No, boomers are an active, dynamic lot and see their third slice of life as a challenge, as a chance to do yet more amazing things and change the world around them, and above all, change the way humanity addresses aging. Literature has a role here, it needs to accompany this transition, meeting the new demands and needs, featuring characters with whom boomers can identify.
There are early examples of Boomer Lit, notably David Lodge's Therapy and Louis Begley's About Schmidt series. The latter inspired a hilarious film made in 2002 starring an unforgettable Jack Nicholson. This was followed by a series of films aimed at a "mature" audience, including RED and The King's Speech.
In 2012, Deborah Moggach's book These Foolish Things became a box office hit under the name The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, featuring, inter alia, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. Here's the movie trailer:
Another recent film that is both a hit and a quintessential boomer movie is The Descendants with George Clooney. Just watch Clooney's masterly performance as he struggles with the loss of his wife, his family's heritage and his growing, rebellious daughters:
Now he's a real boomer, caught in life's major dramas and facing daunting issues. Yes, Hollywood is riding the tsunami in popular culture raised by Baby Boomers as they pass the 50+ age mark - all of them by 2014.
Just like boomers were the foundation of the rise and huge success of Young Adult (YA) Literature back in the 1960s and 70s, they will be behind the rising success of boomer lit.
Take note, this is a genre that addresses a huge and growing market. Baby Boomers (technically defined as those born between 1946 and 1964) are some 77.5 million in the US alone and they're hitting retirement age at the rate of 3.5 million/year: that's 10,000 boomers every day.
The same is happening elsewhere in the world. A recent report published by the United Nations Population Fund predicts a radical and unprecedented aging of the world population in the 21st century. As of now, every second, around the world, two persons celebrate their sixtieth birthday and one in nine is aged 60 years or over.
While Boomer lit is a totally new genre, there is one thing we already know: it is vast, flexible and can accommodate all kinds of theme-related sub-genres from romance to thrillers and science fiction. It also covers various literary forms from poetry to novellas and short stories as well as non fiction with memoirs and guides especially aimed at Boomers as they face new issues in the "Third Act" of their lives or, if you prefer, their "second adulthood".
What is typical of Boomer lit? One thing above all: they have to be stories that feature characters with whom boomers can identify. That means a very broad range of literature, from nostalgia pieces that evoke boomers' younger years to the the dramas and challenges they are going through now, at this stage in their lives. For example, what to do about retirement, how to revive a dying marriage, how to relate to one's growing or grown-up children and more generally to the younger generation, how to take on the responsibility and care for the elderly... Boomers are a sandwiched generation with unique challenges.
That's what makes for the wealth and depth of Boomer lit. Baby boomer stories can be told with irony and compassion, they can be comedies or tragedies, they can make you laugh or cry. But they are always real, profoundly real. They reflect a lifetime of experience. A boomer lit novel about love is likely to be deeper, more nuanced, more complex: it's (almost always) about romance the second time around, romance between mature adults who know what life is all about, who no longer harbor illusions but who still hold hope for true love close to their heart.
Good reads in boomer lit, here are some suggestions, click on the titles to get to the Amazon site:
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
- About Schmidt by Louis Begley
- Therapy by David Lodge
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
- No Place like Home, by Anne R. Allen
- Evil Deeds by Joseph Badal
- Goodbye Emily by Michael Murphy
- Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer by Marsha Roberts
- The Paper Doll Museum by Abigail Padgett
- Rent a Thief by Beate Boeker
- The Warrior with Alzheimer's by Stephen Woodfin
- Crimson Clouds by Claude Nougat
A GOODREADS GROUP to discuss Boomer books was launched in October 2012, here's the link. Moderated by fellow authors Abigail Padgett, Marsha Roberts, Libby Fischer Hellman, Shelley Lieber and myself, the group is growing by leaps and bounds: it now has some 500 members and 100+ books on its bookshelf, many from New York Times bestselling authors including at least one runner up to the Man Booker Prize (author Rachel Joyce), as you can check out for yourself.
For related articles about Boomer lit around the Net: check out the Goodreads Group discussion thread for all the latest news, and here are some recent articles (the list is not exhaustive):
- Boomer Café
- The Passive Voice
- The Kindle Nation Daily
- Digital Book Today
- Indies Unlimited
- Venture Galleries article
- Venture Galleries interviews: part 1, The Gathering Storm of Boomer Literature
- Venture Galleries interviews: part 2
- Venture Galleries interviews: part 3
- Venture Galleries interviews: part 4
- Gawker Media New Adult vs. Coming of Old Age
- Geezer Guys and Gals: Baby Boomer Novels: A New Genre, the Next Phenomenon in Publishing
- Blog - Find a Good Book to Read
- Women on Writing: Boomer Lit, Romancing the Middle-Aged Reader
- Publishing Perspectives: Is Baby Boomer Lit the Next Hot Genre? (published March 14, 2013)
- Judy Lee Dunn's article: The Shot Heard Around the World, Boomer Lit is Here (March 29, 2013)
- The Huffington Post: What are Boomers Reading? Article by Dianne Harman (May 6, 2013)
- Boomer Lit Newest Book Genre, article by Mac McLean in The Bulletin (November 10, 2013): it covers in particular Boomer Lit authors Marsha Roberts and Claude Nougat
Follow BoomerLit on Twitter: @boomerlit Look for the #boomerlit hashtag to find out about new boomer reads, articles, interviews and book trailers.
NOTE: Boomers are driving the book market (click here to read the latest stats on Boomer Lit) :
- The 77.3 million Americans who make up this generation also purchased one-fourth of the new books sold in 2011 (Bowker report).
- More than half of baby boomers have visited a public library in the past year to attend an event, do research on a computer or check out a book. That's 38 million Americans (Pew survey)
- 16 percent of people ages 50 to 64 owned an e-reader in April 2012 (Pew).
Who said Baby Boomers don't use the Internet and don't read?
Post-scriptum regarding the current state of Boomer Lit: It should be noted that the concept of Boomer Lit was not born with the Goodreads Group in 2012. It appeared much earlier, in a Writers Digest article in a 2008, see here. The two editors mentioned in that article have however moved on and are working elsewhere - possibly because 2008 was too soon, not that many Baby Boomers had passed the 50+ mark.
Boomer Lit, as of this writing (2014), is still awaiting recognition from the publishing industry in the form of an imprint dedicated to it. However, expectations are that as more boomer books are written and more of them become successful, like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the Unlikely Prilgimage of Harold Fry, a Boomer Lit imprint may soon be in the works somewhere among the Big Five.