#Feature: In praise of Books for Older Readers @older_readers @ClaiBal #TuesdayBookBlog

By | January 23, 2018

Every now and then, I mention books here on Being Anne that could have a sticker on the cover saying “Anne – you’ll love the one”. You might even have heard the occasional muffled fanfare of trumpets. Such books have often been discovered quite by accident, and sometimes – more frequently these days, and I’m very lucky that way – the books have found me.

As age has caught up with me, I often find the chick lit books I used to love too insubstantial, their characters now often the age of any children or (heaven help us) grandchildren that I might have had, their concerns increasingly irrelevant to my life. But I really don’t want to read about quirky old codgers either – the likes of Harold Fry and Hendrik Groen don’t attract me at all, although I know others have loved them. So what is it that makes me decide that a book is one for me?

I don’t think I can do any better than to quote from Claire Baldry, the author behind the new website Books for Older Readers, and its associated Facebook page.

Likely themes within the books are second chances, late life career changes, adjusting to retirement, bereavement, love in later life, divorce, relationships with adult offspring and aging parents, and stories with older characters whose age is in some way central to the plot.

When I first heard about Claire’s initiative, I wanted to hug her – at last, someone who understood what I was looking for and who felt as I did. It’s early days yet, and both the website and the Facebook page will take time to grow and establish themselves, but I’m really looking forward to being able to share my own finds – to be able to say “I’m 62 and I loved this one because…” And I’m also excited by the possibilities of finding books that I can be confident will meet my criteria but that might have by-passed my radar, whether they’ve been put forward by their authors or recommended by others.

I’m not entirely sure that books for older readers should be a recognised genre – but that’s more because I have a natural antipathy to the whole question of “genres” and pigeon holes. When people ask me – in conversation – what kind of books I enjoy, I often struggle a little. If pushed, I say contemporary fiction – actually, I’ll often say “women’s contemporary fiction” but that somehow makes it sound like something less serious, less relevant, less good, when nothing could be further from the truth. But I do enjoy books with a historical setting too – with a particular liking for what I think of as “a good story”, and I do enjoy books with more than a single time thread.

Following her recent article for Random Things Through My Letterbox, the reaction to Claire’s initiative has been – to put it mildly – “interesting”. Some even felt that if a book were classified as “for older readers” it might limit their audience – in a way that being identified as “romance” or “chick lit” presumably doesn’t. I can’t really see there being a section in Waterstones any time soon emblazoned “Books for Older Readers” – and I’m not sure I’d want there to be – but a tasteful sticker on a cover with “enjoyed by older readers” surely wouldn’t do anyone’s sales too much damage.

Although her argument for a genre perhaps went a little further than mine would, Claire makes a really valid point:

The daft thing about this gap in genres is that people in mid life and beyond often have more time to read and more money to spend on books. It makes commercial sense to market books towards ‘my’ age group.

But bookshop shelves perhaps aren’t the major issue – many of the books I’ve enjoyed aren’t found there anyway, often self-published or from smaller independent publishers, while major publishers (and there are exceptions) continue to focus on cake shops, cafes and the next “jaw-dropping twist”. And that, I think, is the bigger issue. If these books can’t be found while browsing the book shop shelves, how on earth do they find their readers? And that’s where my personal enthusiasm for Books for Older Readers comes from – as a virtual bookshelf where these books can, at long last, be discovered and celebrated. To quote Claire again:

It is intended to be a resource for readers in mid-life and beyond who are looking for novels which they might enjoy.

And do you know, for now, that’s enough for me. I’ll be a regular visitor to the website – where you’ll find a number of books and authors that are already my personal favourites, along with a number of others that I plan to read, review and enjoy – and I’m really looking forward to seeing the Facebook community grow and flourish. You might just like to join us.

If you’re an author who’s interested in submitting a book for inclusion on the website – and I can think of several who might – you’ll find the submission guidelines here.

Books for Older Readers is on Twitter too – you can follow at @older_readers.

Claire Baldry is a retired primary headteacher who lives on the East Sussex coast. Her debut novel Different Genes about love in later life was published in October 2017 – one I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing before the end of the month. Find out more at www.clairebaldry.co.uk.


14 thoughts on “#Feature: In praise of Books for Older Readers @older_readers @ClaiBal #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. Joanne

    What an excellent article Anne. I know exactly what you mean about sometimes finding the concerns of younger characters less appealing these days.

  2. Karen

    An excellent article Anne and the best of luck to Claire with the website

  3. whatcathyreadnext

    You’ve written an excellent article that articulates your point really well. Personally I’m still not convinced that one’s reading taste is defined by one’s age any more than any other characteristic. I don’t find I want to read about people just like me. I like to read books that show me different experiences, different cultures, etc. However, different strokes for different folks. I do agree that all age groups should be represented in fiction, including older characters. But I would make the same case for race, social status, gender and so on. Having said all that, I’m thrilled you’ve found a resource to point you in the direction of books you may love.

    1. Anne Post author

      Thank you Cathy. Like you, I enjoy reading far and wide, about different experiences, cultures and the rest, and don’t plan to change that. But there are those books that make me give a contented sigh, with that wonderful feeling that the author understands me – where I am in my life, my day-to-day issues, my life experiences. As a resource to find those books, and for a like-minded group of authors and readers, Books for Older Readers will hopefully grow to be exactly the resource I’ve been looking for.

  4. lindasbookbag

    Smashing post Anne. I read far and wide, but it’s so lovely to read books that also feature people my age as well as the 30 somethings of so many novels. It’s a bit like the YA debate – I love YA fiction and children’s books so I think the older reader genre has a place too.

  5. Sue Featherstone

    Lovely article Anne that articulates exactly how I feel about books. I love to read books about people who don’t look like me (I’m a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, for instance) but it’s nice to read about people who look the same too. And I like the term mid-lit too! PS Have you thought about approaching Andrew Edwards for a slot on the books programme?

  6. Caroline James Author

    Punching the air in approval! Great article Anne and wonderful to see Claire’s brainwave in Books for Older Readers – some wonderful recommendations there. C x

  7. The Cozy Pages

    Great post Anne. Very valid points and concerns raised. I agree that genre naming often pigeonholes authors as well as readers. Although I’m a huge fan of Cozy Mysteries, I could never imagine limiting myself to just that. More and more as writing and, more importantly, publishing becomes accessible to wider groups, we are seeing a huge upswing in cross-genre books. I’ll always choose my books based on if something in the premise speaks to me or if it comes highly recommended by someone I trust.

  8. Dawn O'Brien

    ooh Anne, I loved this post! I’m getting a bit fed up with the books ive read recently, I think it’s definitely time for a mid-lit book!

Comments are closed.