Top 12 Books for Seniors

There is nothing better on a rainy day than curling up with a good book. At Branchlands, you can relax in your residence with one of these 12 books for seniors or get together with friends to talk about your favorite novel.

For those who like to gather, the Linden House Assisted Living book club hosts weekly meetings where residents discuss their latest selection. Recently, they have read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover, and Where the Crawdads Sing, a novel by Delia Owens. You can also make use of Branchlands’ many cozy public spaces to sit and read after browsing books on our shelves or on the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Bookmobile, which visits Branchlands twice a month.

Whether you prefer sitting with a book in hand or downloading an audiobook to listen to on the go, here are our top 12 book picks for seniors in both fiction and nonfiction.

Fiction Books for Seniors

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal. So, he is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life. And now, he must live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

This singular novel is brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another. It casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Learn where to buy A Gentleman in Moscow

The Librarianist Book Cover

The Librarianist

By Patrick deWitt

Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning, on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he’s known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.

Behind Bob Comet’s straight-man façade is the story of an unhappy child’s runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian’s vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob’s experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsize players to welcome onto the stage of his life.

With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert’s condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.

Learn where to buy The Librarianist


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

By Helen Simonson

You are about to travel to Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, thatched cottages, and a cast of characters both hilariously original and as familiar as the members of your own family. Among them is Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, Major Pettigrew is one of the most indelible characters in contemporary fiction, and from the very first page of this remarkable novel he will steal your heart.

The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

Learn Where to Buy Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Book Cover

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

By Alexander McCall Smith

Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and its proprietor, Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective. In this charming series, Mma  Ramotswe—with help from her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi—navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea.

This first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s widely acclaimed The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witch doctors.

Learn where to buy The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Secret Life of Sunflowers Book Cover

The Secret Life of Sunflowers

By Marta Molnar

When Hollywood auctioneer Emsley Wilson finds her famous grandmother’s diary while cleaning out her New York brownstone, the pages are full of surprises. The first surprise is the diary isn’t her grandmother’s. It belongs to Johanna Bonger, Vincent van Gogh’s sister-in-law.

Johanna inherited Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. They were all she had, and they weren’t worth anything. She was a 28-year-old widow with a baby in the 1800s, without any means of supporting herself, living in Paris where she barely spoke the language. Yet she managed to introduce Vincent’s legacy to the world.

The inspiration couldn’t come at a better time for Emsley. With her business failing, an unexpected love turning up in her life, and family secrets unraveling, can she find answers in the past?

Learn where to buy The Secret Life of Sunflowers

The Thursday Murder Club Book Cover

The Thursday Murder Club: A Novel

By Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

Learn where to buy The Thursday Murder Club

Nonfiction Books for Seniors

Elderhood Book Cover

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

By Louise Aronson

Noted Harvard-trained geriatrician Louise Aronson uses stories from her quarter century of caring for patients and draws from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life to weave a vision of old age that’s neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy. It is a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and life itself.

The story of aging is the story of what it means to be human. It’s both a timeless tale and one that’s rapidly changing with advances in science, technology, and society. Aronson tackles this epic topic with the precision of a scientist, the compassion of a clinician, and the eloquence of a literary writer.

Elderhood will transform how readers think and feel about aging. This intensely compassionate book reframes “life’s third act” in ways both revolutionary and revelatory.

Learn where to buy Elderhood

Life is So Good Book Cover

Life Is So Good

By George Dawson and Richard Glaubman

One man’s extraordinary journey through the twentieth century and how he learned to read at age 98. In this remarkable book, George Dawson, a slave’s grandson who learned to read at age 98 and lived to the age of 103, reflects on his life and shares valuable lessons in living. He also offers a fresh, firsthand view of America during the entire sweep of the twentieth century.

Richard Glaubman captures Dawson’s irresistible voice and view of the world, offering insights into humanity, history, hardships, and happiness. He comments on segregation and civil rights to the wars and the presidents, to defining moments in history. George Dawson’s description and assessment of the last century inspires readers with the message that has sustained him through it all: “Life is so good. I do believe it’s getting better.”

Learn where to buy Life is So Good

The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple Book Cover

The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple

By Ben Aitken

While hunting for a room in London, Ben Aitken came across one for a great price in a lovely part of town. There had to be a catch. And there was. The catch was Winnie: an 85-year-old widow who doesn’t suffer fools.

Full of warmth, wit, and candor, The Marmalade Diaries tells the story of an unlikely friendship during an unlikely time. You can imagine an intergenerational version of Big Brother, but with only two contestants. One of the pair is a grieving and inflexible former aristocrat in her mid-eighties. The other is a working-class millennial snowflake. What could possibly go wrong? What could possibly go right?

Out of the most inauspicious of soils comes a book about grief, family, friendship, loneliness, life, love, lockdown, and marmalade.

Learn more about The Marmalade Diaries


The Measure of Our Age Book Cover

The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money & Meaning Later in Life

By M. T. Connolly

As tens of millions of Americans are living longer lives, longevity is creating challenges that cut across race, class, and gender. Caregivers help older relatives for “free,” but with high costs to themselves in time, money, jobs, and health. Scammers target countless seniors. The institutions built to protect older people—like nursing homes and guardianship—too often harm them instead. And epidemics of isolation and loneliness make older people vulnerable to all sorts of harm.

Connolly’s strategies and action plans for navigating the many challenges of aging will appeal to a wide range of readers. They’re for adult children caring for aging parents, policymakers trying to do the right thing, and, should we be so lucky as to live to old age, all of us. This book transforms how we think about aging.

Learn where to buy The Measure of Our Age


Outlive Book Cover

Outlive: The Science & Art of Longevity

By Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

In this operating manual for longevity, Dr. Peter Attia draws on the latest science to deliver innovative nutritional interventions, techniques for optimizing exercise and sleep, and tools for addressing emotional and mental health. In Outlive, Dr. Attia’s aim is less to tell you what to do and more to help you learn how to think about long-term health. Readers will discover:

  • The cholesterol test at your annual physical doesn’t tell you enough about your actual risk of dying from a heart attack
  • Exercise is the most potent pro-longevity “drug”—and how to begin training for the “Centenarian Decathlon”
  • Striving for physical health and longevity, but ignoring emotional health, could be the ultimate curse of all

As the book reveals, aging and longevity are far more malleable than we think; our fate is not set in stone. And, with the right roadmap, you can plot a different path for your life. This path lets you outlive your genes to make each decade better than the one before.

Learn where to buy Outlive

The Second Mountain Book Cover

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

By David Brooks

In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence.

This book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives. However, it’s also a provocative social commentary. We live in a society, Brooks argues, that celebrates freedom, which tells us to be true to ourselves. Often, this is at the expense of surrendering to a cause, rooting ourselves in a neighborhood, binding ourselves to others by social solidarity and love. We have taken individualism to the extreme—and in the process we have torn the social fabric in a thousand different ways. And, the path to repair is through making deeper commitments. In The Second Mountain, Brooks shows what can happen when we put commitment-making at the center of our lives.

Learn where to buy The Second Mountain




You can look for these titles on the Bookmobile or at the library. Or, follow the links after each book description and they will take you to an author’s or publisher’s page. There, you will find a variety of purchase options to have your book delivered to your residence. Or, you can contact the local stores New Dominion Bookshop and Barnes & Noble in Charlottesville. If they don’t carry the title you are looking for they may be able to order it for you. Local used bookstores may carry some of these selections as well, including 2nd Act Books, the Book Room, Daedalus Bookshop, and Heartwood Books to name a few. We hope you discover your new favorite book. Happy reading!