Books: Does Age Matter?

Recently – an hour ago actually – I had a member of my in-person book club leave the group.  Her reasons sort of offended my reading sensibilities.  She claimed that our group read nothing that interested her and she felt she’s perhaps too old to be a Litwit.  Okay…

What does too old to be a Litwit even mean?  Do book clubs have age limits – should they?  Am I supposed to be looking at books and deciding whether or not I’m too old or too young to read it?

The Litwits aren’t a bunch of teenagers.  Our average age range is somewhere between 35-45.  This particular member (who had never even attended a meeting) was probably at the high end of that range, maybe a bit older.  Does she have a point?  Or is she just insecure about her age?

I’m a bit flabbergasted because she signed up knowing what books we read.  Has she aged so significantly in the past couple of months that she’s outgrown us already?  Our next two books – Gone With the Wind and Their Eyes Were Watching God – don’t feel particularly ‘young’.  They are also both considered classics.  What does she want us to read? A steady diet of philosophical literature or Senior Citizens Monthly?  I am so confused.  Especially when her profile indicated she adored the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

So, does age matter when selecting books?  I know a ton of older readers who greatly enjoy young adult fiction.  And to be honest, the couple of young adult novels the Litwits have read really generated some of our best discussions.  The former member wanted to read ‘quality fiction’.  What does that term mean?

I used to run a second book club that focused only on 20th century classics.  I’d call those heavier, ‘quality’ reads.  And you now what?  It died after 2 or 3 meetings because no one ever finished the books because they were too ‘difficult’.  Interestingly, the average age of that group was significantly higher.  Do older women feel the need to only read ‘high brow’ literature for fear of feeling too silly, immature, and young?  Should readers feel obligated to their age?

I’m totally with C.S. Lewis.  Here’s what I know:  I hope to be reading anything and everything for the rest of my life.  I want the silly with the serious – the good with the bad – the long with the short.  I want to be challenged by books that seem ridiculous and argue with books that are supposedly perfect.  I hope I never feel too old to read something be it picture book or historical tome.

What do you think?  I need to hear your thoughts!

22 thoughts on “Books: Does Age Matter?

  1. Some of my favorite books in my project so far have been children’s classics: Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, EB White, LM Montgomery. I can’t imagine I’ll ever not want to read them, and I hope to ALWAYS read with a youthful spirit.

    (I can’t speak for the lost Litwit, so I won’t.) 🙂

  2. I don’t think age matters when reading books because you can either remember things through books, or you can look to the future or you can be reminded to live in the present. HOWEVER, I do think when you come to a book determines if you will like that book. It all depends on what kind of reading mood you’re in, what kind of life situation, what the season is, all kinds of things really…

    However, I read every age books because you never know where a gem of a book will come from. It could be from 207 years ago, or a children’s book written in the last year. You just don’t know. : )

    • Agreed on all accounts! Especially about how when you come to a book really affects your experience. But you can never know how a book will affect you until you open it up! I hope that lady isn’t afraid to open a book just because she thinks she might be too old – that makes me sad for her.

      • That is really sad. I never want to come to a point where I can’t read a good YA novel because I’m retired, or I’m “too old.” I think she might have needed your book club to really expand her reading tastes!

  3. Brooke, you sounds more hurt and angry than confused. Don’t take it personally.

    As someone nearing 60, I can give you my perspective: yes, I enjoy the occasional YA or lighter fare, but I’m becoming increasingly mindful that my reading time is getting shorter and I want to read more of perhaps what your former member called “quality” fiction (although I think that is a misnomer).

    I find I’m getting impatient with 19th century classics because they don’t get to the point quickly enough LOL I don’t want to read post-apocalyptic or fantasy literature because I want to learn as much as I possibly can about the ‘real world.’ (And, yes, I feel drawn more to non-fiction too.)

    This sense of ‘running out of time’ may not be the driver behind her decision, but I thought I’d throw it into the discussion.

    • Thanks so much for your perspective, Debbie, and I can totally understand where you’re coming from. I was a bit hurt at the idea that I don’t read quality fiction. As someone who holds a degree in quality fiction, I tend to read far more seriously than many other readers I know. But what really confused me was that the books we’ve read for the past two years are all up on the site so she knew what she was signing up for. And we’ve read a plethora of genres and many classics. I just couldn’t decipher what her definition of quality was. I wish she had been more specific.

      I think at the end of the day I just worry that other members might agree with her and I’d hate that.

      • There will always be readers for the genres of any book club, Brooke – that’s what makes the world go ’round. Everyone’s tastes are different, and there are many other individual factors.

        Just keep on enjoying what you read!

        • I completely agree, Debbie, and know I’ve been a bit defensive on this issue. I hope she finds nothing but satisfaction in her reading life. I can even be difficult when discussing quality fiction since I’ve been known to be a bit of a book snob myself at times! Thanks so much for your thoughtful input. I always enjoy a good discussion among bloggers and readers alike!

  4. I think there had to have been something else at play here because I think you can enjoy all types of books meant for all ages — it all depends on how open your mind is to trying new genres, authors and so forth. It sounds like she didn’t want to be a part of this group and used that as an excuse. It seems like you will be better off without her!

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