We Can’t Help but Love These Grumpy Characters

Not all book characters have the charm of Elizabeth Bennet or the poise of Atticus Finch. Sometimes even the surliest, bad-tempered characters are lovable in their own way. Here are six books with curmudgeon-type characters that we love, especially when they show their softer sides.


Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick

Benedict Stone isn’t at the best place in his life. His wife has left him and business at his jewelry store is at a low. In the middle of the night the teenage daughter of his estranged brother shows up at his door from America. Gemma turns Benedict’s life upside down, but that might be just what he needs.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is a cranky man described as the neighbor from hell. He lives a solitary life, but everything changes when a chatty family moves in next door and flattens his mailbox, beginning an unexpected friendship.


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

J. Fikry is the owner of a bookstore on an island. A widower, he now finds little joy in books and isolates himself from those around him. All that changes when a small girl is left in his bookstore, changing his life and bringing joy and stories into it again.


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) begins an unlikely friendship that might change into something more with the village’s shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali. The Major and Mrs. Ali both bond over a love of books and their shared widowhood. But, to the village, the Major is the quintessential Englishman, and Mrs. Ali will always be a foreign outsider.


The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

At ten years old, Alex Woods is hit by a rare meteorite, leaving him with scars and epilepsy. The son of a fortune-teller, Alex loves science, math and astronomy, and finds it difficult to make friends. He makes an unlikely connection with an older neighbor, Mr. Peterson, bonding over a shared love for Kurt Vonnegut. Their friendship ultimately leads to Alex being stopped at the border at the age of seventeen with a car carrying 113 grams of marijuana and an urn of ashes, with the whole nation knowing who he is.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Let’s not forget that teenagers, and not only old men, are also disgruntled and annoyed with the world around them. Holden is a native New Yorker, and has just returned to the city after being kicked out of boarding school. He is afraid of what will happen to him now and spends three days in the city avoiding his parents. This is an iconic coming-of-age story as well as an American classic. Author’s note: I have a T-shirt that says Holden Caulfield Thinks You’re a Phony.


Do you know of other grumpy characters we’d love? Let us know in the comments!

    Emma Hunter

    Emma Hunter enjoys reading literary fiction, YA, historical fiction and a little bit of fanfic. When she isn’t reading, she likes photography, cats, photography of cats, riding her bike and just generally wasting time on the internet. You can find her on Twitter at emmaincolour_ and Instagram at emmaincolour and noseinabook9

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