A good novel should not only keep you entertained during your morning commute, but add another layer of texture to your – let’s face it – increasingly dull daily routine.
To help you through the inevitable realisation that life isn't likely to involve sports cars and hanging out in hot tubs with supermodels any time soon, we’ve rounded up five of the best novels to gracefully ease you into middle age.
Remember, as each book shows us: things could be a lot worse.
1| The Information – Martin Amis
Exploring that quintessential male issue: peer jealousy, Martin Amis's eighth novel (for which he insisted on a whopping £500k advance) follows novelists Richard Tull and Gwyn Barry who – after being friends since university – find themselves deep in middle age but on opposite ends of the literary spectrum. After a flash-in-the-pan success early on in his career, a largely redundant Tull hires violent criminal types to even the score against his questionably-talented, but hugely successful rival. The moral of the story? It pays to accept that there'll always be someone doing better than you, and involving the London underworld in a private rivalry will only end in embarrassment.
2 | The Sportswriter – Richard Ford
Frank Bascombe has a family, a house and a promising career as a short story writer, until his young son dies and he’s cast into the midst of a spell of ‘dreamyness’, only to emerge divorced and working as the world’s most unenthusiastic sportswriter. The novel follows Frank’s attempts to overcome this existential crisis over the course of one Easter Weekend spent drinking, acting as a shoulder to cry on for a member of his 'Divorced Men group' and managing his younger girlfriend's relationship expectations. A solid reminder that sometimes, despite the shocking appearance of that first grey hair, the only thing holding us back is our own capacity for inner despair.
3 | The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
No one does family better than Franzen, with the author’s 2001 effort focusing on mid-western American parents and their three dysfunctional middle-aged offspring. While the youngest son loses his job teaching English and ends up helping a Lithuanian crime boss defraud American investors, it’s the story of oldest son Gary that lands closer to home. A successful banker, Gary spends his time sneaking Martinis, cooking extravagant mixed grills and denying he’s clinically depressed. A cutting reminder that sometimes it’s best to talk things out, even if you and your family are on grunting terms at best.
4 | Rabbit Redux – John Updike
The second of John Updike’s Rabbit series, Redux finds our man working a dead end job in a fictional Pennsylvanian city. As middle age approaches, Rabbit's wife leaves him for another man, entrusting their 13-year-old son into Rabbit’s care. Matters aren’t helped by the arrival of a drug-dealing Vietnam vet, an attractive teenager girl set on complicating the father-son bond, and a deadly house fire. The lesson? Sometimes you really can have too much on your plate.
5 | The Brotherhood Of The Grape – John Fante
Known for his Bandini Quartet including Ask The Dust, it’s also well worth digging out John Fante’s slim, 1977 novel about a 50-year old writer returning to the family home to help his tyrannical Italian American father build an outhouse in the hills. A novel about how even middle age can’t save you from the wrath of your parents, red wine predictably plays a part in the downfall of both men – not to mention their construction project. A timely reminder that drinking like a 20-year-old didn’t improve your life then, and certainly won’t thirty years later.
Any we've missed?