25 Books with Older Protagonists

books with older main characters protagonists novels elderly

Good books with older main characters as protagonists are harder to find than they really should be, considering the breadth of experience that age offers. I guess it kind of makes sense that most younger writers would feel better equipped to write for their age or younger (i.e. a lived experience) as opposed to the other way around.

At any rate, here’s my list of some fantastic books with older protagonists to enjoy. I’m open to more suggestions, too, so if you have any I’d love to know so I can add it to the list! Drop a comment below, if so. :)

The Housekeeper and the Professor
Yoko Ogawa | Picador

What It's About: He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them...

Publication Date: February 3, 2009

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Jonas Jonasson | Harper Perennial

What It's About: The international publishing sensation—over two million copies sold.

A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it’s not too late to start over …

After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop...

See the Full Summary and Review of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Publication Date: September 9, 2009

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce | Random House

What It's About: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn't seen or heard from in twenty years...

Publication Date: March 15, 2012

Eventide (Plainsong #2)
Kent Haruf | Knopf

What It's About: Kent Haruf, award-winning, bestselling author of Plainsong returns to the high-plains town of Holt, Colorado, with a novel of masterful authority. The aging McPheron brothers are learning to live without Victoria Roubideaux, the single mother they took in and who has now left their ranch to start college...

Publication Date: May 4, 2004

Deacon King Kong
James McBride | Riverhead Books

What It's About: In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project's drug dealer at point-blank range.

In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood's Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself...

See the Full Summary and Review of Deacon King Kong

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Our Souls at Night
Kent Haruf | Knopf

What It's About: A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf's inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters...

Publication Date: May 28, 2015

The Thursday Murder Club
Richard Osman | Pamela Dorman Books

What It's About: Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club...

Publication Date: September 3, 2020

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout | Simon & Schuster/Penguin

What It's About: At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse...

See the Full Summary and Review of Olive Kitteridge

Publication Date: March 25, 2008

Olive, Again
Elizabeth Strout | Viking/Bloomsbury Publishing

What It's About: The iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.

See the Full Summary and Review of Olive, Again

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Kathleen Rooney | St. Martin's Press

What It's About: It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace...

Publication Date: January 17, 2017

News of the World
Paulette Jiles | William Morrow

What It's About: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust...

Publication Date: March 29, 2016

Britt-Marie Was Here
Fredrik Backman | Atria Books

What It's About: Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention...

Publication Date: October 3, 2014

A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman | Atria Books

What It's About: A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse...

See the Full Summary and Review of A Man Called Ove

Publication Date: August 27, 2012

Mr. Loverman
Bernardine Evaristo | Penguin Books

What It's About: Barrington Jedidiah Walker.
Barry to his friends.
Trouble to his wife.

Seventy-four years old, Antiguan born and bred, flamboyant Hackney personality Barry is known for his dapper taste and fondness for retro suits.

He is a husband, father and grandfather.

And for the past sixty years, he has been in a relationship with his childhood friend and soulmate, Morris...

Publication Date: August 29, 2013

Quartet in Autumn
Barbara Pym | Pan MacMillan

What It's About: Combining an acute eye for the eccentricities of everyday life with her unique talent for illuminating human frailties, Barbara Pym has created a world which is both extraordinary and totally familiar

Publication Date: September 1, 1977

The One-in-a-Million Boy
Monica Wood | Headline Review

What It's About: The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who's been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances...

Publication Date: April 5, 2016

Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1)
Agatha Christie | Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

What It's About: ‘Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a favour!’ It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later – when the colonel was found shot dead in the clergyman’s study...

Publication Date: September 1, 2006

The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood | McClelland & Stewart Ltd

What It's About: The Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of whom dies under ambiguous circumstances in the opening pages. The survivor, Iris Chase Griffen, initially seems a little cold-blooded about this death in the family. But as Margaret Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a tricky process, in fact, with several nested narratives and even an entire novel-within-a-novel--we're reminded of just how complicated the familial game of hide-and-seek can be:

What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge, then hung suspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like a dragonfly, for that one instant of held breath before the plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of bad faith, of our father and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal, triangular bargain...

Publication Date: September 2, 2000

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson | Random House

What It's About: You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson's wondrous debut...

Publication Date: March 2, 2010

Peter Heller | Vintage

What It's About: From the best-selling author of The Dog Stars and The Painter, a luminous, masterful novel of suspense--the story of Celine, an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families, trying to make amends for a loss in her own past.

Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI...

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Elizabeth is Missing
Emma Healey | Harper

What It's About: In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences...

Publication Date: March 13, 2014

Wyrd Sisters (Discworld)
Terry Pratchett | HarTorch

What It's About: Kingdoms wobble, crowns topple and knives flash on the magical Discworld as the statutory three witches meddle in royal politics. The wyrd sisters battle against frightful odds to put the rightful king on the throne. At least, that's what they think...

Publication Date: November 10, 1988

Reaper Man (Discworld)
Terry Pratchett | HarperTorch

What It's About: They say there are only two things you can count on ...

But that was before DEATH started pondering the existential. Of course, the last thing anyone needs is a squeamish Grim Reaper and soon his Discworld bosses have sent him off with best wishes and a well-earned gold watch. Now DEATH is having the time of his life, finding greener pastures where he can put his scythe to a whole new use...

Publication Date: July 30, 2002

Travels with My Aunt
Graham Greene | Penguin Classics

What It's About: Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, meets his old aunt for the first time in over 50 years. She persuades him to travel with her. Through his aunt, a veteran of Europe's hotel bedrooms, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society coming alive after a dull suburban lifetime.

Publication Date: November 5, 1991

Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
Velma Wallis | Harper Perennial

What It's About: Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.

Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying...

Publication Date: November 5, 2013

An Unnecessary Woman
Rabih Alameddine | Grove Press

What It's About: One of Beirut’s most celebrated voices, Rabih Alameddine follows his international bestseller, The Hakawati, with a heartrending novel that celebrates the singular life of an obsessive introvert, revealing Beirut’s beauties and horrors along the way.

Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books...

Publication Date: February 4, 2014

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good
Helene Tursten | Soho Crime

What It's About: Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home...

Publication Date: November 6, 2018

books with older main characters protagonists novels elderly

books with older main characters protagonists novels elderly

books with older main characters protagonists novels elderly

books with older main characters protagonists novels elderly