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Fredrik Backman's Favorite Sports Books

June, 2018
Fredrik Backman

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Swedish author Fredrik Backman, whose books include the bestselling A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, first introduced readers to Beartown last year. Now he's returning to the small, hockey-obsessed Swedish village with the second book in the series, Us Against You. In this novel, the townsfolk are thrown into turmoil when they're informed that their beloved team will soon be disbanded.

In honor of the new book in the series, he is sharing his favorite sports books with Goodreads, from a novel that a nine-year-old Backman stole from the library to the Swede's exploration of a favorite American pastime. As the author notes below, "Stories about sports are never just about sports, because sports is never just about sports. It's about people. The best and worst in us."



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"I read The Runner when I was nine years old (I found it somewhere in the school library), and two things about it had a great impact on me: The first is the book itself, about an incredibly angry 17-year-old boy called 'Bullet,' who lives with demons everywhere and can only silence them when he runs. That spoke to me, because although I never lived with the kind of horrible childhood drama Bullet did, I understood what sports could mean to a kid. Sports were everything to me, too; the only place where I felt I could be a part of a group without being weird. The other thing that impacted me was that the school librarian refused to lend me the book, because she didn't think it was 'suitable' for a nine-year-old. She was pretty condescending about it, so I did what every reasonable nine-year-old would do: I stole it. And it was awesome. Books are not meant to be suitable."


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"This was given to me by an American friend of mine in Chicago during my first book tour in the U.S. two years ago. He was my driver for a couple of days and had a Cubs hat in his car, so I wouldn't shut up with my questions about baseball, because it's the absolutely easiest, incredibly difficult thing I know, and I had no one in Sweden to talk to about it. When I was leaving Chicago, he went into a bookstore and came back with this and said: 'If you REALLY want to understand something about baseball, read this.' And I did, four times. And it was one of the nicest gifts anyone has ever given me."


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"I was about 10 or 11 when I found this in English during a family vacation. I was obsessed with hockey at the time, probably partly because I could never learn to skate myself (I kept breaking things, I was a fragile kid) and had to focus all my energy on being a fan of the game instead. My mom bought me the book, and I didn't return to reality until I finished it. I don't remember where we were or what we did, I didn't care. The Gretzky story was about obsession, about loving something so much, it makes you…not normal. I guess I could really relate to that. I still can."



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"Two books in one headline, because I can't explain one without the other. The first one is a series of books about a fictional Swedish soccer team called Åshöjdens, and someone should really translate them into English because they were the first sports books I had ever read that were not only about sports. They're about deep social issues, hatred between people, race, gender, teenage identity…everything. I read them when I was a kid, but I could reread them anytime. When I read Friday Night Lights, all I could think was: I wish I had this book when I was a kid, so I could read it right after Åshöjdens. It's about all the same things: devotion, obsession, kids looking for themselves and a place to fit in. Stories about sports are never just about sports, because sports is never just about sports. It's about people. The best and worst in us."

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"Vinnie Jones was a great English soccer player (who later on turned into a great actor, but that's another story). He might have been the most unpredictable, screwed-up, mean, batshit-crazy soccer player who ever lived, actually. One time he got a red card and was thrown out of a game five seconds into it. When I grew up, I was told by a lot of commentators and experts he was a 'disgrace to the game,' so of course I loved him unconditionally. I read his autobiography and thought it was the coolest thing I ever read. Then I reread it as an adult and understood the complexity of it. How much pain he was in at the time. How much anxiety he was carrying. I cried both times, but for different reasons. I don't love everything Vinnie Jones has done, but I still love him. And the book is one of the most honest stories I know."


Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky I am so happy that this Fredrik Backman post showed up in my email box today, because I am the leader this month for my local book club (we take turns being leader) and BearTown is our book! Great timing! It also helps me appreciate BearTown a little more, since it is so different from the other 3 Backman books I have read and loved. BearTown was a hard read for me. Thanks to this article, I feel better about it. Thank you,Fredrik Backman and Goodreads!


message 2: by Teri (new)

Teri So excited about the new book!


message 3: by Judi (new)

Judi Ross Becky wrote: "I am so happy that this Fredrik Backman post showed up in my email box today, because I am the leader this month for my local book club (we take turns being leader) and BearTown is our book! Great ..."

We’re doing Beartown in our book club this month, too! Hope yours goes well. What a GREAT book.


message 4: by Peggy (new)

Peggy You will love it....Can never go wrong with a Fredrik Backman book. He is awesome!


message 5: by Sandi (new)

Sandi I will read and report on it with great antispaction.glad that there will be a new book. About sports enjoyed your story about runner


message 6: by Bill (new)

Bill I have one bad thing to say about Us Against Them. It's over. I blasted through it, and now I"m adrift again looking for a way back to Beartown.

I really appreciate the skill and the storytelling. I've played hockey for 50 years, captained my college team, and now coach three travel hockey teams and I can say with complete confidence that no one has ever written better about the heart and soul of the game. I'm especially impressed with the way he captured hockey's integration into one's larger life. It is both everything, and also nothing; the central battle of our lives and just a dumb game, all at the same time. Backman is damn good. Damn, damn good.

I'm heartened by the way that this book is characterized as part of a series. Does that mean there are more Beartown books on the way?


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan My book club loved Beartown and we are all reading the sequel now as individuals. We also discussed A Man Called Ove last year which developed many Backman followers.


message 8: by Mary-Jo (new)

Mary-Jo Anderson Can’t wait to start Us Against You! I became so obsessed with Beartown that after reading only 10%, I ordered four copies and shipped them off to the (Swedish-American) hockey-obsessed members of my family!


message 9: by Doty (new)

Doty Our book club is a little different: we read anything we want. On the second Sunday of each month we gather to eat, drink, and give book reports. Any book you have enjoyed goes into the middle of the table-- when the evening is over, you take with you the book you next want to read on the recommendation of others. (Similar ongoing arrangement at the office.) Fredrik Backman's books are rotated and fought over! We have all enjoyed everything we've read. So glad there is more to read. I want to be the first in our book club to read Us Against You! and will share with everyone else.


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