Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Published: 25th April, 2017
Goodreads
Series: Björnstad #1
Rating: 5

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


Beartown is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a book about small town communities, mothers, fathers, team spirit, the sort of friends you have when you are fifteen, the love of hockey, and loyalty: to your team, to your family, to your town.

There are few words that are harder to explain than ‘loyalty’. It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.

It’s dark and uncomfortable at places, but there’s always a glimmer of hope.

This book was an emotional roller coaster for me. I come from a small town myself, and know all too well how it feels when all eyes are on you and there’s no way to blend in to the faceless crowd.

There are thousands of ways to die in Beartown. Especially on the inside.

It takes great skills to manage such a large cast of characters efficiently, and Fredrik Backman does just that. All their unique voices come through clearly, hitting you in the feels with great precision. Beartown sucks you in, makes you wonder about the same things that occupies many of its inhabitants minds. Can winning a hockey match be more important than people? Even if that hockey is the town’s only chance of survival? Or are they just closed minded to think it is, and there would actually be other ways?

It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semi final of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.

The town’s economy is dwindling, but there are still people who do much better than others. We get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and the poor just the same, and they all have their own struggles. Not even the most privileged ones have an easy time here.

A great deal is expected of anyone who’s been given a lot.

A horrible act is committed, and in its wake personal tragedies unfold. Nobody seems to be untouched by the events one way or another. The small community is divided. We, as readers are right there when the crime is committed, the silent witnesses all the nastiness. Yet, I think, there will still be some among us whose outrage will be entirely misplaced. I often entertain the idea that we, bookish people are gentle souls with open minds and a great sense for right and wrong. The truth is, people are people and some of us will bend the story out of shape, just to support our own ideas and beliefs, no matter how warped they might be.

They are probably people who live secure lives, who are surrounded by people who share their own opinions and only talk to people who reinforce their own worldview.

What can a friendship survive?

Beartown is not about happy endings. This is what I love so much about Scandinavian authors, TV series, and films. They are not afraid of the dark. They embrace it, and make it okay somehow.

This book will make you ask some very uncomfortable questions to yourself.

There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.

P.S. For us, UK folks, this was published as The Scandal.


Get Beartown on Amazon UK (hardcover).

Reading Prompt: A book that involves a bookstore or library #39

According to the diploma I obtained at uni, I’m a librarian. I mean, information scientist, to be precise. Although I have always dreamed about working in a library, spending time among books, I’ve never actually had a job in one. Based on all the stories I’ve read involving librarians, I probably romanticized the idea way too much.

Part of one my uni assignments was to spend sixty hours in our town’s library, and damn, was it awful! I admit, I probably wouldn’t have hated it so much if I got a placement in a nicely equipped library, packed full with all the latest tech, but the lack of working equipment and the constant darkness (the building was an old synagogue) put me off pretty well. We still used those old school index catalogues that were basically little printed index cards in a massive chest of drawers. Good luck finding shit! Before anyone quips in that it was perfectly acceptable in the ’80s, let me make one thing clear: we are talking about 2007.

So, for now I’m just going to stick to books about librarians and quirky little bookstores, where my sentimental ideas live on uninterrupted.

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
A mystery set in Coppenhagen. After the violent death of Luca Campelli his son, Jon, inherits Luca’s bookshop Libri di Luca, and all sorts of suspicious stuff starts happening.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Danger, clues, secret societies are only a few things Irene, a spy for the mysterious Library, will face in this story while collecting books from other realities.

Adrian Mole: The Capuccino Years by Sue Townsend
Adrian Mole, whom we first met when he was 13 and 3/4 years old, is now all grown up and is working in a book shop. He still writes his diary, and he’s still an annoyingly funny intellectual. I have read this book many times, but I’m tempted to pick it up again.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
Lydia, a bookstore clerk, investigates the death of a customer after she inherits his books filled with mysterious and disturbing messages.

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Jess Brightwell, son of a black market book smuggler, is sent to apply for a scholar position at the Library, where they value knowledge more than human life.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Genres: Science Fiction, Classics
Published: 7th May, 1895
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 3.5

“I’ve had a most amazing time….”
So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes…and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth. There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well. Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells’s expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come.


You know, what? This wasn’t bad. I generally don’t like time travel stories, because I find all the implications of messing with one’s past just too daunting and mind boggling. This book was different though. The Time Traveller (as he’s referred to throughout the story) has no great agenda to save the world, he just wants to explore, driven by his curiosity.

Just like so many books written in this era, the story is told by an unnamed guy, who witnessed first hand the scientific discussion that lead to the experiment, and the Time Traveller’s recollection of his eight-day adventure into the future. There’s no fluff, no fillers, just crisp, fast paced facts recounted over a dinner.

The future is bleak, society is split into two: the peaceful, innocent, almost childlike Eloi and the bloodthirsty, but technically advanced, ape-like Morlocks. According to the Time Traveller’s theory, society at one point must have reached balance and security, that lead to their degradation.

“But even on this supposition the balanced civilization that was at last attained must have long since passed its zenith, and was now far fallen into decay. The too-perfect security of the Upper-worlders had led them to a slow movement of degeneration, to a general dwindling in size, strength, and intelligence.”

The Eloi are constantly being hunted by the Morlocks, but they do nothing about it, just accept it as the norm. In a way this future seems even scarier than those depicted in dystopian books with the oppressive governments, because they at least still have the chance to revolt and claim back their freedom. The Eloi, who are proper bubbleheads, are way past this.

The conclusion? Humanity is its own worst enemy. No surprise there, unfortunately.

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about time travel #23

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and change something you’ve done? Yeah, me neither… On the other hand, I understand the appeal of being able to hop back in time just to witness some of the major historical events, even though just being there could cause a rift in time, so these things are better not to be taken lightly.

I could count on one hand the number of time travel books I’ve read and would still have fingers left. Same goes for movies on the topic, so this reading challenge prompt is one of the few that actually fills me with dread. Somehow the sheer idea moving back and forth between alternate timelines stresses me out.

Time travelling is not a new trope. Just think about The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, published in 1895. Ever since then, this theme became quite popular, and not only in the strictly science fiction genre.

Stephen King handled it brilliantly in 11.22.63, and I loved that book to bits. To be fair, in my eyes, he just can’t do anything wrong. I bet even his shopping lists are awesome.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
In this science fiction story, Takahiro O’Leary is hired by the Axon Corporation to explorer multiple timelines that exist parallel to each other.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
An explorer’s journey 800,000 years into the future. If, like me, you are not particularly keen on time travel stories, but still want to complete the challenge, this short book with its 118 pages would be a good pick.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.

11.22.63 by Stephen King
Jake, a high school teacher goes back in the past through a portal in a diner’s back room, just in time to witness, and potentially stop the assassination of J. F. Kennedy.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
What happens when the power of time travel falls into the hands of a serial killer?

Invictus by Ryan Graudin
The adventures of a time travelling teenager, Farway Gaius McCarthy, and his crew in a futuristic world. This suspenseful YA read is full of gladiators, snarky banter and teenage love.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The story of Clare and Henry, a librarian with Chrono-Displacement Disorder that causes his genetic clock reset periodically, misplacing him in time. A good choice for fans of romances.

Not inspired enough? Join us on the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group for more.

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with an ugly cover #38

This is probably one of the most subjective prompts. What do you find aesthetically pleasing? What fills you with absolute horror?

I went through my ever growing list of books I want to read and picked the ones I’ve been putting off for ages, purely because of their dreadful covers. Yes, I’m shallow.

So, I’m going to close my eyes, and give these uglies some love.

Eleven Kind of Loneliness by Richard Yates
A collection of short stories exploring loneliness, failure, heartbreak, and the potentials of purple font in one’s cover design choices…

Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
A shortish sci-fi gem about Red Schuhart, a stalker, who ventures into the Zone to collect mysterious artifacts left behind by aliens. Stalker, the famous movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky was loosely based on this book.

Accelerando by Charles Stross
A sci-fi story set somewhere between 2010 and 2015, involving cutting edge of intelligence amplification technology and a robot cat. Meow!

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
A testosterone filled fantasy story set in a futuristic, dystopian world and an alternate reality called Overworld. If this is not epic, then I don’t know what is… The buff dude on the cover is all right, I can live with that, but damn, those fonts look proper heavy!

Parable of the Sower by Olivia E. Butler
A coming of age story set in a near future (2025) where people live in small, walled communities to protect themselves from the drug crazed scavengers.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
A science fiction story set in our present days, revolving around an event called the Big Blackout that made all the stars go out at once. No more romantic, stare gazing dates… There was a time at some point in my kindergarten years when I also loved combining green with a lot of purple.

Dark Water by Koji Suzuki
A short story collection by the author of the Ring. Need I say more? Bonus: once you start reading, you won’t see the cover.

If you need more inspiration to find ugly covers, you can join us in the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group.

Happy hunting!

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about or involving a sport #19

Whether you are going through the topics in order, or randomly, or ignore some, reading challenges are a good way to get inspiration for your book pics. It’s the first time I actually decided to join one. Other than joining the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group for ideas, I’m not following any particular order they set. I feel I already imposed enough restrictions on myself. I’m such a free spirit, I know…

The first prompt that grabbed my attention was the sports related one. I’m not a fan of anything or anyone, don’t enjoy or follow any sports in particular, but this doesn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy a book that has something to do with it. On the contrary. As long as it’s fiction, there’s always hope.

I was very liberal when I picked these eight books, but hey… If you are a sports hater like me, or just don’t enjoy technical non-fiction, these are all safe bets.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The book is about a murder, set in a small Swedish town whose only hope for revival is their up and coming ice hockey team.

Trail of Murder (Lee Squires #1) by Christine Andreae
An English teacher & poet turned cook as a protagonist, murder, hiking and horse riding through the wilderness. I told you I was liberal with my pics, and yes, hiking is a sport.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
A story about a fifteen-year-old gymnastics prodigy, murder, jealousy and ambition.

Spud by John van de Ruit
The absolutely hilarious story of John ‘Spud’ Milton, his friends (The Crazy Eight), prepubescent anguish and the love of cricket, set in a posh South-African boarding school during the early ’90s.

Deal Breaker by Harlan Koben
Secrets and lies surround sports agent Myron Bolitar and his favourite rookie quarterback Christian Steele in this suspenseful novel.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
A little girl lost in the woods, kept alive by her love for baseball and her fantasies about her favourite player, Tom Gordon coming to her rescue.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King
The chilling story of William ‘Blockade Billy’ Blakely, the greatest baseball player with a dark secret.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
A book about the struggles and dreams of running back Mick Johnson who is trying to navigate the cruel world of american football.

New Year, New Books

Happy New Year, fellow readers!

Pic from: Ian Schneider via Unsplash

Hope none of you are suffering from hangover from last night’s celebrations. I spent my New Year’s Eve watching Attack on Titan, stuffing my face with the most amazing festive burger ever (Camembert and cranberry sauce, just sayin’), and sipping on some whiskey because I like to think I’m sophisticated.

This morning the Goodreads Reading Challenge opened for 2018, and feeling empowered by last year’s success, I pledged another 65 books for this year.

So, what’s the plan for 2018 then?

Complete the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge. My first reading challenge ever, and while most of the topics are super inspiring and look like fun, I expect I will end up reading some weird shit along the way.

Finish Shift by Hugh Howie. This is the second book in The Wool Trilogy, and I’ve been struggling with it since last July. It’s only 500 pages, so I should have been done with it ages ago, but every time I read a chapter I just get depressed and look for something else. Why finish then? Apparently the third part, Dust, is awesome, and I can’t just skip the middle one, can I…

Get rid of some of my books that are just collecting dust and taking up space. I usually go through my shelves at least once year and donate a bunch of books to charity.

Organize my books on my Kindle. Even though they are not taking up actual shelf space, they can get messy pretty quickly, especially they way I bulk buy e-books. I knew I could create collections but until now I just couldn’t be bothered, because why do it today, if you can do it tomorrow, or in fact why bother, if you don’t have to. However, after I recently stumbled upon some books I had not a single clue I owned, I think it’s time…

Let 2018 bring us new adventures, great books, and fun times!

What are your reading plans for this year? Doing any challenges?

Book Picks for Next Year

Last time I checked (around 5 minutes ago), I had 658 books on my Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf. With my current reading speed I will need approximately 10 years to go through them, if I don’t add any more. As if…!

So unless somehow (sorcery) I rise to the level of some people I follow (& admire) and manage to read over a hundred books a year, I’m in some shit.

Grim as it sounds, it has obviously not stopped me to pick some books for 2018 that have not been released yet. I’m always a sucker with my massive backlog and usually by the time I get to a certain book it’s pretty old news. Not this time!

Some of these six books coincide with some of the prompts from the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge, so I don’t have an excuse anymore.

Apart from Holly Black, whom I adore, I have not read anything from the other authors before.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
The Immortalists by Chole Benjamin
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Reading Challenge 2018

I’ve never followed a particular reading challenge before, and always felt it would be too restrictive. I just wanted to read for fun, and not feel pressured into something I might not like, or end up stressing out about something I do for pleasure. Where the hell is the fun in that, right?

For the past couple of years I’d been participating in the Good Reads Reading challenge though, but without any specific theme, just by pledging a number of books to read. In 2017 I’ve read almost double of what I thought I will (and still going!), and it gave me the courage to try something different.

I felt like I always end up picking my “usual” books, and not really venturing outside of my comfort zone.

So, for 2018 I decided to go with the Popsugar reading challenge, as it seems inspiring enough, but not completely bloody oppressive or daunting.