Reading lists

7 brilliant authors who wrote their best books late in their careers

As Mark Twain said, 'ageing is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter'. George Orwell, Kate Chopin and Nella Larsen, to name a few, would no doubt have agreed.

Image: Penguin
Image: Penguin

It is too often said that youth is wasted on the young. Well, say that to John Keats, Zadie Smith, F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of the other many literary wunderkinder who have bedazzled us with their raw, unjaded ability to capture the world from a youth's-eye-view.

But that's not to say that talent fades as age kicks in. The literary world is full of writers who spent years – decades, even – honing their ideas and polishing their prose before writing their best book in the Autumn of their career.

Take this year's Goldsmith's Prize as a golden example, where all but one (Xiaolu Guo) of the shortlisted authors are over 49, each with a trove of work already under their belts. 

Or as Mark Twain, a late-career bloomer himself, once said, “Ageing is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Here, from George Orwell to Nella Larsen, are some of history's greatest writers who proved that creative energy, like fine wine or a mistrust of technology, only ripens with age.

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