Björnstad Beartown

Beartown #1

Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated general manager, whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy.

At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the general manager’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in Beartown, an emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people’s dreams on our shoulders.

“I wasn’t sure I would love a novel centred on hockey – but as with Friday Night Lights this is actually a story about people – about strength and tribal loyalty and what we unwittingly do when trying to show our boys how to be men.
I utterly believed in the residents of Beartown, and felt ripped apart by the events in the book.”
-Jojo Moyes

Selected by as one of the top 20 titles of 2017, and one of the best books in the literature and fiction category.
Selected by Indigo as one of their top 10 “Best Books of 2017.”


Shortlisted for Lubimy Czytać’s Best Book of the Year Poland 2021
LiveLib Readers’ Choice Awards (Best Translated Fiction) Russia 2019
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2019 Ireland 2019
Shortlisted for the Audie Awards 2018 (Fiction) US 2018
Shortlisted for Der Leserpreis (Best Fiction of 2017) Germany 2017
Shortlisted for the Goodreads Choice Awards (Best Fiction) US 2017
Shortlisted for the Book of the Year Award Sweden 2017
Close award list


  • “A brilliant novel about sport, in this case ice hockey, and what it can do to people in a small community.”

    DI Weekend, Sweden

  • Beartown is a story about families, about friendship and loyalty, inequality, female vulnerability, male back-slapping, and parenthood. /…/ No person’s story is too little to be told, Backman includes them all. /…/ [Beartown] is a novel with a big heart.”

    Jönköpings-Posten, Sweden

  • “There is a strong dramatic nerve in [Fredrik Backman’s] elaborate way of conveying everyday reality in shards that are assembled into a dense, eventful whole that really strikes the reader. Beartown is a kind of problem play that moves extremely skilfully near the melodramatic without derailing. Its originality is substantial and the book credibly conveys the dual faces of everyday life. An impressive novel, like no other.”

    BTJ, Sweden

  • “I cannot praise Beartown enough. It’s so current and vital to read that I’ll recommend EVERYONE to read it. The fact that Fredrik Backman successfully manages to put words to everything is incomprehensible, and I can’t help but love every single page of it. If you only read one book this year, one book in your entire life, this is the one to read.”

    Bellas Bokblogg, Sweden

  • “A brilliant novel by a brilliant author.”

    Boktokig, Sweden

  • “This is an extremely important novel. Very gripping and moving, I don’t know how many times I sat there with tears in my eyes. Beartown is incredibly relevant. /…/ This is easily the best book of the year, without doubt. And one of the best books I have ever read.”

    Zellys bokhylla, Sweden

  • “Best book of the year!”

    Bims blogg, Sweden

  • “Fantastic, earth-shattering and skillfully written!”

    Jennies boklista, Sweden

  • “Sure, this is a novel about ice hockey. The ice hockey is essential, but at the same time given clearly less significance. The number of pages where we are by the rink is perhaps 20 out of the 470 pages. Instead, the novel is a story about the feelings that ice hockey evokes in people, the way it affects relationships, communities, and a whole lot of politics. And when a wordsmith like Fredrik Backman writes about it, it becomes real, important and beautiful.”

    Fantastiska berättelser, Sweden

  • “The book completely bowled me over. Halfway through it and I have tears in my eyes, almost all the way till the last page. I laugh out loud, am alternately touched and moved, frustrated and angry. It’s so credibly narrated. This could happen, and it happens. /…/ One of the book’s great merits [is] the strong character depictions. They are so insightful and sensitively portrayed. As a reader one understands the different characters, their actions and values, from their specific point of view. /…/ I already miss the whole cast from Beartown and can’t wait to read the sequel.”

    Just här - just nu, Sweden

  • “Linguistically one recognises Fredrik Backman’s unique style. It’s the repetitions, the direct speech, those formulations that really reverberate in you. With a sensitive hand [Fredrik Backman] elicits laughter […] and makes me cry.”

    Lacrimamens, Sweden

  • “In his new work, Fredrik Backman abandons the feel-good style and rather crafts a feeling of unease around the community and the ice hockey team that the story is built around. /…/ One recognizes Fredrik Backman’s natural narrative style, and every chapter has its own punch line in the form of a few carefully chosen words, words charged with such drama that they make one tremble and immediately turn the page for more. /…/ [Beartown is] an emotional and striking portrayal of the life surrounding an ice hockey club.”

    Norrländska Socialdemokraten, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman writes a more substance heavy and serious novel than earlier works, imbuing it with both suspense, powerful emotions and moral dilemmas. /…/ I am touched by the story and cling to it.”

    Östgöta Correspondenten, Sweden

  • “The story of an ice hockey team’s rise and fall grows into a depiction of society where all sorts of problems are highlighted. Unemployment, the economic gap between rich and poor, segregation, misogyny, homophobia and hooliganism are all there, but so are descriptions of love, friendship and loyalty. /…/ Fredrik Backman’s technique of creating cliffhangers makes the novel a real page-turner.”

    Norrbottens-Kuriren, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman has written a Swedish Friday Night Lights. /…/ He shows how ice hockey has ties to every part of the local community. /…/ He has grown as an author in Beartown. /…/ [Fredrik Backman] displays an intuitive feeling for social status that feels almost American. No comparisons otherwise – but I think of Tom Wolfe. He knows exactly where his characters are on the social rung, which in my experience is unusual among Swedish authors.”

    Gefle Dagblad, Sweden

  • “This is an important book that should be mandatory reading for all parents, young people in high school, and those in the bus headed to an ice hockey game. Not a single word is redundant or unnecessary. Some particular sentences hit you like a brutal punch right to the soul.”

    Sveriges Radio, Sweden

  • “The story is a highly character-driven one where the ice hockey forms the foundation of the narrative. /…/ [Fredrik Backman] succeeds in pinpointing the mechanisms that rule people’s relationships to sports. Furthermore, he’s spot on in his description of how sports in the long run can mold or corrupt identity.”

    Helsingborgs Dagblad, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman is a skilled painter of character portraits and it is those that carry the story. /…/ Fredrik Backman exposes a grimy macho culture, but he also lets the men scrutinize themselves and grow. There is hope. Then comes the bang and nothing is ever the same again. The story deepens thanks to the turning point, and Fredrik Backman steps up and does something important: he gives the vulnerable teenage girl a voice and puts his foot down firmly in, and even beyond, his novel. /…/ As a declaration of love for sports Beartown is as strong as black coffee in a sports hall an early Sunday morning.”

    Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

  • Beartown is a story that gives you a stomachache, successfully highlighting themes like identity, masculinity and group dynamics. To summarize: it’s an unbelievably good novel.”

    Icakuriren, Sweden

  • “The novel centers on the themes of love of sports and love for ones children. The feelings are intense but also blind. Beartown explores how far a parent will go to protect their child, no matter if the child is the victim or the perpetrator.”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

  • “Count on Beartown to grow beyond the boundary of the book format.”

    Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

  • “Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic. /…/ There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor. /…/ Like Friday Night Lights, this is about more than youth sports; it’s part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman’s latest will resonate a long time.”

    Kirkus Reviews, US

  • “Lest readers think hockey is the star here, it’s Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on an insular town. While the story is dark at times, love, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and family shine through, ultimately offering hope and even redemption.”

    Publishers Weekly, US

  • “A poignant story about how much an ice hockey team can matter to a small community struggling to survive. /…/ An insightful, striking depiction of sports culture. /…/ And in addition an excellent description of the friendship between two fifteen-year-old girls.”

    SVT, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman’s style is unmistakable. /…/ Dramaturgically, the novel is skillfully constructed, no murders occur but the tension of the story escalates in an almost thriller-like manner. /…/ A compelling story that’s finely written, not least the depiction of the hockey itself engages (which is saying something, as I’m utterly uninterested in the sport).”

    Sydsvenskan, Sweden

  • Beartown has a greater gravity and darkness than [Backman’s] previous novels; it’s a touching and thought-provoking story about loyalty, friendship, norms and exclusion, with characters that stay with the reader for a long time.”

    Allers, Sweden

  • “I am pathologically uninterested in sports, all kinds of sports. And yet I read the book in one sitting.”

    Expressen, Sweden

  • “Like Backman’s other novels, the end is both painful and warm. /…/ Probably the best Swedish novel ever written about sport.”

    TT, Sweden

  • “This year’s most important sports novel.”

    Metro, Sweden

  • Beartown has so much going on within its enjoyably readable pages that putting it in a literary box is all but impossible—and indeed that is one of the many reasons readers will pass this book amongst one another with a confident ‘I think you’ll like this.’ /…/ Masterful in its storytelling and honesty, this is another winner for Backman, surpassing even his much-lauded A Man Called Ove.”

    The Amazon Book Review, US

  • “Another solid offering from best-selling Swedish author Backman, with many parallels for American readers and small towns everywhere.”

    Library Journal, US

  • “[A] slow burn of a novel about a community that pours all its hopes into a youth hockey team. Think Friday Night Lights for Swedes.”

    The Oprah Magazine, US

  • “Consider this the Friday Night Lights of the ice rink. /…/ Beartown has all the pleasures of a rainy-day matinee.”

    USA Today, US

  • “This story is a charmer.”

    Forth Worth Star-Telegram, US

  • “You don’t have to know hockey to enjoy this story; in fact, you might like it a little better if you don’t. You may even love it if you’re a fan of keeps-you-guessing novels of exquisite storytelling. Undoubtedly, if you’re a big Backman fan, you need this book because Beartown cannot be beat.”

    The Oklahoman, US

  • “Fredrik Backman puts out some of the most human novels. Each and every work is carefully, delicately crafted, delving into the emotional depths of individuals that one might not look twice in real life. /…/ Beartown is undoubtedly his masterpiece.”

    New York Journal of Books, US

  • “Backman’s dialogue and characters in Beartown create a story that is both specific and universal. With hockey as the story’s center, he explores loyalty to sport, relationships, the town and oneself.”

    St Louis Post-Dispatch, US

  • “You’ll love this engrossing novel.”

    People, US

  • “There’s so much heartbreak here, so much wisdom and raw emotion packed inside, that reading this novel makes for a powerful experience.”

    The Book Reporter, US

  • “As popular Swedish exports go, Backman is up there with Abba and Stieg Larsson. /…/ in Beartown he’s not skating by (so to speak) on his name alone; he really has a feel for the sport, and for sports in general.”

    The New York Times Book Review, US

  • Beartown is a moving novel, with a powerful message and memorable characters. /…/ It is a graceful and hard-hitting, compassionate and unapologetic examination of sports culture and the people who breathe life into an otherwise meaningless game.”

    The Winnipeg Free Press, Canada

  • “Backman is the Dickens of our age, and though you'll cry, your heart is safe in his hands.”

    Green Valley News, US

  • “With Beartown Fredrik Backman cements his standing as a writer of astonishing depth and proves that he also has very broad range plus the remarkable ability to make you understand the feelings of each of a dozen different characters with the same ease he did in his works that were focused on a single central character. The most compelling reason to read Beartown is that it is written by Fredrik Backman. Each of his books have been a pleasure to read — well-paced and with characters so well developed you feel as if you know them and how they think and see things; you feel as though you’re watching and listening not reading. Always with this writer the story is fully packed with wise insights into the human experience causing characters and readers to ponder life’s great question of who we are, what we hope to be and how we should lead our lives.”

    The Washington Times, US

  • “There are, in the end, real acts of bravery and sacrifice in this appealing novel.”

    Wall Street Journal, US

  • “This novel feels so relevant with its ugly locker room banter, bullying, disrespect of immigrants, dismissal of due process and the town’s blame-the-victim attitudes. Thankfully, some characters see the light. /…/ Don’t expect absolute justice in Beartown but prepare to be uplifted. When a witness to Maya’s rape vividly describes it, ‘no one in the room will ever forget it.’ The same can be said for the memorable Beartown.”

    Star Tribune, US

  • “Read this book, whether or not you’re a hockey fan. The game is important to the story, but much more interesting to this reviewer is the author’s keen sense of people and their emotions, strengths and weaknesses, and how they live and love and suffer in Beartown.”

    The Missourian, US

  • “Fredrik Backman emerges in Beartown as an improved version of himself. /…/ One realizes that Backman has studied the sport in depth, and he recounts the environment and the game in a precise and credible manner.”

    Dagbladet, Norway

  • “A compelling and challenging novel about relationships and life in a small community where just one thing matters: ice hockey!”

    Verdens Gang, Norway

  • “Through the novel’s dark times — and there are many of them — the bonds of friendship and family almost always trump adversity.”

    Seattle Times, US

  • “Backman has that knack for creating believable, richly imagined people. /…/ the novel is very good. It constantly surprises you, which is simultaneously the most delightful and most satisfying of feelings when reading fiction. The plot twists, hearts turn, and people impress or disappoint when you least expect it. And there’s a huge amount of heart here. Backman, you feel, has a lot of love for people; he has hope, and optimism, that our better angels can triumph.”

    Irish Independent, Ireland

  • “A mature, compassionate novel.”

    Sunday Times, UK

  • “A very strong novel. Compelling from the very first sentence, absolutely topical.”

    Dagblad De Limburger, Netherlands

  • “An exceptional and insightful novel.”, Denmark

  • “Fredrik Backman writes beautifully, tautly, precisely, and warmly.”


    Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark

  • “Backman knows how to make an impact.”

    Elsevier, Netherlands

  • “An extremely dramatic and grim depiction of a small, close-knit community, of peer pressure and the courage to follow your inner compass.”

    Zin, Netherlands

  • “[An] intriguing novel.”

    Margriet, Netherlands

  • “A compelling novel.”

    Cosmopolitan, Netherlands

  • “If the reader isn’t hooked from the first sentence, it’s the reader’s fault and not the author’s.”

    Länsi-Suomi, Finland

  • “Backman is a master of storytelling. ”

    Plus JEDEN DEŇ, Slovakia

  • “My current frontrunner for favorite novel is one I think all hockey fans should read. Backman uses hockey as a lens to look at violence, class and identity, and how they affect an entire community.”

    SB Nation, US

Photo: Linnéa Jonasson Bernholm Fredrik Backman
  • Literary
Reading material

Swedish edition

English edition

Rights sold

Albania, OMSCA-1

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo Publishing

Bulgaria, Ciela

Canada, Simon & Schuster

China, Beijing Xiron (Simplified Chinese)

Croatia, Fokus

Czech Republic, Host

Denmark, People’s

Estonia, Varrak

Finland, Otava

France, Fayard

Germany, Fischer

Greece, Kedros

Hungary, Animus

Iceland, Bjartur & Veröld

Israel, Yediot

Italy, Mondadori

Korea, Dasan

Lithuania, Alma littera

Montenegro, Nova knjiga

Netherlands, Volt

North Macedonia, Antolog

Norway, Cappelen Damm

Poland, Sonia Draga

Portugal, Porto

Romania, Editura Art

Russia, Sindbad

Serbia, Laguna

Slovakia, Ikar

Slovenia, Mladinska

Spain, Harper Collins Espanol

Sweden, Forum

Taiwan, Ten Points (Complex Chinese)

UK, Michael Joseph

Ukraine, Knigolove

US, Atria

Vietnam, Tre Publishing

Film rights sold

Sweden, Filmlance International

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