Mini-Challenge Hour 16

Let’s just get right to it, OK?


My idea is to start a list of the best books that feature an older protagonist.     Somewhat and ‘kind of’ an OPPOSITE to YA on the age spectrum.

Amy, of My Friend Amy, once gave a definition of YA as being a novel that has a young protagonist.   Before book-blogging, I was unaware of this category called “Y” and “A” and was often confused what exactly it meant.     And it IS such a great category, isn’t it?    The number of YA blogs is amazing…

Have you read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen?    One of my favorite characters is an elderly gentleman in a nursing home and this endeared him to me right away.    I volunteer at a nursing home and have many octogenarian and nonagenarian friends.   In fact, I wrote a post awhile back about my biggest fan Madeline who is a about the same number of years away from 100 that I am to reach 50.     [That post is –> here <– but feel free to bookmark this and read it another time, it’s READATHON!]


Your challenge is to think up and suggest your favorite books that feature an older protagonist! AND / OR  let’s also think up any of your favorite AUTHORS who are still writing incredible books when most people are…   not?

Am I explaining this well?   I sure hope so and I only want to be respectful and to contribute a celebration of those wonderful men and women who are – well, ahem, OLDER THAN ME by a few years perhaps.     🙂        I love reading about ninety year olds who jump out of airplanes or explain that they’ve lived ‘this long‘ because they drink a martini every day or rack up 75+ years on the job or heck – just enjoy life, have seen a lot of it and want to continue to contribute and share.


I will pick a random commenter after THREE hours, so at the end of HOUR 18.  (one entry no matter how many books offered up.)

The prize will be a book from the list we generate.   Include these in the choice, too:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (my review)

The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein (Lisa/Books on the Brain review)


79 thoughts on “Mini-Challenge Hour 16

  1. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly features a grandfather who helps his granddaughter, the main character, fall in love with science while she tries to figure out who she wants to be.

  2. My character is Angel from Baking Cakes in Kigali – she’s a menopausal woman in Rwanda who bakes cakes (obviously) and tries to better the lives of people around her. That book is one of my favorites this year, and i just loved Angel.

  3. The Ivy Malone series by Lorena McCourtney is an absolute HOOT. The character is in her 70s, she’s a grandma, but she’s sorta like Jessica Fletcher and always gets in all sorts of scraps and mysteries, plus she’s cool about wearing a thong (though they give her a wedgie) and gets a toe ring. They are so hilarious!

  4. I adored Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and I believe it did a fantastic job of showing the true worth of aging and its difficulties. I know you have it in your post, but it truly is a worthy book with an older protagonist. Joan Didion springs to mind as an author to look at.

  5. ray bradbury is definitely still writing wonderful books. I met him down at the borders book store at the grove in LA and got him to sign three of my books. he is a literary genius. I love all his books.

    oh and a book that features an older protagonist well at least at the beginning is stephen kings golden years.not the best movie but i loved the book

  6. Although I haven’t read one in awhile, I love the Mrs. Pollifax series by Gilman. Mrs. Pollifax is a retired widower who accidentially finds a job with CIA and is sent around the world to help our government by going undercover. Love her.
    As for authors, Mary Higgins Clark has been writing books a long while and is still cranking them out.

  7. My favorite elderly protagonist is Miss Marple. My favorite book featuring her is A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie. Guests, including Miss Marple, are invited to a murder mystery party. Someone is actually killed and Miss Marple, naturally, solves the crime.

  8. My first thought was The Notebook by Nicholas Spark. It’s a story of young love told from the prespective of an elderly man sharing ‘a story’ with his wife who suffers from Alzheimers.

  9. Oh, without a doubt, Elner Shimfissle, who is featured in Fannie Flagg’s Under the Rainbow and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. How can you not love a sassy older woman who gets back at a teenage bully by giving him “chocolate” that’s really exlax?

    An honourable mention to Olive Kitteridge, which I’m in the middle of reading right now, but is the New England equal to Elner’s southerner.

  10. Oh man, Grandma Mazur from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels is the most kick-ass grandma ever to have graced my books. She’s silly and unstoppable with her crazy antics. Things are a riot whenever she’s around, and she causes hysteria among people more than any scandal can. She’s one of the characters that make the series so hilarious.

  11. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I love how the characters are older but are treated with dignity. I loved Water for Elephants! Just read it last week 😉

  12. I also thought of Ray Bradbury as a prolific writer who is further on in years (I just met him in Santa Barbara a couple weeks ago).

    But, my favorite book about an older protangonist is May Sarton’s The Education of Harriet Hatfield.

  13. ok this one is sort of obvious because it’s in the title but Old Man and the Sea. One of those books they make you read in school but you can have no hope of truly understanding until you are approaching those golden years yourself.

  14. One of my all time favorite books is “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”

    What an amazing 100 year old life – from the Civil War to Civil Rights!

    : )

  15. My all-time favorite reads are “The Cat Who…” series, written by Lilian Jackson Braun. I have read and re-read them many times. Ms. Braun is now well into her 90’s and, unfortunately, her age has shown in the last couple installments, and apparently the series has come to an end. Great loss for cozy mystery fans.

  16. PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS… When her elderly foster mother shows signs of forgetfulness, 12-year-old Hollis tries
    to protect them both.

    journeythroughbooks @ gmail dot com

  17. The portrayal of older characters is one of the reasons I love the Harry Potter series. Rowling gives us wonderful people like Dumbledore and McGonagall and Slughorn and the rest, interesting characters that grab attention as well as the teens do.

    And, of course, there are the cranky old Greek gods in the Percy Jackson book. They’re simply hilarious — and really cool 😀

  18. How about Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series? One of the coolest old dudes I can think of! HP may be juvenile fiction, but, as many of the teachers and the headmaster himself are elderly, I think it shows kids that the elderly can kick butt too =o)

    Writers which I love that are getting up there and still writing wonderful material…Ray Bradbury, of course, and Joyce Carol Oates.

  19. The first two I thought of: Olive Kitteridge, which I haven’t read yet but just got for my birthday and oddly, The Year of Magical Thinking, which is nonfiction, but Joan Didion writes so beautifully about age and the stages of life, among other things.

    Happy reading!

  20. From today’s reading, I have to say I adore Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; I think she’s the kind of older lady I would love to have as a next-door neighbor 🙂 I also love the grandparents in the Fablehaven series; they’re supporting characters I guess, but still central to the story. As for older writers, I’ve never really thought about it… I rarely know anything about an author until I’ve read his or her books and enjoyed them enough to research them, and even then, age isn’t really something that stands out as being of much import. Interesting to consider in the future, though!

  21. One of the series I enjoy that has an older protagonist is the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. Agatha is always worrying about her looks in her advancing age. I don’t recall an exact age being mentioned in the books, but I believe she is in her 50’s and everywhere she goes, she seems to happen upon a dead body. I’m preparing to read Agatha Raisin and the Love From Hell, which is the 11th book in the series, as my next readathon book.

  22. My favorite “older” character would be Mother Abigail from Stephen King’s The Stand. I think she was in her 90s, full of spunk and wisdom. She is an agent of God when the world is thrown into a battle between good and evil.

  23. One of my favorite books features an elderly (81 years old) gentleman. The book is Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull. The story alternates between Patrick’s last years and those during WWI. Excellent story!

  24. I started reading Water for Elephants months back but my review class got in the way, hahaha!

    As for characters, I like Van Helsing. Hahaha!

    And I totally agree about Ray Bradbury. He’s still writing, right?

  25. Although Mare’s War is a YA book by Tanita Davis, the protagonist is actually Mare. She’s driving her grand-daughters across country and while doing so is telling her story of being an African American women in the army during WWII. Great story!

  26. In Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, the main character is older and reflects back on his life. So you get to see him as both a teen and an older man.

    Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears is the mystery and chronicle of the death of an older man, and is told by reconstructing the events of his life in reverse order.

  27. Leo, an elderly Jewish man, is a fabulous character in The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.
    I read it 3 years ago and in my review at the time I said:
    I loved Leo’s sections, sadly funny, as he purposely spills his coffee, or his change, or models nude for a drawing class, all to keep from dying on a day when he went unseen. A very memorable character.

  28. The one that I can think of is a short story by Checkov in his compilation of stories, The Steppe and Other Stories. It’s called A Dreary Story (sounds bad right?) but totally wasn’t. He write the old man so well. It was funny, poignant, and could be about today it’s so relevant. Loved it.

  29. My first thought was Miss Marple, but I see that she is already taken. So how about William of Baskerville from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.

  30. This could be a dangerous question for those who don’t know how old you are… But this is the only book in my read-a-thon pile in which the main character isn’t under 20, I think. I started reading Sima’s Undergarments for Women; the protagonist Sima is somewhere in her late 50’s or early 60’s–I’m not really sure, because I didn’t read more than 20 pages. She said she’d owned her little shop for 30 years and been married, I think, 38. (I stopped reading because it just didn’t seem like a read-a-thon, plow-through-it book. And I wasn’t much in the mood to read about her considering having an affair with her seamstress. I’m needing books for today in which there’s as much external as internal conflict.)

  31. I am going to go with Stevens, the narrator of The Remains of the Day. He’s older (not OLD, but probably around the age of retirement) and he’s a fascinatingly unreliable narrator.

    Also, I don’t think he’s very old, but Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s and he’s still writing really hilarious Discworld books 🙂

  32. She’s not exactly old, but at 50 the protagonist of Elizabeth Bear’s Jenny Casey books (HAMMERED, SCARDOWN and WORLDWIRED) is a lot older than most of the main characters in speculative fiction. OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi also features a cast of people who’re 75+, except that they’ve all had their consciousnesses transferred into younger, genetically engineered bodies.

  33. I love the three old women in Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle in Time. And I love the grandmother in Troubling a Star. L’Engle wrote beautifully wise and remarkable old women.

  34. Robertson Davies!!!! He was in his 80s when he published his last novel, The Cunning Man. Lots of his characters are crusty old geezers, too. Dunstan Ramsay, the aging narrator of Fifth Business, is absolutely fantastic.

    I also loved the old guy in Water for Elephants!

  35. Well, I figure since I’m 64 and a children’s book author [Mandy The Alpha Dog] ~ I could fall into the older category that is doing something. But the biggest challenge I have is dealing with my husband who has a form of Alheizmer’s. Some days are great and some days are just plain too long and the nights longer. Up until he started the symptoms of the disease, I felt young ~ now not so much. But escapism is great:

    Some of the old characters I can relate to are the vamps ~ hundreds and sometimes centuries old ~ yet have their appearance arrested at age 27. Sort of goes with my [yes, when I get at least 7 hours sleep]spirit of 17 ~ an age I always liked. Being on the tip of the age of adult responsibility but not yet committed to taking those reins.

    We may have older model bodies but our spirits are young as long as we don’t dig the trench and hunker down. My husband asked me tonight what my short term goals are and to finish the second story in the series is my goal for the new year. My long term goals are to love my husband as long as I have him and pray each day for a miracle.

  36. How about Morrie from Tuesdays with Morrie? Although I guess he isn’t a fictional character. I also really like that old lady friend from the nursing home in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (whoooo that’s a title, huh?), but I can’t remember her name. 🙂

  37. Great question? Favorite of all time? Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series followed closely by Professor McGonagall. Both show what it means to follow the rules but to stand up for your beliefs. Both do it with dignity and grace. And both are fiesty beyond belief and just in general kick booty!

  38. My favourite older author is Barbara Peters who is still publishing books at 82 years of age. She writes the Amelia Peabody books, amongst others!

  39. I loved Water for Elephants also – that is the perfect book for this category.

    I read one this summer called How It Ends by Laura Wiess – one of the narrators is an older lady named Helen – she ends up dictating a “book on tape” of her life for a Hanna, a young girl she has helped raise. She had told Hanna one version of her life to protect her – and felt the need to set the record straight.

  40. I loved the Tortall universe written by the amazing Tamora Pierce. Now that’s one author whose books I wouldn’t mind buying over and over again!

    There’s the character called Numair in the Wild Magic series. He’s 30+ and acts as a mentor for Dain (Is that the heroine’s name?), who then falls in love with him due to his extreme awesomeness. Awww.

  41. Mattie Ross in True Grit is looking back on a time when she was young, but she is feisty and has many tart comments about modern life. Also from that book — Rooster Cogburn was no spring chicken when he helped Mattie bring her father’s killer to justice.

  42. The first “older” character that comes to mind is Henry. He’s the landlord of Kinsey Millhone; and she has an ongoing crush on him even though he’s in his late 80s now. These characters are in the mystery book series by Sue Grafton. I think if I knew a Henry, I’d have a crush on him, myself!

  43. Seeing Things by Patti Hill features a seventy year old protagonist named Birdie Wainwright. (Christian fiction) Kate Maloy’s Every Last Cuckoo also had an elderly protagonist (but I can’t remember her name)

    Or Alvirah and Willy Meehan from Mary Higgins Clark? This is what my mom and I came up with….great topic, Care!

  44. hmmm…that’s an interesting question. I think The thirteenth tale, something that I read recently fits in this category. I loved the feisty old woman. Also I would like to mention The last empress. Although it starts with a young Orchid, by the end of the book, Orchid is an old woman who also is the last empress of China. That was an amazing book.

  45. Chalk me up as another one who is a fan of Miss Marple. I’ve also always been interested in the science fiction series by John Scalzi, which begins with OLD MAN’S WAR. Which is about a world in the future where the planet is overpopulated but old people are given the opportunity to fight in a war when they’re 75.

  46. My all time favorite is the couple from Love in the Time of Cholera. In their seventies the male character has been chasing the love his life for fifty years. Finally, she agrees and they live out the end of their life on a boat floating up and down a river.

  47. Looks like you got lots of good suggestions! YAY!
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  48. I didn’t get to participate as I wasn’t able to check in every hour during the readathon. But would still love to add to the list!

    Amigoland by Cesar Casares has two wonderful elderly protagonists who are brothers. I loved it, so heartwarming and funny, too.

    The Bear Went Over the Mountain is a short story by Alice Munro, which is in her collection entitled Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage. It’s about an elderly husband and wife. Beautiful story.

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