Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

8 Writers Over 80

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

Philip Roth may not exactly have been in his prime when he “retired” from writing last year at the spry age of 79, but if you ask any of the folks listed below, he surely still had plenty of good scribblin’ years left. In the spirit of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, allow us to present 8 Writers Over 80 — eight octogenarians (or older) who are still perfecting their craft.

8. Alice Munro (born July 10, 1931, 81 years old) — The short story master Munro’s latest short story collection Dear Life was published last November. The book includes several biographical sketches at the end, which some interpret as Munro tying a bow on her career.

7. Toni Morrison (born Feb. 18, 1931, 82 years old) — Morrison published her 10th novel, titled Home, last May. Critics mostly loved the book, but suggested its self-referential nature, at least thematically, may suggest a last novel. If you’ve never read Morrison, here’s a suggested Reading Pathways.

6. Tom Wolfe (born March 2, 1931, 82 years old) — Wolfe’s latest novel, Back To Blood, came out last fall — his first novel in eight years. Wolfe has actually only published four novels in his long writing career, one of which is the classic Bonfire of the Vanities.

5. John Barth (May 20, 1930, 82 years old) — The prolific postmodernist published most recently in 2011, a novel titled Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons.

4. James Salter (born June 10, 1925, 87 years old) — The venerable screen writer, short story author, and novelist will publish a new novel titled All That Is on April 2nd.

3. Elmore Leonard (born October 11, 1925, 87 years old) — Leonard has averaged approximately a novel every year to every-other-year since the mid-1950s, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His latest novel, Raylan, was published in January, 2012.

2. Doris Lessing (born October 22, 1919, 94 years old) — Lessing hasn’t published since August 2008 — a novella titled Alfred and Emily — but since she was just a few months shy of her 89th birthday when that novel came out, and as a Nobel Laureate (she won in 2007), she can’t not be included.

1. Herman Wouk (born May 27, 1917, 97 years old) — The grand wizened wizard, Wouk published a novel titled The Lawgiver last November at age 97. Author of bestsellers and classics such as The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War Remembrance, Wouk published his first novel in 1947, 66 years ago!