s doing. But Backman allows us to understand the real sadness we need to carry. He fills the growing emptiness inside of us and shows us all a way to be human.
Fredrik Backman is not necessarily new to the game, but his growing success isn’t just temporary. He is the author we need right now, as a society, in order to keep moving on.