Wednesday 10 January 2018

Do we need a Genre for ‘Older’ Readers? - Guest Post from Claire Baldry @ClaiBal @older_readers

I'm delighted to welcome author Claire Baldry to Random Things today. 
Claire is the founder of the Facebook Group and website; Books for Older Readers, which I've been part of since it began some months.

Books For Older Readers website has been created by Claire Baldry who is one of the featured authors. It is intended to be a resource for readers in mid-life and beyond who are looking for novels which they might enjoy. It is not an attempt to be agist or to put reading tastes into set compartments. We fully understand that reading tastes can vary enormously regardless of the age of the reader.  Heroes/heroines in the books on this site tend are generally 'older', though this is not always the case. Suggestions come from writers  who are members of the Books For Older Readers Facebook Group

If you are an author, and you would like to submit your book to be included on this website, please note that this is an entirely free service intended to be of use to readers and authors. We do not post books when they are only available for 'pre-order'. The easiest way to submit a book is to join the facebook group and use the messenger service. If you have any queries, feel free to ask.

Do we need a Genre for ‘Older’ Readers?
Before I finally wrote my first novel, I spent over thirty years of my working life in primary education. And anyone who has been involved in teaching young children knows how important it is for our youngest pupils to learn to sort and categorize. We encourage them to group bricks according to colour and shape, then introduce them to Venn Diagrams which place a vast variety of items into more and more inter-related and sophisticated groups. Sorting and categorising are major tools for the human brain to make sense of the world.
So it is hardly surprising that, in adult life, most readers and publishers choose to place books into genres. These categories help the reader find the type of book they are seeking. A genre sets up expectations about what sort of content might be found within the pages.
But what do you do when the type of book you are writing, or wanting to read does not fit in any one genre? Books often contain complex narratives with multiple themes. They are not always a neat fit into one category.
The problem is even greater if the main genre for a novel doesn’t even exist...and the market seems  resistant to accept a new category. In this post I am referring specifically to novels which appeal to older readers, particularly women. We have children’s books, chicklit, young adult fiction, crime and suspense, horror, but where is the term which helps readers in mid-life and beyond find the themes which will especially appeal to them? Attempts in the past to introduce such a genre have largely failed. Over the past twenty years or so phrases such as ‘ Boomer Lit’ and ‘Gran Lit’ have appeared in the press, but have not really taken up a place in our bookish vocabulary.
One book blogger said to me “I have been harping on about this for ages, but nothing ever seems to happen”. 
We could speculate for years about why there is no genre for older readers. The working population, including the publishing world, tends to be made up of people below retirement age, and this could well be a factor. Also, ‘older’ readers do enjoy a wide range of books, because they know what it feels like to be young.  But you have to experience being older to really understand what that feels like. My late Dad lectured me about this endlessly, but it is only now I am in my sixties that I begin to see what he meant.  Moreover, in western society, we tend to avoid the word ‘old’. We bury it behind euphemisms such as ‘senior’, ‘mature’, or ‘of a certain age’.
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.
And guess what? ‘Older readers’ are fitter, and healthier, than they have ever been. They want to be recognised in their own right. Literary themes, such as second chances, late life career changes, retirement, bereavement, and love in later life. …. are growing in popularity. Our time may just have come!
So if you feel even a tinge of sympathy with my views, (maybe you are in mid-life or beyond, or simply looking for inspiration for books to buy or recommend for an older relative or friend), then please drop into our growing facebook group, or take a glance at our developing website. We don’t plan to go away anytime soon. 

Claire Baldry - January 2018 

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.
Find out more at

Follow Books for Older Readers on Twitter @older_readers


  1. A topic worthy of discussion. On Monday one of the editors from HarperCollins drew attention to a feature she had written about 2018 being the year for women's fiction and particularly that containing older protagonists. Thank you, Claire, for spearheading the cause and good luck in raising the profile of books fitting this often overlooked genre.

  2. TBH I think the concept is awful. I definitely fall into the demographic (60 this year) but the thought of reading a book aimed solely at my age group is appalling. I want to have my horizons expanded by what I read. Still, I don't listen to oldies music, don't watch oldies repeats on TV, so I'll just carry on my own way - reading everything that catches my eye - from YA to sci-fi/fantasy to lit fiction.

    1. I read anything and everything too Mary. I also wear clothes that people probably think that I shouldn't, colour my hair strange colours and love rock music.

      I don't believe in 'oldies music' or 'oldies TV', and am really not sure what you mean by that?

      I continue to listen to the music that I've always listened to, along with new music, if I like it. I rarely watch TV, so can't comment.

      I totally understand what Claire is trying to say, although I don't like the term Older Reader at all. However, I do like to read about characters who are my age, and if this is another way for people to access that sort of story, then it's OK by me.

      I'm enjoying being in my 50s and certainly don't see myself as old.

    2. For clarification - oldies music to me is listening to the sounds of our youth, 70s 80s whenever, rather than an album that dropped last week. TV is much the same - the constant repeats of Morse or Only Fools and Horses, rather than Sherlock or PeepShow. I suppose I would be happy to read about a character my age, or older. But many novels - Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume, Jo Cannon's Three Things About Elsie, Rachel Joyce's Harold Fry or Vita Sackville West's All Passion Spent spring to mind - do this without the need for a new 'genre'.

    3. Oh my Goodness.
      Music released in our youth is oldies music? Really?
      I find that such a bizarre concept.
      I'm a huge music fan; music means as much to me as books to, and always have. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been my favourite bands for 30 odd years, but I also listen to newly released music too.
      Surely, you calling my taste in music 'oldies music' is no different to these authors who want to create a classification for their books?

      Yes, those authors do it already, I agree, and I enjoy their writing.
      This is a great debate, and the comments in Book Connectors are wide and varied.
      Personally, I don't have a major opinion about it, one way or another, I wanted to host this post on behalf of the group, and as I sit in that age group.

      The 'oldies music' thing that you refer to really does amuse me. Why would I abandon the music I love and listen to new stuff instead? I listen to it all. I go to gigs and shows by such a wide variety of artists.

      Interesting points.

    4. I think this is something we could chat about forever! I just don't think it's for me.

  3. Thank you Anne. If I could find a phrase which would fit the new website to replace the term 'Older Reader', I would certainly change it. Up to now I've had loads of suggestions, but nothing which really jumps out at me. I am rather hoping that a new title for the website will eventually emerge.

  4. I know that Claire, I've watched the discussions, and I've been no help, as I have no idea either.
    It's certainly sparked some discussion though and hopefully, a new term will emerge