Superb books with older main characters

Older characters make for great stories. Their lives have been packed with happenings – a full spectrum of emotions and experiences to call upon and offer up to the reader. As Doris Lessing said, ‘The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes but you don’t change at all’. 

There are sad stories of loss and loneliness but much to celebrate too - good memories in family and friendship to balance the bad. With maturity there can be wisdom – and by choosing a book about an older character we open ourselves to share that special knowledge and perspective, acquired over many years of life. With age also comes frailty, exhaustion and debilitation – which can be distressing but also moving and profound. With death there is acceptance and sometimes even atonement – we might weep at the end, but then we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. And sometimes that human connection is what we strive for in a book.

Search books by Character & Plot


Kei Miller

The Flood

David Maine

I'll Sell You a Dog

Juan Pablo Villalobos

An Unnecessary Woman

Rabih Alameddine

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson

War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans

Zbinden's Progress

Cristoph Simon

The Big Music

Kirsty Gunn

Open Grave

Kjell Eriksson

Norwegian By Night

Derek B Miller

Russian Winter

Daphne Kalotay

The Spoiler

Annalena McAfee

Half Blood Blues

Esi Edugyan

The Last Werewolf

Glen Duncan


Oscar Casares

The Informers

Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Turning for Home

Barney Norris

Last Friends

Jane Gardam

The Woman at 1,000 Degrees

Hallgrímur Helgason

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Emma Hooper


Christopher Nicholson

When All is Said

Anne Griffin

Gillespie and I

Jane Harris

The Last Children of Tokyo

Yoko Tawada

The Escape

Adam Thirlwell


Patrick Flanery

The Cold Eye of Heaven

Christine Dwyer Hickey

Secret of the Sands

Sara Sheridan

The Restoration of Otto Laird

Nigel Packer

The Last Quarter of the Moon

Chi Zijian

The Last Station

Jay Parini

Library of the Unwritten

A J Hackwith

The Blind Rider

Juan Goytisolo

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

Dubravka Ugresic

The Sea

John Banville

The Good Liar

Nicholas Searle

Days in the History of Silence

Merethe Lindstrom

A Ghost's Story

Lorna Gibb


Kent Haruf


Madeline Miller

The Hellhound Sample

Charles Shaar Murray