Five Timeless Books to Read Alongside Your Older Adult Friend

June 25, 2021

Five Timeless Books to Read Alongside Your Older Adult Friend

In the age of COVID-19, it can be difficult to find ways to connect with our older adult friends without breaking social distance guidelines. One pandemic-safe option, however, is to read and discuss a book with your friend! Here are five timeless books that both you and an older adult friend might enjoy:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith


From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life―from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr


Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy, by Coretta Scott King


Born in 1927 to daringly enterprising black parents in the Deep South, Coretta Scott had always felt called to a special purpose. One of the first black scholarship students recruited to Antioch College, a committed pacifist, and a civil rights activist, she was an avowed feminist—a graduate student determined to pursue her own career—when she met Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister insistent that his wife stay home with the children. But in love and devoted to shared Christian beliefs and racial justice goals, she married King, and events promptly thrust her into a maelstrom of history throughout which she was a strategic partner, a standard bearer, a marcher, a negotiator, and a crucial fundraiser in support of world-changing achievements.

As a widow and single mother of four, while butting heads with the all-male African American leadership of the times, she championed gay rights and AIDS awareness, founded the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, lobbied for fifteen years to help pass a bill establishing the US national holiday in honor of her slain husband, and was a powerful international presence, serving as a UN ambassador and playing a key role in Nelson Mandela's election.

Coretta’s is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an independent-minded black woman in twentieth-century America, a brave leader who stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful in the face of terrorism and violent hatred every single day of her life.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath


The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.