47 Top Quotes from Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (with page numbers)

Quotes from Anxious People Fredrik Backman

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I just finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. Ironically, I read about half the book and then took a four month hiatus because reading it was making me feel anxious. But then the nagging anxiety due to not finishing the book started chipping away at me.

Every time I opened my Kindle, I saw its cover in my library, sitting there, unfinished, its poor characters all frozen, waiting for me to let them finish telling their stories. Once I decided to dive back in, two nights later, I found myself on the last page. I not only felt the peaceful bliss that washes through when you finish something you started, but I felt content with the story’s ending. Some people ask if Anxious People is a happy or sad story, and the answer is both. It’s a story trying to tell the truth and reality of human existence these days.

While I refuse to give too much away, the best way to describe the act of reading Anxious People is as if someone dumped a pile of tiny puzzle pieces in front of you with no picture to guide your process. You find your way by starting with the edge pieces, working your way towards the center until the story that was once a cut-up pile of baffling pieces is now in full focus revealing its truth.

Anxious People is funny in a quirky, sarcastic, and sometimes sardonic way. The humor helps cushion the darker thematic undercurrents of depression, desperation, anxiety, panic, and suicide.

It was a story worth coming back to, plus I no longer have that nagging voice reminding me that I have unfinished business in the world of books. Perfectionism and a slight touch of OCD aren’t always the bad guys.

47 Top Quotes from Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (with page numbers)

1. “Drugs are a sort of dusk that grant us the illusion that we’re the ones who decide when the light goes out, but that power never belongs to us. The darkness takes us whenever it likes.” Pg. 31, Chapter 13

2. “It’s hardly surprising that people get confused and society is going to the dogs when it’s full of caffeine-free coffee, gluten-free bread, alcohol-free beer.” Pg. 38, Chapter 15

3. “Just before the bank robber came in she had been busy refreshing her browser to find out if two famous actors were going to get divorced or not. She hoped they were, because sometimes it’s easier to live with your own anxieties if you know that no one else is happy, either.” Pg. 39, Chapter 15

4. “The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn’t spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who’s having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves.” Pg. 57, Chapter 20

5. “Rather like if you’re really frightened of snakes and are sitting on the toilet and feel a slight draft on your backside, and you automatically think, Snake! Obviously that’s neither logical nor plausible, but if phobias were logical and plausible they wouldn’t be called phobias.” Pg. 63, Chapter 21

6. “The first thing you have to understand is that Zara has recently been seeing a psychologist, because Zara has the sort of career which, if you do it for long enough, sometimes means you have to seek professional help to get instructions on what you can do with your life beyond having a career.” Pg. 77, Chapter 24

7. “I’d say that a panic attack is when psychological pain becomes so strong that it manifests itself physically. The anxiety becomes so acute that the brain can’t… well, in the absence of any better words, I’d say that the brain doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth to process all the information. The firewall collapses, so to speak. And anxiety overwhelms us.” Pg. 79, Chapter 24

8. “Your generation don’t want to study a subject, you just want to study yourselves.” Pg. 80, Chapter 24

9. “Expensive restaurants have bigger gaps between the tables. First class on airplanes has no middle seats. Exclusive hotels have separate entrances for guests staying in suites. The most expensive thing you can buy in the most densely populated places on the planet is distance.” Pg. 94, Chapter 26

10. “This is a story about a bank robbery, an apartment viewing, and a hostage drama. But even more it’s a story about idiots. But perhaps not only that.” Pg. 98, Chapter 27

11. “We’re just strangers passing each other, your anxieties briefly brushing against mine as the fibers of our coats touch momentarily on a crowded sidewalk somewhere. We never really know what we do to each other, with each other, for each other.” Pg. 98, Chapter 27

12. “Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it. She tried to be one of them. She told herself that was why you should always be nice to other people, even idiots, because you never know how heavy their burden is.” Pg. 101, Chapter 27

13. “…nothing unites a group of strangers more effectively than the opportunity to come together and sigh at a hopeless case.” Pg. 104, Chapter 28

14. “It’s harder than you might think to take people hostage when they’re idiots.” Pg. 122, Chapter 30

15. “…everyone gets a few moments that show who they really are, tiny instances that reveal their entire soul…” Pg. 142, Chapter 34

16. Sometimes I don’t think I’m ready for the responsibility—I mean, I think my phone is asking too much of me when it wants me to install an update, and I find myself yelling: ‘You’re suffocating me.’ Pg. 163, Chapter 38

17. “He understood very well what Ro was scared of: buying an apartment, finding one single fault with it and having to admit that you yourself were the fault.” Pg. 166, Chapter 38

18. “You love each other until you can’t live without each other. And even if you stop loving each other for a little while, you can’t… you can’t live without each other.” Pg. 175, Chapter 40

19. “I don’t know why ordinary anxieties aren’t enough. Does anyone really need something new to worry about?” Pg. 177, Chapter 40

20. “When you’re a child you long to be an adult and decide everything for yourself, but when you’re an adult you realize that’s the worst part of it.” Pg. 184, Chapter 43

21. “Her idea of hell was a never-ending buffet with her stuck in the queue behind someone who had a cold.” Pg. 185, Chapter 43

22. “Can’t you have a pizza from the menu just for once, darling? A nice, normal pizza? Why do I always have to call and give them a set of instructions like I’m trying to help a blind person land a plane?” Pg. 186, Chapter 43

23. If anyone asked her to sum up her view of the world, she always quoted Martin Luther: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Pg. 201, Chapter 46

24. “Addicts are addicted to their drugs, and their families are addicted to hope.” Pg. 202, Chapter 46

25. “We can’t change the world, and a lot of the time we can’t even change people. No more than one bit at a time. So we do what we can to help whenever we get the chance, sweetheart. We save those we can. We do our best. Then we try to find a way to convince ourselves that that will just have to… be enough. So we can live with our failures without drowning.” Pg. 203, Chapter 46

26. “One of the most human things about anxiety is that we try to cure chaos with chaos. Someone who has got themselves into a catastrophic situation rarely retreats from it, we’re far more inclined to carry on even faster. We’ve created lives where we can watch other people crash into the wall but still hope that somehow we’re going to pass straight through it. The closer we get, the more confidently we believe that some unlikely solution is miraculously going to save us, while everyone watching us is just waiting for the crash.” Pg. 206, Chapter 47

27. “There were no fancy certificates hanging on the walls; for some reason it’s always the people with the most impressive diplomas who keep them in their desk drawers.” Pg. 206, Chapter 47

28. “Nothing is easier for people who never do anything themselves than to criticize someone who actually makes an effort.” Pg. 209, Chapter 49

29. “The truth? It’s hardly ever as complicated as we think. We just hope it is, because then we feel smarter if we can work it out in advance. This is a story about a bridge, and idiots, and a hostage drama, and an apartment viewing. But it’s also a love story. Several, in fact.” Pg. 215, Chapter 51

30. That was what annoyed Zara most about men. Because they could only ever come up with two questions: “What line of work are you in?” and “Are you married?” Pg. 238, Chapter 53

31. “…you end up marrying the one you don’t understand. Then you spend the rest of your life trying.” Pg. 247, Chapter 55

32. “If you can do something for someone in such a way that they think they managed it all on their own, then you’ve done a good job.” Pg. 251, Chapter 56

33. “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.” Pg. 262, Chapter 58

34. “It’s such an odd thing, the way you can know someone so perfectly through what they read.” Pg. 263, Chapter 58

35. “But if there’s one thing modern life and the Internet have taught us, it’s that you should never expect to win a discussion simply because you’re right.” Pg. 267, Chapter 59

36. “The hardest thing about death is the grammar, the tense,…” Pg. 284, Chapter 63

37. “Empathy is like vertigo.” Pg. 294, Chapter 65

38. “They’re splitting up. Because one of them likes coriander, and the other also likes coriander, but not quite as much, but apparently that’s enough of a reason if you’re young and are on the Internet.” Pg. 295, Chapter 65

39. “All interesting people have done something really stupid at least once!” Pg. 304, Chapter 66

40. “There’s something romantic about the thought of all the apartments that aren’t for sale.” Pg. 313, Chapter 68

41. “They go and see something made up. Because people need stories, too, sometimes.” Pg. 315, Chapter 68

42. “…late in life even computer programmers become poets.” Pg. 317, Chapter 69

43. “Men and women going around for months having trouble breathing and seeing doctor after doctor because they think there’s something wrong with their lungs. All because it’s so damn difficult to admit that something else is… broken. That it’s an ache in our soul, invisible lead weights in our blood, an indescribable pressure in our chest. Our brains are lying to us, telling us we’re going to die. But there’s nothing wrong with our lungs, Zara. We’re not going to die, you and I.” Pg. 320, Chapter 69

Quotes from Anxious People Fredrik Backman

44. “They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.” Pg. 324, Chapter 71

45. “The new year arrives, which of course never means as much as you hope unless you happen to sell calendars. One day becomes another, now becomes then. Winter spreads out across the town like a relative with slightly too much self-confidence…” Pg. 329, Chapter 72

46. “Spring arrives. It always finds us, in the end. The wind sweeps winter away, the trees rustle and birds start making a fuss, and nature suddenly crashes through with a deafening roar where the snow has swallowed every echo for months.” Pg. 333, Chapter 73

47. “We have all of this in common, yet most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is affected by mine. Perhaps we hurried past each other in a crowd today, and neither of us noticed, and the fibers of your coat brushed against mine for a single moment and then we were gone. I don’t know who you are. But when you get home this evening, when this day is over and the night takes us, allow yourself a deep breath. Because we made it through this day as well. There’ll be another one along tomorrow.” Pg. 335, Chapter 74

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