Book Jacket


rank 5911
word count 12232
date submitted 21.09.2008
date updated 27.01.2010
genres: Non-fiction, History, Biography, Po...
classification: universal

The Octogenarian Ski-jumper

Martin McGovern

Ever thought no-one achieved anything at your age? This is the antidote. Mary Wesley published her first book at 70. Read on..


This book describes the achievements of the famous and the not-so-famous, arranged according to the age at which they achieved sporting greatness, wrote that novel, or invented that gadget we all use every day. For example, Ethel Seymour won an Olympic medal in gymnastics at 46. You will discover the person with the world's most impressive trophy cabinet having won the Nobel Prize (at 69) and an Academy Award (at 82). Did you know that the most popular age for signing the American Declaration of Independence was 50? In Scotland, the first six Kings named James were under 16 when they ascended the throne. With about 1,000 examples of age related success, there is something for everyone with an age. It's light, it's trivia - but very entertaining trivia.

The book is now available for purchase at Or if you're not sure, download sample chapters from my blog at

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age, inspirational, reference, trivia

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paxie wrote 1631 days ago

What an incredible amount of research you've done.....This is a literary masterpiece.....Congratulations....Am whizzing through it.....The pc is on the table and we're all arguing having just had Sunday lunch....We're playing trivial pursuit with your book.....Nine of us......My 21 year old niece who graduated with 2 firsts has gone quiet...She had never heard of The Richeous Brothers....ha ha...

Well done, on the shelf...I wish you the best........If you dont make it as a book, convert it to a board game...Its fabulous......

Sandrine wrote 1963 days ago

Martin, I've discovered why no-one's reviewing anything any more. They're all reading this. Absolutely addictive.
I said it on my Zen thread and I'll say it here. Damn you! I won't get a single thing done now all day.

Hannah wrote 1979 days ago

I've had this book on my shelf for donkey's years! (love that expression) I didn't even know what it was about, so how refreshing to see something so different. It's not really the type of book I read, but would be a great xmas pressie for my dad!
I did find it a little dry in places. More humour perhaps to make it sparkle more??? More of you own touches rather than dry presentation of facts? For me, that would make it more engaging. But I am probably not your target audience!
But for utter uniqueness - this is one of a kind of this site, will shelve this. This site is intended for a whole range of books. Yours belongs here.

kwasumang wrote 2031 days ago

Martin finally got time to look at your work. SMASHING. nothing less than that. i love it. three more days to go and you are on my shelf.

Barry Wenlock wrote 1299 days ago

Hi Martin,
I dipped back into this and read some more -- fascinating stuff with brilliant research. Great to hear it's now on sale.
Backed (again, I think) with pleasure,

klouholmes wrote 1363 days ago

Hi Martin, Your synopsis drew me in – I’ve heard of old ladies skiing in their 80’s but never an elderly ski jumper. The subject is bound to appeal to anyone over 40 and especially in the next decades. Your style is concise and makes interesting links of events. As I read the early chapters, I was curious about the ages of the people who had accomplished great things. The point being that it not usually attached to the accomplishment – liked the paragraph on numbers in libraries. A fascinating read and with the synopsis, I’d expect it to become moreso. Shelved – Katherine (The Swan Bonnet)

SusieGulick wrote 1481 days ago

Dear Martin, I love trivia. Is your book complete, now?. Your book is a good read because you create interest by having "titles" throughout, which makes me want to keep reading to find out what's going to happen next. I'm BACKING/COMMENTING on your book to help advance it. :) PLEASE take a moment to BACK/COMMENT on my TWO Books, ... "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" ... and the UNEDITED version? ... "Tell Me True Love Stories"
Thanks, Susie :)

Beval wrote 1491 days ago

This is such a lot of fun, just the sort of book you drive the family insane with by stopping every five minetes to say "Did you know....."
I was completely hooked when you included James Wolfe (age 32), one of my all time military heroes.

Jesse Hargreave wrote 1529 days ago

Backed January 21.

Jesse - Savant

Jupiter Echoes wrote 1546 days ago


I get very little from comments about my own book, nowadays. Some people like it, some don't. Some people are too frightened to leave genuine feedback, while others seek to enforce their own style upon me. I want to get to the Ed's Desk to get professional comment. I would rather spend 30 quid than do all this reading and backing. I have got everything I want out of Authonomy community already. So I am backing your book so that you can reach the Ed's desk and get professional feedback, instead of the platitudes and devious backings that account for 80% of backing you receive. Only 20% of comments are genuine, and will add value to your work.

Now, who am I not to back you? I am not godlike. Your work might be flatly written, unoriginal or even down right bad. It could be wonderful. But in my experience, only you can be honest with yourself about your writing... and that is what matters.

So, I am backing you so you can reach the Ed's desk.

There you are.


Hope you reciprocate.
If you end up leaving a comment that adds value to Dream Diamond, I will return to your book and give it a thorough read and comment.

John Booth wrote 1596 days ago

What a great idea for a browsing book - shelved

The success of a good browsing book is to put thing together in a way no one has done before so that unexpected connections can be shown and so that you can open the book anywhere and not get bored.

I think this should catch a publisher very quickly.

John Booth (Shaddowdon)

T.L Tyson wrote 1597 days ago

This is crazy!
I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into writing this. I am in awe of what you have done.
This is splendid and no words can describe it really!
So different and simply enthralling. Backed.
T.L Tyson-Seeking Eleanor

Bob Steele wrote 1603 days ago

The Octogenarian Ski-Jumper is non-fiction so I had to throw most of my fiction writer's do's and don'ts out of the window. From an academic perspective I am not entirely sure that classification of achievements by the age of the achiever with seemingly ad-hoc sub-sections such as 'heat' is the optimum structure for documenting historical successes - but I guess that depends on whether you buy the idea that success is or may be age-related. In any case, the contents are fascinating and well researched, so I'll just back it!

DurbanSun wrote 1609 days ago

Martin, I like the concept that you have going here, but i feel that something about the way you have formatted the book makes it seem somewhat adhoc and therefore somewhat confusing to follow. A suggestion might be to have more uniform/standardized headings under each age, that way everything follows a consistent pattern. Also the ages you have seem somewhat arbitrary. It might be more coherent if u classified things by decades and then broke it down into individual ages. I will put this on my watchlist for sure, since i think the concept is great! The title is ingenious too. It definitely grabbed my attention. I know this is not the most favorable feedback that you've received on here but I think its one of the most honest. Writing a book is no easy task, and I can tell you put a lot of hard work into researching it. With a little bit more work I think you can turn this into a fantastic book that will be picked up Harper Collins.
best of luck
(Squash Diary)

NelizaDrew wrote 1610 days ago

It reads like an encyclopedia. For many readers or buyers of a book with such an interesting premise, I'm sure this would be preferred -- they could look up their age, their mother's age, their best friends age and taunt them or regale them or whatever. I'm always much more interested in the why behind the what so it leaves me wanting more. (I am likely an anomaly as I usually am.)

Interesting concept. Good luck.
Neliza Drew

zan wrote 1614 days ago

The Octogenarian Ski-jumper
Martin McGovern

I found this interesting, well-written, well-researched and inspirational. Haven't had a chance to read it all yet, but hope there is an entry regarding the ages of the singers and musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club - amazing performances in that one - for their age! Naturally you can't include everything in here, but I am sure there will be many calls for later editions as this grows and grows and grows!
On my shelf,

chrisalys wrote 1616 days ago

The research for this is amazing and it must have taken you ages but although i agree with the rest of the comments there were times i wanted it to slow down and have a bit more on one of the interesting areas... is that a possibility.. to go into one of the moments in greater detail and then just record the rest as this would really give the book more resonance for me. That having been said i find it good for dipping into and it is interesting. It is also a great book for Christmas and would end up in many stockings. I am nacking this because it is original and well researched and written. Good luck with it.
Chris (inside Out)

Laurie Gonda wrote 1618 days ago

I liked the way you put this together. Not only is it fascinating and makes us all believe "it's never too late", but it's also fun to read.

hot lips wrote 1619 days ago

This is well written and is great fun and contains a staggering number of facts, I think it could do very well indeed, Backed with pleasure.

gillyflower wrote 1622 days ago

A very interesting book. Not for reading straight through, of course, but ideal for lifting up and reading a section or so. I really enjoyed discovering some of the unusually young, and unusually old, writers, musicians, inventors, and so on, who pepper its pages. Amazing amount of research! Congratulations, Martin. (Loved your intro, by the way, especially the first line - a real hook!) Backed.
Gerry McCullough,
Belfast Girls.

Leigh Fallon wrote 1622 days ago

Hi Martin
This wouldn't be my usual type of read, but I was drawn to the title of this book. Your opening chapter is fun, challanges the mind and encouraged me to read on. I read the first three chapters and really enjoyed them, they're well written, very informative and witty in some places. I have this backed. All the very best with it.
Leigh Fallon
The Carrier of the Mark

Bruce Worden wrote 1622 days ago

NIcely done. Fun stuff. The last paragraph of the introduction feels wishy-washy, though. You don't have to defend the fact that this book is your opinion.
"What About Me?"

Ccastle wrote 1623 days ago

Everyone should be bought this book for their 40th. Brilliant and backed. Cx

LittleDevil wrote 1623 days ago

Ok not really my forte, but thousands of people read about other's achievements in this format, so I'll give it a spin. I prefer the fiction or non fiction story to be honest, unless I am studying for something, I hardly ever read non-fiction. But if you would like to add me at 45 self studied and passed three mortgage advice exams with distinction, you are welcome to. Only Joking. Personally, I think this information is readily available on the internet, so it would be hard to market. But what do I know.
Happy to give it a spin, albeit a quick one, especially since you have worked so hard with the research.
Best wishes

andyroo wrote 1623 days ago

I love books that teach me things as well as keeping me enthralled. This is one of them. I could happily absorb all the facts in this book like a sponge, and reproduce them incorrectly the next day at work. Very informative and enlightening.


sperber1 wrote 1623 days ago

Not only is this fascinating and entertaining data, but it makes a powerful point that I have always believed: Don't let anyone tell you that "it is too late" to do something or that "age discrimination" will prevent it. Those are just convenient excuses. Sure, age discrimination exists, but it is just an obstacle to be overcome. As long as you are alive and able, you can do things...and should.

This book should be kept on every person's bookshelf as an inspirational reference to refer to from time to time. As essential as Bartlett's Quotations or Roget's Thesaurus. Shelved.

Onthedottedline wrote 1623 days ago

As you rightly say: entertaining trivia, but books like this sell in the millions as stocking-fillers and at airport lounges. Ideal for the lazy reader who likes to dip in, or as a talking point at a social gathering. I think by choosing age-related achievements you've hit a winner, because our society is obsessed with the notion of 'too young' or 'too old'. You've obviously done your research well, and I'm sure you'll get this published. I'd buy it. Backed with pleasure. Best wishes, Tony.

Andrew W. wrote 1623 days ago

The Octogenarian Ski-Jumper

Hi Martin,

What a great idea for a book, and what a great title. But the really special thing about your book is the depth of research, the detail, the tiny and interesting nuggets that you present us with, I learned so much in the first three chapters, probably more than I have learned from a book in a long time. I wonder if this idea will, like its antecedents in the dose of chicken pox that started it, will go viral on the internet, such a neat idea which you have carefully nurtured and delivered to us. I must stop commenting now because I want to get back to reading the rest of what is posted here, great stuff. If you have the time to peek at my book it would be so helpful at this time and thank you for uploading this, it is a great piece of work.

Best wishes and good luck
Andrew W
(Sanctuary’s Loss)

Jane Alexander wrote 1625 days ago

This is a great premise. Has it been done before? I hope not. I love it but my only quibble is that I think you need to make it clear who achieved success in that year of life. Ie was it Simon or Garfunkel (or both?), Bobby Hatfield or Bill Medley?
Readers can be a bit dim so I think you need to ram home the point that this was the age people were when they achieved their various successes.
With illustrations and photos this could be a great gift book. I sincerely hope you've got it out there with an agent?

Urania wrote 1627 days ago

Martin, I'm a non-fiction writer by trade, and this book certainly made me think, what a grand idea. I do like the title, pitch and premise, and reckon you certainly have a market for it. This could be good illustrated, and I reckon if you send it to book publishers or agents who specialise in illustrated books with the entertaining trivia angle, you might get a nibble or two. Or more I hope! Best of luck with it, this is fun and I'm sure would do well in the mainstream market. Shelved.

paxie wrote 1631 days ago

What an incredible amount of research you've done.....This is a literary masterpiece.....Congratulations....Am whizzing through it.....The pc is on the table and we're all arguing having just had Sunday lunch....We're playing trivial pursuit with your book.....Nine of us......My 21 year old niece who graduated with 2 firsts has gone quiet...She had never heard of The Richeous Brothers....ha ha...

Well done, on the shelf...I wish you the best........If you dont make it as a book, convert it to a board game...Its fabulous......

lynn clayton wrote 1634 days ago

Martin, not only fascinating, impressive considering the research involved. We know there's a market, and this would be perfect for it. Bloody well done and shelved. Lynn

flicka wrote 1634 days ago

Fascinating. But not in numerical order! I was looking for my age (old) but didn't find it! I am not telling you what it is. A book for reading in the loo - this is a compliment. This is the sort of book you could pick up and read a few pages of, then come back to in a bit and not be lost. The sort of book that would enable you to come out with interesting and quite random snippets of information at parties, just to impress your friends. A book to give Dad for Christmas, and see him smile.
Love it. If only we could download on here hubby would read it, but he is firmly anti computers and probably wouldn't read it on here. If you get published, let me know. Put it on your page and I'll get him one - him being a fanaticaly toilet reader.

Simon Swift wrote 1637 days ago

Love trivia Martin, and this is entertaining right the way through! Good going, fella! This deserves a spin on the shelf!

kgadette wrote 1771 days ago

Dear Martin,

Thrilled to have stumbled upon this non-fiction book. The title is marvelous, as is the pitch. And with "germ of an idea" that's actually a virus, we immediately get a funny witty voice. Followed by your seizing the opportunity to prove your wife wrong. Sir, you are no gentleman!

Nicely laid out by age. Truth to tell, given the slant of this book, I expect that the older ages would have even more examples.

I hear that fiction is dead, and that the only hot seller these days are vampires and non-fiction. You go, Martin! Shelved for craft, creativity and delightful inspiration.

JohnRL1029 wrote 1782 days ago

Wow, this is the first non-fiction book I've come across on Authonomy. What a genius idea for a book. I think a lot of people feel they are too old to accomplish anything. This book is an insightful look at people who've done great things...even at the age of 70!!! Wow, I hope it doesn't take us that long to get published, but you never know. WL.

JasonDiggy wrote 1792 days ago

Hi Martin! I like the premise of your book. There's much to recommend it. My only suggestion would be to expand each section by including a discussion of HOW there age at the time helped them to achieve what they did. If that makes sense. Also, you might want to consider writing this in a more narrative style: describing setting, inserting dialogue (real or imagined), narration about the times, and the impact of the achievements. There's so much here. Interesting, each and every entry. You have something with this. And thanks for the Canadian entries. (Banting and Russell are my favourites.)

The Last Coming Out Story

Jeff Blackmer wrote 1804 days ago

What a marvelous book you have created here. It's not just trivia, it gives hope to people who have a passion for making a publishing a book for instance! This must have been great fun to research. This is a book I would run across quite by accident in a bookstore and gladly buy.
Well done and on my shelf!

Andrew Foley Jones wrote 1805 days ago

splendid title
splendidly innovative
reasd first two chapter
will read the rest

James Stephen Rice wrote 1805 days ago

Very funny. Had me in stitches, often, Martin. A wonderful idea, brilliantly executed. What a mind you have!
This should succeed. I has to. Are you pushing it enough? I wonder. I want to wandera round Borders, the one in Oxford Street, and pluck 4 copies off the shelf: have people in mind, see, who will love it at Xmas time.

Good on ya, mate.


AnnabelleP wrote 1807 days ago

Hi Martin,
I have dropped in on this several times already and thought it time to leave a comment ;-)
This is great reading, so interesting, I feel like a sponge absorbing all the information. This is the sort of book to have by your bedside so you can dip into it regularly. I can see why it's doing well here, well wriiten and engrossing, my husband would love it. SHELVED!
(Adelaide Short)

agaian wrote 1818 days ago

Hi Martin

Loved the idea and started reading avidly, but have quickly got lost in the layout. Sorry, as an aging wannabe, I would love to back this book, but can't until the format is crisper and more easily navigable. If oyu do re-arrnage it, conatct me and I'll happily look again

('Houses of Sand')

Joanna Stephen-Ward wrote 1819 days ago

Oh Martin,

Being an opera lover I'm excited that you opened with The Pearl Fishers.

You call this trivia. It's not trivea, it's inspirational.

On my Watch List.


Lord Dunno wrote 1819 days ago

This is too more-ish. You know what we're like on here. We want to come on scan through something and bugger off but this is ace. So Julie Andrews was 29 in Mary Poppins eh? She's always seemed exactly the same indeterminate age to me. I had to rush to 45 (my age) and see what happened then butr alas nothign. Still I'll be in good company with Grpoucho next year. Love the premise for this. I think everyone feels the same as your wife did on her 44th birthday. I've felt it every year since I was at least 38 I think. Ace stuff.

beejay wells wrote 1820 days ago

Certainly a lot of interesting facts in there
It's something you can keep coming back to

Lorri Proctor wrote 1875 days ago

Oh, what a superb change to frightful deaths and gore and blood on the first pages. This is a superb idea, a non fiction book that would appeal to many. I prefer your standardised versions I thingk. Also having each age group in alphabetical order would help too, the presentation seems a bit ad hoc just now.
It represents a lot of work and I'll bet you found it do have a studious look about you!! I'll shelve this as it is good to read something so different and you've made a great job of this. Good luck with it. Lorri

Kimmy M. wrote 1876 days ago

This must have taken alot of work, wow,
I liked it even though I'm not a non-fiction fan but this site is changing my mind,

Good luck,

Henrik Harrysson wrote 1883 days ago


I have enjoyed dipping in to the chapters that you, have rather tantalisingly cherry picked. I find the selections, and the pieces of biographical detail engagingly eclectic and personal – in fact if they are a bit ‘provocative’ so much the better.

You are obviously a polymath, making it hard to find glaring omissions. I was surprised not to find Tony Blair, aged 43 when he became PM in May 1997, making him the youngest for well over a century. Yin fact there aren’t that many living people, though you do have Gorbachev.

Because I’m a bit of a “continental” I would like to see more non “Anglo Saxon” figures. A couple of examples. Friedrich Nietzsche, only 24 when he first became a Professor at the University of Basel in 1869, certainly close to a record, and worth knowing about this highly controversial figure.

Also perhaps Louis Napoleon, 40 when elected President of the French Second Republic in 1848, soon turning himself into Emperor.

Of course the most interesting chapters will be the ones for the very old and the very young achievers – we are all drawn towards extremes, so I look forward to seeing these.

Regarding the headings, I think the standardised ones work best. They give the book a structure and consistency that it needs.

I also hope the book will have a good index with the occupation and years of birth and death fro everyone who features in it.

All in all, I look forward to more.


Dr Juan wrote 1886 days ago

Hi Martin

I really like your book.

Great concept, well researched and brilliantly linked. Has the potential to be a major commercial success. Well done!

I do have a couple of hopefully constructive comments which might be worth thinking about - for me this book's central theme is to illustrate that "age is no barrier to achievement". As such I think you should focus more on examples of this (Mary Wesley etc) and write a little more about each example. At the moment the really great inspirational stories are being a little crowded by stories which although interesting don't really support your inspirational central theme.

Hope this is some help.

If you have a moment have a look at my recently uploaded book "Don Juan's Hamper" - more trivia, though somewhat more salacious!

Good Luck

Max Hill

mskea wrote 1888 days ago

Aha, Martin,
have discovered your 'ages' and in my defence can now see why I couldn't find them before - at least this is my suggestion - because they are above the request for / instructions on specific feedback wanted.
- As this appears at the start of every chapter I scrolled past it without looking.
So maybe you could put the relevant age right above the text? ( Because I still want to skip the intro bit each time.)
Now it all makes sense.
And now I can enjoy it.
And give you a spot on my shelf.

mskea wrote 1890 days ago

PS Chariots of Fire was primarily written to tell the story of Eric Liddel, Howard was secondary.,

mskea wrote 1890 days ago

Hi Martin, I am thoroughly confused - I read the blurb and the introduction - loved the opening sentence, great 'hook' and '...the opportunity to prove my wife wrong proved too tempting.'
Then I read ch 1, then I dipped into other chs. - Fascinating
BUT Where are the ages of anyone mentioned? Lots of dates, but that doesn't tell me age, at least not without me going and researching.
Am I going loopy? Or am I misunderstanding what the blurb says?

Waldstock wrote 1903 days ago

This book is a treasure throve of fascinating information and has immediately landed on my shelf!

The original section headings have the virtue of adding character to the book, but I can see how the more standardised headings will make it easier for the general reader to mentally "pigeon-hole" the information. For that reason, I guess the edited version is better. However, I would resist any urgings to standardise any more:-)


FaithB wrote 1924 days ago

Hello Martin, quite by chance I read your reference to Mary Wesley which immediately drew me to your book. And I'm so glad I'm here. It's completely engrossing and needs to be in real book form as a most splendid work of reference. I think your original headings are fine - the content is so absorbing that quite honestly, I don't think the format is that important, but I never have been one for formality.
Good luck with this - it really is inspirational, and on my shelf!
Best wishes, Faith