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Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime

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.

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.

Books that Span Decades While Following a Character's Lifetime

Other Books to Consider

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.


We hope you enjoyed this book list and found several books to add to your TBR (to be read list). If you’re choosing a book for our reading challenge, you are also welcome to read any other book that meets the challenge prompt.

If you have a suggestion for a book that you think would be a great addition to this list, please fill out this form.

You can read all about the Lifetime of Reading Challenge and sign up for a free printable challenge book tracker here.

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

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The Book Girls are best friends who jointly read over 200 books per year. We started Book Girls' Guide in 2019 to help others de-stress and find joy through the power of a great book. We do in-depth research on thousands of novels and non-fiction titles each year to provide curated book lists covering a variety of genres.

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Looking for your next great read? Try one of the highly-rated titles from our curated book lists.