Whether you’re participating in the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, or simply interested in reading books about life in your 70s, you won’t want to miss these titles! Our list of books with older characters in their 70s includes a mix of charming and feisty septuagenarian protagonists.
What is a septuagenarian? A septuagenarian is a person between 70 and 79 years old.
Life In Your 70s: The Overlooked “Golden Decade”
Is 70 considered old? That really depends on who you ask. Younger people are likely inclined to call someone in their 70s elderly. But as people age, their definition of old gets, well, older. An AARP Magazine article found that more than half of adults over age 65 say old age starts at 85. So if that’s the case, then what does that make you when you’re 70-something? If you ask many septuagenarians, they say they’re just living their best life.
An August 2022 survey of 70-somethings, conducted by AARP/National Geographic determined happiness spikes in your seventh decade. A whopping 90% of survey respondents in their 70s said they are happy. Compare this to 81% of 60-somethings who report being happy, and 80% of 40-somethings.
Despite being a very happy time for many people, this decade often gets overlooked. There’s a lot more emphasis on your 60s because it’s when many people look forward to retiring. And some people fear reaching their 80s because it’s when serious health issues are more likely to arise. Helen Davis, author of the syndicated column “Successful Aging,” describes your 70s as “the highway in between.”
Researchers and septuagenarians agree on the keys to getting the most out of life in your 70s. Exercising your body and your mind, making new friends, and finding a new purpose. Low-impact activities like swimming, yoga, and walking are helping today’s 70-somethings feel more youthful and maintain energy. Those who enjoy this decade of life the most seem to be those who take that energy and channel it into something they are passionate about!
Shifting Perspectives: Books with Older Main Characters in Their 70s
Based on our recent reader survey, about 12% of our readers are over age 70. But for those of us that haven’t reached our seventh decade, representations in movies, tv, and books have shaped our views over time. Fortunately, we’re seeing a shift in popular media that’s reflecting a wider range of 70-something life experiences.
Both of us Book Girls grew up watching Golden Girls as kids. It’s hard to believe now that Rose, Dorothy, and Blanche were all supposed to be in their 50s. Looking back, as much as we loved them, these characters contributed to our skewed view of what it looked like to “get old.”
More recently, we fell in love with the Netflix series Grace & Frankie, which presents a much more modern view of 70-something life. Grace, Frankie, Robert, and Sol epitomize the later-in-life experience of happiness, making new friends, and finding new passions.
What Kind of Books Are on This List
In selecting titles for our list of novels with older characters, we’ve focused primarily (but not exclusively) on contemporary stories that help us understand what life in your 70s is like in today’s society. Many of these books reflect the happiness and optimism described in the research and surveys we site above. But, of course, others deal with more difficult topics like grief and health challenges.
We’ve curated a diverse list of recommended books with characters in their 70s. In addition to reflecting a wide range of life experiences, the main characters also vary in ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, class, background, lifestyle, and more. Most of the recommendations are fictional novels about life in your 70s, but we’ve also included a couple of memoirs/biographies.
Other Books to Consider
If you’d like to read a novel about older adults set in a different part of the world, you’re in luck. Quite a few of the books on this list take place abroad. However, we also recommend looking at our Book Voyage reading lists, which are organized by region. Additionally, if you’re looking for books with protagonists over 70 that provide a historical perspective, our Decades Challenge reading lists, which cover the 1910s through the present, are a great place to start!
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.
Book Lists By Character Age
Links to our book recommendations for all twelve of the Lifetime of Reading challenge prompts can be found below:
- Books with a Child Protagonist (Bildungsroman Novels)
- Books with Teenage Characters
- Books with Characters in Their 20s
- Books with Characters In Their 30s
- Books With Characters in Their 40s
- Books With Characters in Their 50s
- Books With Characters in Their 60s
- Books With Characters in Their 70s
- Books With Characters in Their 80s
- Books With Characters in Their 90s and 100s
- Intergenerational Novels: Books that Connect Generations
- Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime