14 books with midlife protagonists to add to your reading list

Books transport us from our everyday lives to experiences and places that are unfamiliar and fascinating.

And yet, for those at midlife, finding books that have protagonists we can relate to can sometimes be difficult, unless you know where to look.

There are many authors whose books focus on people in this stage of life. There is still so much to learn and so many stories to share as we age. Here are 14 great reads that feature midlife protagonists.

1. Bettyville, by George Hodgman

This heartbreaking and funny memoir is about a middle-age gay son and his 91-year-old mother coming together at the end of her life. George returns to his childhood home to care for his mother, Betty, on the cusp of her move to an assisted living facility. As George and Betty connect during this time of constant togetherness, they learn about each other and, of course, about themselves.

Find it: Amazon

2. Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo

Russo chronicles the lives of small-town, middle-aged people in his books. Bridge of Sighs explores the theme of staying or leaving.  Louis “Lucy” Lynch and his wife Sarah travel to Italy to visit his childhood friend, who is a famous painter. The ties that bind and the stories we tell ourselves about our choices are central to this book.

Find it: Amazon

3. Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler

Some of the best books take a character far out of his or her comfort zone and drop them in the middle of something they have never experienced before.

This is what happens to Willa Drake when she leaves her husband and home to care for her son’s ex-girlfriend who’s been shot and needs help. Tyler is a master at creating quirky, unique characters who will stay with you long after you finish her books.

4. Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner

An intimate look into the friendship between two couples over 30 years, with plenty of angst, emotional upheaval, and revelations to keep the reader turning the pages to the very end.

The inner lives of the men are as well-developed as the women, giving dimension and interest to ordinary people. 

Find it: Amazon

5. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, by Fannie Flagg

Evelyn, a frumpy middle-aged woman, is living a tedious and unsatisfactory life when she meets Mrs. Threadgoode, a resident at the senior living home where Evelyn is a volunteer. 

Mrs. Threadgoode tells Evelyn stories that are fascinating about the friendship between Idgie and Ruth, two women she knew when she was a girl. Their joyous, rebellious relationship encourages Evelyn to make some changes in her own life.

Find it: Amazon

6. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

A widower, Major Ernest Pettigrew has retired to his quiet life in a small village in the English countryside.

He develops an unlikely relationship with Pakistani Jasmina Ali, a widow who is a shopkeeper in town, much to the disapproval of some of the townspeople. Love comes at all times in life, as the Major learns, and sometimes in surprising ways. 

Find it: Amazon

7. Olive Kitteridge/Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout writes about a community of characters vividly portrayed in her two books centered around Olive Kitteridge, a cranky but loving woman Strout follows from midlife to old age.

The little town of Crosby, Maine, is the setting for Kitteridge’s life and the lives of so many others Strout introduces to us in these beautiful stories.

Find Olive KitteridgeAmazonFind Olive Again: Amazon

8. Plainsong/Eventide, by Kent Haruf

In a small town on the high plains outside Denver, a cast of characters are making the best of difficult situations, including a man with a vanished wife and a pregnant teen taken in by two bachelor brothers.

The stories of these people, told in Haruf’s poignant yet straightforward prose, will touch your heart and lead you to read the rest of his beautiful books.

Find Plainsong: AmazonFind Eventide: Amazon

9. Rabbit Redux, by John Updike

The fourth and final book in the Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series finds Updike’s most famous character facing the realities of aging.

Rabbit’s heart is giving him trouble, as is his son, and his wife has decided to return to work after they relocate to Florida to retire.

Rabbit spends a lot of time looking back and taking stock of his life while trying to understand the world of Reagan/Bush, AIDS, and the end of the 20th century.

Find it: Amazon

10. September, by RosamundPilcher

Rosamund Pilcher’s books — including the wildly popular The Shell Seekers — are all focused on middle-age and the years after.

September, like her other novels, is set in Scotland, and her writing will transform you from wherever you are to the green hills of the Scottish countryside.

In September, a family reunites for an annual dance, and drama and confrontation abound — but so do reunions, love, and connection. 

Find it: Amazon

11. The View from Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman

Lipman’s books are full of humor, love, and triumph.

Her characters come alive in The View from Penthouse B because despite their extraordinary circumstances, the relationships — between sisters, friends, and ex-wives and husbands — are strong and believable.

The sisters in this book, Gwen-Laura and Margot, are sparkling, fun, and strong — just the kind of women we all need in our lives.

Find it: Amazon

12. The Three Weissmans of Westport, by Cathleen Schine

What do you do when your husband of 48 years leaves you for another woman?

Betty Weissman takes off with her two middle-aged daughters, leaving New York City for a beach cottage in Connecticut in homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. A joyful novel about the love between mothers and daughters.

Find it: Amazon

13. The Year of Pleasures, by Elizabeth Berg

Pick up any of Berg’s books, and you will always find middle-age characters with depth and grace.

In The Year of Pleasures, Betta Nolan, recently widowed, moves to a small town to live a different kind of life than she ever has before. She succeeds beyond her expectations, much to the reader’s delight.

Find it: Amazon

14. Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

Grady Tripp is a writer and professor at a small liberal arts college.  He is mired in a never-ending book that he must finish to follow up his first best-seller, but cannot get past his debauchery to fix his manuscript.

A student of his, James Leer, is fighting his own demons and becomes Tripp’s sidekick for a few crazy days.

A midlife crisis told in real-time, Wonder Boys is a book that cannot be put down once it’s begun.

Find it: Amazon

This article first appeared on Considerable.