Whether you’re participating in the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, or simply interested in reading books with elderly characters in their 90s and 100s, we’ve curated a diverse list of recommendations! Our list includes a mix of memoirs and novels with nonagenarian and centenarian protagonists.
What is a nonagenarian? The meaning of nonagenarian is a person between 90 and 99 years old.
What is a centenarian? As you can probably guess from the context, centenarian means a person who is 100 to 109 years. Our book list even includes some supercentenarians who are 110 years old and older!
Read about the Lifetime of Reading Challenge, find monthly book lists, and download your free printable book tracker here.
A Century of Living
No matter our age, we can look back and reflect on how things have changed in our lifetime. But just think of the dramatic changes experienced by those who live for nearly a century of life (or more).
One hundred years ago, in the 1920s, troops had recently returned home from WWI. The newly ratified 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in the US. Although, it still would be another 45 years before Black women were able to exercise that same right.
In the US, for the first time in history, more Americans were living in cities than on farms. Although cars were considered a luxury in the early 1920s, by the end of the decade they were a necessity.
Despite prohibition (or perhaps because of it), the Twenties were a roaring time in the US. But the decades that followed brought about the Great Depression and then World War II. The latter half of the 20th century saw the Cold War, Civil Rights era, the Vietnam War, and so much more.
Throughout a century of living, today’s nonagenarians and centenarians have seen dramatic advances in technology. From the first television broadcast in 1927 to the internet. And from the first personal computers in 1974 to the smartphones that we carry in our pockets and purses today.
If you’d like to read more about how world has changed throughout the past century, join our Decades Reading Challenge. For this challenge, we read a book set in a different decade each month, including the entirety of the 20th century.
What We Can Learn From Elderly Book Characters
In the US, the average life expectancy is around 78 years old. Globally, the average is between 72 and 73 years old. While there’s a 30% chance of reaching your 90th birthday, only 14 in 1,000 people will live to be 100 years old. That means that many of us aren’t lucky enough to have 90-something or 100-something relatives and neighbors in our lives.
Thankfully, through the wonderful characters in the elderly protagonist books that we’ve listed below, we can all have the opportunity to learn a bit about life at 90 and 100+. Many of these stories involve an elderly main character forming relationships with someone from a younger generation. In these books, the senior protagonist shares their life story and imparts the wisdom that comes with old age. Another common theme among these novels with elderly characters in their 90s and 100s is a willingness to still learn and try new things at this late stage of life.
In selecting titles for our list of books with nonagenarian and centenarian main characters, we’ve focused primarily (but not exclusively) on contemporary stories that help us understand life in your 90s and 100s today. We’ve curated a diverse list of recommended books, ranging from cozy mysteries to literary fiction, and even a few memoir and nonfiction titles. In addition to reflecting a wide range of life experiences, the main characters also vary in ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, class, background, lifestyle, and more.
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 with elderly protagonists provides a good starting point. We’ve selected a combination of newer releases and older titles that are likely immediately available from your local library.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, we may earn a referral fee from qualifying purchases.
If you found us looking for elderly protagonists and want more recommendations, be sure to check out our lists of 80-something octogenarian main characters, and 70-something septuagenarian main characters.
Love reading as much as we do?
Join us for more free content, reading challenges, & discussion in the Book Girls’ Guide Facebook Group!