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13 books to read when you reach retirement

29th October 2015

Reading has the charm of being able to appeal to almost everyone, with such a variety of choice and available in so many different mediums. Many love to feel the paper when turning the pages on to the next exciting chapter, whilst Kindles and other devices make it easy to learn all about fascinating topics. The beauty of reading is that it can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere, meaning that there are no restrictions for those with mobility issues, who can do so from the comfort of a rise and recline chair.

Getting lost in a good book is one of life’s most pleasurable pastimes, and when heading into retirement, it is likely that you will have much more time for this. With the help of expert bookworms, we’ve put together the ultimate reading list for retirement, which will hopefully inspire you to get stuck in too.

Here are some top recommendations from the Main Street Trading Company, which is a destination bookshop and café in the beautiful Scottish Borders village of St Boswells, boasting numerous awards for its excellence.

1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

This is a gentle beautiful novel that wears its impact lightly. An ad to rent a castle in San Salvatore on the Italian Riviera prompts two British women, Rose and Lottie, with only a passing acquaintance, inexplicably to leave their husbands behind for a summer that will change their lives and their marriages forever.

Joining Rose and Lottie for this holiday are Mrs. Fisher, an elderly woman living in the past, and Lady Caroline Dester, a grey-eyed society beauty in search of peace away from admiring eyes. Diverse character and background, they interact uneasily at first.

Surrounded by the beautiful gardens emerging into a gloriously abundant spring, and encouraged by Rose’s endless charm and enthusiasm, the group slowly relaxes, finding a balance between one another, and in doing so seeing the world afresh.

2. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

As any reader of Margaret Atwood knows, you must expect to be challenged, sometimes shocked and quite simply thrilled by her writing.

Stan and Charmaine are a respectable middle-class couple who, in a matter of months, find themselves living in their car, struggling to survive in an economic downturn and fending off lawless gangs. The idea of a freshly made bed is enough to persuade them to sign away their freedom to the Positron Project in the town of Consilience. They will live the suburban dream, surrounded by neat lawns and enjoying full employment. In exchange, every other month, they must give up their freedom for a prison cell.

This is a gloriously funny, but horribly plausible, novel, which plays with genre (one moment sci-fi, the next 60s Carry On romp) throughout, while challenging the human race’s many frailties with a gimlet eye and sardonic smile.

There are few people who are as passionate about books as the writers of the Book Geek. In particular Emily May, who has been writing reviews and sharing her thoughts for over four years.

3. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

A multigenerational-family story revolving around brothers and sisters, it is an emotional, provocative, and unforgettable novel about how people love, take care of one another, and how the choices made resonate through generations.

4. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past.

5. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Recently retired, Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance. The book is about adventure, love, hope, and transformation, and has both drama and humour.

TheBookGuide encourages users to recommend second-hand bookshops where fondly remembered titles and elusive recommendations can still be found, in order to combat the commonly held belief that all these old bookshops have been killed off by charity shops and the internet.

6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince is usually given to children and perhaps the character's biggest attraction for them is that he is seen as the master of his own fate. An older reader might be reminded of how life seemed to them when all was fresh. Yet in the leisure for reflection gifted by retirement, people can surely choose to regard the universe afresh with the wonder of St. Exupery's little hero and redouble efforts to preserve it for the children who come after. 

7. The Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's Discworld has been described as a 40-volume love letter to reading. A recent Guardian review stated, 'His books are fuelled by deep-seated moral anger about the stupid things humans do: Pratchett was so furious because he was adamant people are all capable of so much more.' Never has anger produced so much laughter. Perhaps in retirement, people have the time and the grace to both laugh at Discworld's absurdities and try harder to be kinder to each other.

Stuck in a Book is a captivating blog, which is well worth a read in itself. The man behind the blog, Simon Thomas, gives honest reviews and provides suggestions for those with similar interests.

8. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Lady Slane, when widowed, is expected to become a quiet and docile grandmother - but she's having none of it. In this funny and moving novel, written by a novelist best remembered for her relationship with Virginia Woolf, Lady Slane escapes her troublesome family and decides to spend her later years independent and happy, refusing to bow to society's expectations.

9. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker

For another older woman who refuses to play by the rules, this very funny (and very moving) novel is a delight. Norman invents the eccentric Miss Hargreaves to get out of an awkward conversation, giving her many bizarre accoutrements. He is rather surprised when the made-up woman appears on the train, complete with harp, cockatoo, and hip bath...

As a small independent store, Beckenham Bookshop is a little gem, and colleagues will go to any lengths to help customers find the right read. Take a look at their recommendations for retired readers below.

10. Freedom Pass London by Mike Pentelow and Peter Arkell

Specifically aimed at you lucky Freedom Pass holders, these 25 days out in and around London are all easily accessible by train, tube or bus. The book is the perfect read for easy and inspiring days out, covering a huge range of things to see and do, and aims to help you make the very most of your freedom pass.

11. Cook Yourself Young by Elizabeth Peyton-Jones

Cook your way to a healthier, more balanced and energised life! A revolutionary new book from a food and health expert with over 100 easy, healthy and tasty ideas to rejuvenate your looks as well as your health and well-being.

12. Sod Seventy by Muir Gray

Embrace seventy, and make the most of it by following the simple resolutions created for you in this book, packed with ideas to help you get fit and healthy, in body and mind. Part exercise book, part manifesto for a happier, healthier life, from the art of body maintenance to the importance of choosing healthcare wisely, a practical and uplifting approach to living longer and better. Shake off the stereotypes and empower yourself!  

13. War and Peace/Moby Dick/Anna Karenina/Don Quixote/etc....

Well, you are retired now, you have no excuses for not catching up on all those classics you have been meaning to read! There is a whole huge world of classic and world literature just waiting at your local bookshop or library for you to enjoy, dive in!

Image Credit: Dino Quinzani (

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