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. :)
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: August 29, 2003
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
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
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
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
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 26, 2015
What It's About: Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB
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
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
What It's About: Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine...See the Full Summary and Review of Olive, Again Publication Date: October 15, 2019
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
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: October 4, 2016
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
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
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
What It's About: This is the story of four people in late middle-age - Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia - whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem - loneliness. Lovingly, poignantly, satirically and with much humor, Pym conducts us through their small lives and the facade they erect to defend themselves against the outside world...Publication Date: September 1, 1977
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
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
What It's About: Margaret Atwood takes the art of storytelling to new heights in a dazzling novel that unfolds layer by astonishing layer and concludes in a brilliant and wonderfully satisfying twist. Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms and clichés of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience...Publication Date: December 2, 2023
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
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
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
What It's About: Witches are not by nature gregarious, and they certainly don't have leaders.
Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have.
But even she found that meddling in royal politics was a lot more difficult than certain playwrights would have you believe...Publication Date: February 6, 2001
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
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
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: January 1, 1993
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
What It's About: Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781641290111
- An elderly lady has accommodation problems
- An elderly lady on her travels
- An elderly lady seeks peace at Christmas time
- The antique dealer's death
- An elderly lady is faced with a difficult dilemma
Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends, and…no qualms about a little murder...Publication Date: November 6, 2018