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Bah, Humbug! 7 Books Featuring Lovable Curmudgeons

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 29, 2020

Happy Curmudgeon's Day! (Or maybe happy isn't quite the right word.) One of the definitions we found of curmudgeon reads: "a crusty ill-tempered scrooge." This is perfect for our purposes as it actually includes the name one of the most enduring literary curmudgeons! As demonstrated by the classic Dicken's tale, discovering the heart of gold hidden inside a blustery old grump makes for a wonderfully satisfying story. Here are seven of our favorite curmudgeons grousing up the pages of contemporary novels.

Sheldon Horowitz

Widowed, impatient, and impertinent, Sheldon has grudgingly agreed to move in with his granddaughter and her new husband in Norway, a world away from his New York City home. A former Marine who is haunted by his past, Sheldon is propelled into a perilous adventure after rescuing a young boy.

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

Olive Kitteridge

Curmudgeons are often thought to be men, but there are plenty of exceptions. Stern, perceptive, and disillusioned, former schoolteacher Olive can be a tough character. Through the stories of her fellow residents in a remote Maine community, we see Olive's evolution and her impact on those around her.

Olive Kitteridge and Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout

Major Ernest Pettigrew

The retired Major Pettigrew leads a quiet life holding dear the values that Englishmen have espoused for ages: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. When an unexpected friendship with a Pakistani shopkeeper from his village turns romantic, it threatens his equilibrium.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Aaliya Sohbi

A reclusive septuagenarian, Aaliya is cranky, yet charming. Living alone in her Beirut apartment, she works away translating her favorite texts into Arabic. Sustained only by her books and memories, her fragile existence is suddenly threatened by an unthinkable disaster.

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Leo Gursky

Leo is a lonely old man who spends each day in his life just hoping to be noticed by someone. A Holocaust survivor, his existence hinges on memories of his long lost love, Alma, and an extraordinary book he wrote about her. Complex and sensitive, Leo is searching for something, but he doesn't know what it is.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Eleanor Oliphant

While most of these characters are elderly, Eleanor represents the younger population of curmudgeons. Socially challenged, she has made an art of avoiding interaction with others. But everything changes when she meets Raymond, and then Sammy in this charming story about unintentional friendships.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Ove Lindahl

A classic curmudgeon, Ove has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. He scowls, points, shouts, and even kicks cats, keeping everyone at a distance and belying his own personal pain. When his new next-door neighbors accidentally run over his mailbox, everything begins to change.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Do you relate to these characters? Or maybe they remind you of a few crusty, cantankerous figures from your own life. In any case, we know these are just a few of the lovable curmudgeons to be found in literature! Do you have any favorites? Let us know. And be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily book recommendations, literary tidbits, and more.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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