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Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime

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Whether you’re participating in our Lifetime of Reading Challenge or you’ve found this booklist looking for novels that span decades while following a protagonist’s life, we know you’ll find your next great read below. Our list of recommended books spanning a character’s lifetime includes a wide variety of fiction titles as well as some excellent memoirs.

You can read all about the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, find new book lists each month, and download your free printable book tracker here.

Books help us appreciate all of the different phases of life, but there’s also a lot to learn by seeing how someone – real or fictional – develops over time as they are shaped by their personal experiences and by the changing world around them.

The titles on this booklist feature both female and male protagonists who vary in race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, class, background, ability/disability, lifestyle, and more. However, if you are specifically interested in reading a book that takes place over a character’s life span while crisscrossing the globe, you’ll find numerous novels that follow one character for many years on our list of Books that Span Multiple Continents.

As always, you are welcome to choose any title that you’d like to read for the Lifetime of Reading Challenge this month, but we hope that our list of recommended books spanning a character’s lifetime will be a good starting point. We’ve selected a combination of newer releases as well as older titles that are usually available without a wait from your local library.

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Books that Span Decades While Following a Character's Lifetime

The book list above is focused on books that follow a protagonist’s life across multiple decades. If you are instead looking specifically for intergenerational novels that follow several generations of the same family over an extended period, you’ll find many of those on our list of Novels that Span Decades from the 1880s to the 2010s.

Four book covers with text reading 20+ Books Spanning a Character's Lifetime

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Friday 20th of May 2022

I loved 'The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell'!


Wednesday 25th of May 2022

@Jerri, OMG i laughed my butt off, the mother was great. I listened to audio and it was great.