Fiction for the Elderly?
June 12, 2017 4:41 PM   Subscribe

My dad is 97 and likes to read. I want to send him a small package of books and am looking for appropriate recommendations.

By appropriate, I mean (from his own words):
- nothing convoluted; he does best with a straightforward plot, ideally with some easy surprises
- he likes plot-driven novels, such as mysteries; relationship fiction not so much
- No sci-fi
- clarity of prose; not too "literary"

About my dad, he's in assisted living, tries not to watch too much television, and has what might be called mild dementia. On his good days, he can tell a pretty good joke. On his bad days, he forgets that he was married to my mother.
posted by Short Attention Sp to Writing & Language (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are some great YA novels. I have some that are grades 5-8 and my elderly mom has enjoyed them. I won't suggest my mom's favorites because they are more relationship fiction, I think.
There are also some adult books (In the Heart of the Sea) that have been made into a "Young readers edition". If you get him the hard cover and take off the jacket he probably won't notice it's a different edition.
posted by beccaj at 4:52 PM on June 12, 2017


I've never met an old bloke yet who didn't have a shelf or two of Alastair MacLean, Louis L'Amour, Dick Francis, or Tom Clancy (or some combo of the four). Ken Follett and Jeffrey Archer are two others I would suggest. All very simple stories with straightforward plot and uncomplicated syntax, and many if not most available in large-print editions, if that's a requirement.

(Sorry, I know it's all just old white guys writing about old white guy stuff, but if my dad was still alive he'd be around this age by now, and this is the sort of stuff he'd be reading.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:04 PM on June 12, 2017 [15 favorites]


Roald Dahl's adult short stories, despite what you might think of Dahl himself, are pretty much the best in the business. A collection or two (or the complete collection) of those might be appreciated.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:06 PM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


If nonfiction's OK, he might enjoy Bill Bryson's The Life and times of the Thunderbolt Kid, which is his memoir of growing up in Iowa in the '50s. (Note: I seem to recall that Bryson makes his [liberal] politics explicit at least a couple of times, so if that's the kind of thing that would automatically turn your dad off, then be forewarned.)

on preview: Roald Dahl's adult short stories, despite what you might think of the guy himself, are pretty much the best in the business.

Yes, but they're often pretty salacious and/or dark (just as a heads-up for the OP).
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 5:09 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


My Dad really digs the Walt Longmire Mysteries series by Craig Johnson - there are 12 books in the series so far. His bookshelf also features Tom Clancy and Ken Follett. (Also Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, but that's Scottish Time-Travelling Romance so probably not your Dad's cup of tea)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 5:36 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Would John Le Carre be too elaborate? They are a pleasure to read, especially if you were alive in the eras when they are set, and rolling good mysteries.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:38 PM on June 12, 2017


Linwood Barclay, perhaps?
posted by jacquilynne at 5:40 PM on June 12, 2017


Would John Le Carre be too elaborate? They are a pleasure to read, especially if you were alive in the eras when they are set, and rolling good mysteries.

Totally agree. I love John Le Carre, but, yes, that would be way too elaborate for my dad at this stage. He wants a good story that doesn't take a lot of work to figure out. But the writing, yes, that's the ideal.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:45 PM on June 12, 2017


Strong recommendation for Oregon Trail, a chronicle of recent attempt to travel the actual Oregon Trail in a real covered wagon for entire length of the trail (not just the pristine sections that the re-creators like to use.) A New York Times best seller, I really enjoyed - Clear, lively writing is was includes details of their adventures and just enough history to put it in context. Each day new things happen and they meet new people. It is straight-forward (not convoluted) and reasonable about everyday type adventure (will the wagon make it down the cliff? will the mules run away?) with a clear goal to make it to the end of the Oregon Trail without losing the wagon or being stopped by winter snow. As a bonus for your father, since it takes each day as it comes, there isn't too much that you have to remember from chapter to chapter. If he meets up againwith someone from earlier in the book, the author will remind you who it is. I think it would be perfect for him!
posted by metahawk at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite mystery writers is Donna Andrews. Murder mystery, told from the perspective of a woman blacksmith, in small town Virginia. Everyone who dies deserves it, and the solution is usually a surprise. Light-hearted and humorous. I think he'd be able to follow pretty well.
posted by China Grover at 5:52 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I love John Le Carre, but, yes, that would be way too elaborate for my dad at this stage. He wants a good story that doesn't take a lot of work to figure out. But the writing, yes, that's the ideal.

I would suggest The Bee Keeper's Apprentice in that case. The writing quality is very high and the storyline withing the novel is episodic so you don't have a massive long arc to keep up with.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:15 PM on June 12, 2017


Possibly the Moosepath League books might work. Author interview from a few years ago.
posted by gudrun at 6:28 PM on June 12, 2017


I assume this gentleman has already read everything by Raymond Chandler, but, if not, I would start there.
posted by 256 at 6:30 PM on June 12, 2017


Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Very plot-driven.
posted by delight at 6:37 PM on June 12, 2017


The Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester. A snappily-plotted British naval officer's seafaring life in the Napoleonic Wars era.

Another vote for Dick Francis' British horse-racing centered mysteries.
posted by ClingClang at 6:41 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Agatha Christie?
posted by Threeve at 6:46 PM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


Golden Age detective fiction (Agatha Christie, as mentioned, and Dorothy Sayers) is great for this.

Also, PG Wodehouse; there is some British Humo(u)r WordplayTM ("He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.") but the plots are generally light and comic and not at all dense.
posted by basalganglia at 6:52 PM on June 12, 2017


If he is of Irish Catholic background, you can't do better than Angela's Ashes. Also, how about Unbroken or the Boys in the Boat? Very readable but not sure about the WWII focus.
posted by scorpia22 at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2017


For straightforward mysteries, I would suggest John Hart. There are some plot twists, but nothing hard to follow, and the writing is engaging. He gives you vivid descriptions of the action so it plays in your head almost like a movie.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:04 PM on June 12, 2017


The Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. Appealing narrator, the plots aren't terribly convoluted.
posted by praemunire at 8:17 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


James Herriott's stories (of being a country veterinarian) have been collected a bunch of ways, including chopped up as as short books focusing on a given theme such as dog stories, where each chapter is a separate little story.

They're not mysteries, but are short, not complicated, and might be nice if he likes dogs or animals - they've got one for cats and farm animals too, as well as his original collections. There's some medical stuff described that can be a little squeamish (farm vet stuff), if that's an issue.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:23 PM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


I agree that Agatha Christie and Dick Francis write mysteries and action stories that are plot-centric. I enjoyed them enough as a teen (Christie) and in my thirties (Francis) to read every single one of their novels. I also read Alistair McLean in my twenties, and the one that sticks out as the most attention grabbing is Where Eagles Dare, with a WW2 setting.
posted by puddledork at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2017


Wodehouse is a good idea. Carl Hiaasen.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:04 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Patrick Taylor's Irish Country Doctor series
posted by notjustthefish at 9:09 PM on June 12, 2017


Some recs with less usual settings: Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mysteries set in tribal Alaska, Margaret Coel's Wind River mysteries set on an Arapaho reservation in Wyoming.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:25 PM on June 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Came in to say that Dick Francis has never written a bad book yet! Good plots, fast pace, easy to read and reread. But must like horses!
Also the Aubrey/Maturin canon by Patrick O'Bryan. But must like Nelson's Navy!
posted by lungtaworld at 2:13 AM on June 13, 2017


Elmore Leonard? My father started reading his books after watching the TV show Justified.
posted by bCat at 2:51 AM on June 13, 2017


Ed McBain's 87th precinct novels. Mostly short, and they are straightforward police procedural, plot driven books.
posted by crocomancer at 4:26 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Mickey Spillane.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:42 AM on June 13, 2017


Ferrol Sams's novels are engaging and resonate as annals of a former age.
posted by Caxton1476 at 5:10 AM on June 13, 2017


For a bit of exotic flavor, he might enjoy the Inspector Chopra mysteries by Vaseem Khan. Very straightforward, and with a mystery solving elephant in the mix, what's not to love?!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:14 AM on June 13, 2017


He might enjoy Dangerous Davies.

Seconding Ed McBain.
posted by plep at 5:51 AM on June 13, 2017


Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective series.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2017


Harry Kemelman's "Rabbi" series, I would say. They're well-crafted little mysteries, and pretty straightforward. Also, I don't know if you're Jewish or Gentile, but I think they're extra interesting to read if you're Jewish. I am, and I actually learned a lot about Jewish practice and philosophy through those books.
posted by holborne at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2017


While I love Aubrey-Maturin, I'm not sure if I'd recommend them for someone who wants clear prose. THey're written in an early 19th-century style, and dense with naval jargon. They're delightful books if you can learn to let that flow over you though.

I'll second the recommendations for Raymond Chandler and Alastair Maclean
posted by Alensin at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Harlan Coben novels are fast thrilling reads (although they get a bit repetitive, IIRC). Other options: Agatha Christie, Tony Hillerman.

I second the Bill Bryson recommendation above, particularly One Summer: America, 1927, which is a very enjoyable read.
posted by suelac at 9:19 AM on June 13, 2017


Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhorne series is very straightforward.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:12 PM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe Assignment in Brittany by Helen McInnes. It's a spy story (published 1942) but reasonably easy to follow (which I wouldn't say about the only other McInnes I have read, Above Suspicion).

I would also recommend Nevil Shute. The Far Country is one of the simplest.

I'm dealing with a rather similar situation myself in the family, and it's really hard. We haven't had much success. I may come back with some other suggestions. I wish you and your father the best of luck with finding reading material.
posted by paduasoy at 3:11 PM on June 13, 2017


Thank you, everyone, for all these great suggestions! I'm going to start with the authors turbid dahlia listed and continue on from there as long as my dad is interested.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:08 PM on June 13, 2017


Add my voice to the Raymond Chandler chorus. In that same vein, the Dashiell Hammett 'Continental Op' novels would work well. As would anything by Ross Macdonald.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2017


My grandad is 94, and he loves Patrick Leigh Fermor's books about his youthful hike, aged 18, from London to Istanbul. Born 1915, died 2011, Leigh Fermour was a prolific memoirist (not travel writer), and his epic journey happened in 1933 - stimulating times in Europe, which he traversed from west to east, north to south. He wrote up the journey in 3 books, they're ace. Link.
posted by Joeruckus at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


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