The couple dozen books I’ve read in the past few decades are displayed like trophies on my bookshelf. Knowing I would never have the patience to reread any of them, I consider it a favor to my future self to routinely highlight favorite passages, those I know I will want to refer back to.
Two novels of Fredrik Backman bookend my row of classics. His 2014 bestseller A Man Called Ove shares the profound reflections and relationships of a curmudgeon struggling with loss and retirement and purpose. And with this year’s Beartown, through a small town’s obsession with hockey, we get to know intimately a handful of teenagers, their parents and various local fanatics. While the stories are very different, Backman’s writing is consistently inspired.
Excerpts from A Man Called Ove, when Ove first met his future wife on a train:
“And Ove realized that he wanted to hear her talking about the things she loved for the rest of his life.”
And later, over dinner:
“He assumed this would be the only dinner he ever had with her … ‘I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you looked at.’ … She started laughing.”
“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”
Excerpts from Beartown, about being a kid:
“Amat is sitting in a corner doing his best imitation of an empty corner.”
“Maya knows all too well that this silence can be like water. If you let it makes its way too far in, it can freeze into ice and break your heart.”
And about being an adult:
“The tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better as something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case.”
“Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing.”
“There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.”
In my limited experience, Backman is a rare author who authentically represents the intimacies of growing up and grower older.