Britt-Marie is not judgemental, or fussy, or difficult. No matter how ill-mannered, thoughtless, impertinent or unkempt others may be. But she does expect things to be done in a certain way. She has lived a perfectly orderly life with her husband Kent in their rented apartment in Stockholm for the last forty years. But when she discovers Kent has been unfaithful, she boldly decides to leave him and start a new life.

Moving to the backwater town of Borg at the age of 63, she finds herself a role as caretaker of a small recreation centre that is scheduled for demolition, where she is tasked with running the unruly children’s football team. If she is to instil a winning spirit in this team – and town – of misfits, it’s clear that everyone around her must follow some basic rules. Here are her ten essential tips for keeping things just-so.

1. The cutlery drawer is arranged fork-knife-spoon. From left to right. Because we are not animals.

2. We use coasters when we put a glass on a table. Because we use clothes. And because we use toilets. These are all in the same category of things we do.

3. Before we go on vacation we make the beds and clean our home. Because if we die, we don’t want the police opening up the door and saying “these people were really messy before they died.”

4. If we were actually living in a civilised society, we would not invent sports.

5. We do not keep soccer balls indoors. We preferably do not keep them at all.

6. Baking soda works on everything.

7. We do not drink coffee from plastic cups. Because we do not drink water from our shoes.

8. Everything. It works on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

9. We use napkins. Because we are not animals. And even if we are animals, we still use napkins.

10. We make lists of things. For example, we make lists of our lists. These lists are the most important of all lists. We also have at least one list of the lists of the lists, in case we lose one of the lists. If we don’t do this, anything can happen. There are not even any guarantees that baking soda could fix it.


Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A Man Called Ove was a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia, has sold over one million copies worldwide, and has been made into an acclaimed film. His subsequent novels, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and Britt-Marie Was Here, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication. All three are published in the UK by Sceptre. Read more.

Read an extract from A Man Called Ove.