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Books With Characters in Their 70s

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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.

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

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.

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.

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!

As always, you are welcome to choose any book you’d like to read for this month’s challenge. We hope that our list of books about life in your 70s provides a good starting point. We’ve selected a combination of newer releases and older titles that are usually available without a wait from your local library.

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Main Characters in Their 70s

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Kathy Coaker

Tuesday 30th of August 2022

there are so many books on this list I want to read! Probably because I am 72! good thing I am going to the beach for a week!

Katie

Tuesday 23rd of August 2022

Hi! I was wondering if there is a printable list of the books? If there is, I must have overlooked it. Thanks for putting these together!

Olive Gale Mullet

Friday 19th of August 2022

How about novels about characters in their 80s?

Melissa George

Friday 19th of August 2022

Hi Olive, the list of 80-somethings will be released next month on the 20th. Each month, we're working through decades of life as part of our year-long Lifetime of Reading challenge. If you join the email list, you'll get a notification when it's ready!

Lois

Friday 19th of August 2022

Please let a reader know whether the books you recommend are LGBTQ friendly. Thank you.

Melissa George

Friday 19th of August 2022

Hi Lois, there are a couple of books on this list with LGBTQ characters like Mr. Loverman and Second Wind. We are mindful of making all our lists as inclusive as we can, although that does depend on book availability at times.