Reading is a great hobby. It’s a form of entertainment as well as a source of knowledge and learning for people all over the world. There are countless benefits to reading, such as improving vocabulary, keeping your mind sharp, boosting memory and reducing stress. For these reasons and many more, we think that everyone should take up reading as an hobby Therefore, we’re here today to recommend some of the best books for elderly readers… that is, if you haven’t read them already!
Books for Elderly Readers – Best of 2020
We might only be halfway through 2020, but already some marvellous new books have hit the world’s shelves. Here are our top picks of newly-published books for elderly readers.
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
The first of our top books for elderly readers is Hamnet. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, this novel is a fictional account of real-life figures. You may not have heard of Hamnet himself, but you’ve certainly heard of his father, William Shakespeare. The real Hamnet died tragically in 1596 at the age of 11. O’Farrell’s novel follows Hamnet and his mother (whom the author names Agnes) through his short life. As the The Guardian review says, “This is a book about grief, and the means by which people find their way through it.”
Despite the rather bleak subject matter, Maggie O’Farrel’s prose is dreamlike and beautiful, rich with emotion and historical detail.
The Mirror & The Light, Hilary Mantel
2020 saw the release of this final instalment in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. After the huge success of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, Mantel had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, critics agree, she absolutely delivers. The Mirror & The Light follows Cromwell, the closest adviser of Henry VIII, through the final years of his life. Beginning with the execution of Anne Boleyn and ending with Cromwell’s own death sentence, Mantel crams her novel full to bursting with suspense, history, and pure human drama.
The first two novels in this trilogy both won Mantel the prestigious Booker Prize. Could she secure the honour a third time in 2020?
Grown Ups, Marian Keyes
The three Casey brothers lead very happy lives, with successful businesses, happy marriages, and beautiful children. That is, until Cara (suffering from concussion and indulging in a little too much vodka) starts spilling secrets that could tear the family apart.
Like much of her previous work, Keyes’ latest novel manages to balance moments of beautiful comedy alongside troubling depictions of addiction and patriarchy. After the opening scene of Cara’s revelations, the novel then transports us back six months, allowing us to follow the characters towards the moment we know is coming. Grown Ups, according to Waterstones, calls into question just how civilised and ‘grown-up’ any of us actually are.
Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
Next on our list of 2020 books for elderly readers, Dear Edward is a surpisingly uplifting exploration of grief and survival. It follows 12-year-old Edward, the sole survivor of the plane crash that kills his parents and brother, among 188 other people on board. Napolitano’s chapters alternate between Edward’s recovery and flashes of the other doomed passengers on the LA-bound plane. A woman takes a pregnancy test in the aeroplane bathroom, an elderly millionaire struggles with his fast-declining health, a newly-discharged soldier grapples with civilian life. It’s difficult to feel anything but dread when reading these plane chapters. Luckily, the chapters which depict the ensuing months of Edward’s life are tender and gentle enough to make up for it. In particular, his friendship with new next-door neighbour Shay is totally joyful. Shay, a girl near Edward’s age, is thoroughly odd, and speaks to Edward with startling, refreshing honesty.
Books for Elderly Readers: Our Top Picks of All-Time
1984, George Orwell
It doesn’t get much more dystopian than 1984. George Orwell wrote his masterpiece in the late 1940s, imagining a future of totalitarian government, endless war, and 24/7 surveillance. This novel constantly tops must-read lists around the world. Lots of the words and phrases Orwell coins in 1984 have also become commonplace in our everyday speech. Big Brother, doublethink, Room 101, the list goes on. The novel follows Winston Smith, an employee of the Ministry of Truth, who spends his days ‘correcting’ historical records so they align with what The Party says is true. However, Winston dreams of rebellion against The Party and its leader, Big Brother. Will he be able to evade the ruthless Thought Police and find freedom?
1984 has several media adaptations. The British film adaptation (released in 1984) stars John Hurt as Winston Smith and Richard Burton in his last screen appearance as fellow Party member, O’Brien.
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic has reached millions around the world, in both book and film form. While Tolkien originally set out to publish the story in one volume, publishers divided the saga into three books:
- The Fellowship of the Ring.
- The Two Towers.
- The Return of the King.
As you may know, The Lord of the Rings follows Frodo Baggins, a Hobbit of the Shire, as he sets out to recover a magic ring, in order to stop it falling into the hands of the dark lord Sauron.
The world of Middle Earth is one of the most rich, detailed fantasy settings of all time, so it’s no wonder that Tolkien’s trilogy is so beloved. However, you’ll need to find some serious reading time in order to get through all three books, since they contain more than 1,000 pages altogether.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The next of our books for elderly readers is To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most widely-read and beloved books around the world. The novel was released in 1960 and challenges the insidious racism of 20th century America.
Mockingbird’s narrator is Jean Louise Finch, a six year old white girl who goes by her nickname, Scout. She lives in Maycomb, Alabama with her older brother Jem and father Atticus, a lawyer. The story focuses on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a young white woman. Atticus agrees to defend Tom, the only lawyer in town willing to take his case.
Since its publication in 1960, Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has never gone out of print. In fact, in 2006, British librarians ranked it ahead of the Bible as a book ‘every adult should read before they die.’
To Kill A Mockingbird‘s philosophy can perhaps be summarised in this quote fromAtticus Finch: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Another Pulitzer Prize winner, The Grapes of Wrath is next on our list of books for elderly readers. It follows the Joad family as they set out on the road to California, seeking to escape the drought and poverty that has forced them off their Oklahoma farm. Grapes takes place during the Great Depression of the 1930s and sees the Joads struggle to find work, food, and dignity in the face of corporate greed.
Steinbeck travelled to the dust bowl camps where migrant workers sought shelter and was horrified by what he saw. He wrote this novel as a furious call for justice and sold half a million copies in its first year of publication. The 1940 film adaptation starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad and won two Oscars. Steinbeck’s original novel, meanwhile, is enormously broad in scope yet startlingly precise in its human details. The Grapes of Wrath is a must-read for readers of all ages.
Elderly Readers – Stay Safe at Home
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Was your favourite book featured here? Of course, we can only scratch the surface of the world’s greatest novels in this article. Share your top picks in the comments section below.
If you liked this article, why not read about our other hobby ideas for older people?
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 20 July 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published October 2018.