Today it’s a pleasure to share my second post for the Books for Older Readers month-long blog blitz. There have already been so many really excellent posts from other members, with more to follow: if you’ve missed any, you can find links to them all on the Facebook group.
I’d just like to share an extract from a post I originally wrote back in January 2018, remembering well my excitement when the website and Facebook group were first established…
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?
“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 ageing 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… 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 might have by-passed my radar, whether they’ve been put forward by their authors or recommended by others.
Claire also wrote an article for Random Things Through My Letterbox, and the reaction at the time was – to put it mildly – “interesting”. Some even felt that if a book was classified as “for older readers” it might limit its audience – in a way that being identified as “chick lit” or “crime” presumably doesn’t. I’ll admit that I was a tad surprised to experience a similar social media reaction when I shared my post last week – although all I did was draw attention to three authors I’d enjoyed, some took offence to the whole idea that there might be books and subjects that have particular appeal for readers with a few well-disguised grey hairs and a lifetime of experience.
That outrage seemed to stem from the misconception that older readers should only be “allowed” to read and enjoy books that have the themes and characters I enjoy – and nothing could be further from the truth. My personal reading preference happens to be for contemporary fiction – actually, when asked, I often say “women’s contemporary fiction” but that always tends to make it sound like something less serious, less relevant, less good. But I enjoy books with a historical setting too – as well as the occasional crime or psychological thriller, or something from the more literary end of the market. And I often still enjoy well-written chick lit – after all, we were all young once, weren’t we?
But I really do particularly like to read about older characters and life experiences I can identify with – and in the absence of a cover sticker saying “enjoyed by older readers”, such books can be very difficult to find. And perhaps finding them on bookshop shelves isn’t the biggest issue – because many of the books I’ve enjoyed aren’t found there at all, 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 if these books can’t be seen 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, the site and group are “intended to be a resource for readers in mid-life and beyond who are looking for novels which they might enjoy”. And there’s really nothing to take exception to there, is there?
Books for Older Readers is on Twitter too – you can follow at @older_readers.
Here are the details of this week’s other blog blitz posts: