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

The Last Children of Tokyo

Yoko Tawada

The Sea

John Banville

The Woman at 1,000 Degrees

Hallgrímur Helgason

The Last Werewolf

Glen Duncan

An Unnecessary Woman

Rabih Alameddine

When All is Said

Anne Griffin


Kent Haruf

The Restoration of Otto Laird

Nigel Packer

The Hellhound Sample

Charles Shaar Murray

The Big Music

Kirsty Gunn

The Informers

Juan Gabriel Vasquez


Kei Miller

Gillespie and I

Jane Harris

The Flood

David Maine

I'll Sell You a Dog

Juan Pablo Villalobos

The Blind Rider

Juan Goytisolo

Secret of the Sands

Sara Sheridan

The Last Quarter of the Moon

Chi Zijian

Open Grave

Kjell Eriksson


Oscar Casares


Christopher Nicholson

Half Blood Blues

Esi Edugyan

The Cold Eye of Heaven

Christine Dwyer Hickey


Madeline Miller

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

Dubravka Ugresic

War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans

Last Friends

Jane Gardam

Library of the Unwritten

A J Hackwith

Zbinden's Progress

Cristoph Simon

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

Jonas Jonasson

Norwegian By Night

Derek B Miller

The Good Liar

Nicholas Searle

Russian Winter

Daphne Kalotay

A Ghost's Story

Lorna Gibb

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Emma Hooper

Days in the History of Silence

Merethe Lindstrom


Patrick Flanery

The Escape

Adam Thirlwell

The Spoiler

Annalena McAfee

Turning for Home

Barney Norris

The Last Station

Jay Parini