Anxious People Book Club Questions and Recipe
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Anxious People, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a story about eight strangers who find themselves taken hostage by a desperate bank robber. Now that you have formed a thought about what a story like that might be like, ball it up, and throw it in the trash. Because that’s exactly what Backman, in his genius, does.
The story takes place at an apartment viewing where a bank robber who has failed to properly rob the bank across the street stumbles into eight strangers and the situation escalates into a hostage situation. What is usually a high-stakes thriller in the hands of other authors turns into a comedy about the compassion each of us requires simply to wake up and face another day.
As each of the hostages and finally bank robber reveals their deepest struggles, Backman moves the reader to examine her own needs and to consider the ways she can show kindness to those hurting around her. Much like in A Man Called Ove, nothing on the surface of these characters can be quite trusted and throughout the book Backman pulls back layer after layer compelling the characters and the reader towards compassion.
It is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. I found myself scribbling down poignant truth after truth. There is a way Backman disarms the reader with comedy and then delivers a blow to the heart. He’s done it time after time in all his novels and I encourage you to read more of his books! Find the list here!
That said, I want to warn sensitive readers that the subject of this book largely revolves around a suicide and mental illness. I won’t reveal more than that, but I want to make readers aware of that in case someone in the group might struggle with the topic. I will say Backman is tackling the subject in order to increase awareness and sensitivity and does so with grace and comedy, so in some ways the novel could be healing to someone who is grieving.
In any event, there is plenty to discuss about Anxious People and who doesn’t love a comedy about the human condition? On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for Anxious People, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of Anxious People:
When an apartment viewing goes awry, eight strangers find themselves held at gunpoint by a failed bank robber. A bank robber who never intended to take hostages and who really doesn’t know the first thing about robbing banks. The thing is, no one in the apartment is quite who they appear to be. And each of them–especially the bank robber–is in desperate need of rescuing. As the situation escalates, unexpected truths are illuminated, drawing these strangers closer together until what happens that fateful day leads to a series of events none of them can quite explain.
For the Anxious People recipe:
Because the book largely takes place in an apartment during a hostage situation, there isn’t a large variety of food discussed in the book. There is one dish, though, that resurfaces in more than one chapter–pizza!
Who doesn’t love pizza (not counting Zara!)? Some of the pizzas mentioned like kebab and capricciosa were new to me. Apparently kebab pizza is a very Swedish dish. One that I’ll have to try one day. If you’ve ever tried it, let me know if you liked it! For Anxious People, though, I decided to cook up a capricciosa pizza.
Capricciosa is a traditional Italian pizza with marinara and mozzarella. The toppings include olives, artichokes, Italian ham, and mushrooms. If you can’t find “Italian” ham, any nice sliced or shaved ham will work.
In case you want more options, here are a few other food suggestions from the pages of Anxious People:
- Chapter 8 – The differences between Jack and Jim are highlighted in their food tastes. Jim likes hot dogs and instant potatoes, Jack likes sushi.
- Chapter 43 (and continued) – The hostages order pizza. The order includes kebab pizza with extra garlic sauce, capricciosa, and Hawaiian (with no ham or pineapple add extra cheese, olives, banana and peanuts).
- Throughout the book the limes on the coffee table are mentioned and eaten. Consider serving a lime soda with your pizza!
To save time you can definitely buy a premade pizza crust from the grocery store. But, if you are feeling a little crafty or you love to make your own dough, check out this fantastic pizza crust recipe from Jen at Carlsbad Cravings. I have used it several times myself and it is really good! I won’t rehash her super detailed post here, so if you want to make your own crust just hop over there and check it out!
Or, if you want to make it super simple on yourself, just order pizza delivery. Now that you know the ingredients, you can have someone else whip them together for you. I promise I won’t tell!
Whatever route you choose, if you are looking for food suggestions for Anxious People, I think your book club will be happy to try Capricciosa Pizza!
- Pizza pan
- 1 premade or homemade pizza crust
- 1 small jar of marinara pizza sauce
- 4 oz mushrooms sliced
- 3-4 oz olives
- 3-4 oz artichoke hearts chopped*
- 3 oz Italian ham
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Place your pizza crust on a pizza stone or pan.
- Spread the marinara evenly across the crust then sprinkle with ¾ of the cheese.
- Evenly distribute the sliced mushrooms, olives, chopped artichoke hearts, and prosciutto/ham across the pizza.
- Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is cooked and the cheese has melted and slightly browned.
- Remove and slice into 8 pieces. Serve immediately.
Anxious People Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- In the book, several characters were affected by the bridge in different ways. Discuss how the bridge changed each character’s life. What do you think the bridge signified for the novel as a whole?
- Were you surprised by the bank robber’s identity? What assumptions that you made about the bank robber turned out to be incorrect?
- Backman often uses humor or outrageous situations to throw the reader off guard before delivering a deep thought or truth about the human condition. Discuss any particular truths illuminated in the story that specifically resonated with you.
- The Martin Luther quote “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree,” is mentioned more than once in the book. Discuss this quote. Would you plant the apple tree? What about the characters in this book
- The author says that this is a story about a bank robbery and a hostage drama, but it’s also a love story(ies). In the end, what element stood out To you most?
- Jack and Jim are very different and like most fathers and sons have difficulty working together. “The older man thinks the most important thing is for a police officer to do the right thing, the younger thinks it’s more important to do things correctly.” Discuss Jack and Jim and their relationship. Why do you think Jack doesn’t fight Jim on his decision about the bank robber?
- Which of the characters was your favorite? Why?
- Discuss all the ways the characters are dealing with loneliness. Why do you think loneliness is such a prevalent issue in today’s society despite modern connectedness? How can we extend compassion to one another to break our constructed Instagram-perfect barriers?
- If you have lost someone to suicide and feel comfortable about sharing, tell the group how this book affected you. Have you carried any guilt of what happened like Zara?
- How did this book compare to other Backman novels you have read? Also, share with the group any other novels you’ve read that deal with suicide or mental illness with grace and compassion.
Have you read Anxious People? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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Other Books by Fredrik Backman that you might enjoy!