Book Genres: All You Need to Know
What Is a Book Genre?
We all know the benefits of reading, but when it comes to choosing your next book to read, it can be hard to sort through the millions of titles. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines genre as “a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. Genre is derived from the French phrase genre meaning “kind” or “type.” In literature, the genre is determined by the subject, setting, or plot of the story. When you are wandering around a bookstore, books are usually arranged by genre. A way that we tell the difference between the many books is by looking at a book’s genre. The different genres of books are the categories or sub-categories that a book is a part of. As people, we naturally tend to put things in categories to make them easier to understand. That is where a book’s genre comes in. It makes writings more comfortable to categorize. Books can certainly have multiple genres.
Genre is for readers. Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, and they join the ranks of the millions of books that were published before them. The genre may be a clumsy tool, but it’s a good place to start when you’re trying to find something you might like. You may not consider your book fantasy or sci-fi, but if that’s the closest genre descriptor, it’s probably fantasy or sci-fi enough to help your ideal reader zero in on it. A genre can feel like an oversimplification of your ideas, but it’s just a way to help readers find a particular work. What’s interesting to note – and key to the understanding of genre – is that genre categorizations tend to depend on aesthetics (the look and feel of the world you describe) rather than ideas or even structure. Genre primarily identifies the flavor of the world you’re going to be visiting, not the nature of the story you’ll be told when you get there.
How to Identify a Genre?
Genre sets the stage, sets up an expectation, and gets you in the right frame of mind to understand the story. It is usually the first thing someone wants to know about a book. Some genres are broad while others are more specific, like paranormal romance or western. Readers use genre to find the aesthetic worlds which they want to explore. Genre expectations affect both how individuals choose texts to read, and then how those texts are understood. Therefore, labeling literature as a certain genre affects the relationship between writer and reader. There can be no universally agreed upon characterization of the genre. The idea of genre is open to discussion and there is good reason to discuss the genre. The understanding of genre will help you know what to expect from a text.
An equation for remembering the genre is: Story (Action) + Plot + Character + Setting = Genre. This becomes an easy way to remember the elements of a genre. Reading the descriptions of the texts and looking for details that reveal and talk about the above-mentioned elements might help in identifying the genre. The descriptions of texts are written for a variety of purposes and that can help you determine the genre and subgenre based on the provided details. Try to club together books that you feel belong to a similar realm, that will help you identify the genre. To identify the genre of a book, when you’re reading the book, start to look for the following:
- Main character
- Where the book is set
- Certain plot points
What are Popular Book Genres?
The list of genres of books are endless, however, some genres are very popular among readers across the world. Books can be very broadly divided into two categories. Pretty much every book you read will come under the title of fiction or nonfiction. A fiction book is one where elements are made up or created by the author. These stories can be set in real places or real times, but if the plot or characters are made up, then the story is fiction. A nonfiction book is based on real events and facts. There’s plenty of different sub-genres of nonfiction. These range from biographies of celebrities, to the dictionary.
Most popular fiction genres are the following:
- Young Adult (YA): It is typically meant for readers between the ages of 13-17. The themes and messages within the literature will often revolve around teen-aged problems, like coming of age and exploration of identity.
- Fantasy (including YA and Children’s): Fantasy encompasses a huge part of the book world. It’s one of the most popular book genres out there. Overall, fantasy is the genre of possibility. Fantasy is a genre that’s identified by the use of magic within it. The fantastical elements, a new world with its own set of rules, and other magical elements are the key highlights of a fantasy novel.
- Children’s: A children’s book describes any book written for an audience between the ages of 0-8 years old. Literature serves children in four major ways: it helps them to better understand themselves, others, their world, and the aesthetic values of written language.
- Science Fiction: Sci-fi is among the most popular book genres there is. Science fiction novels are those that take place in a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally otherworldly beings.
- Thrillers/Suspense: The book will focus on high suspense and an action-packed plot. This book genre most often deals with danger and dread, with a high emotional impact involving fear.
- Paranormal: Paranormal books are characterized by including paranormal activity, like ghosts, clairvoyance, mediums, demons, vampires, and more. Paranormal doesn’t typically have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, and more. But the paranormal book genre includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world, like fantasy sometimes
- Romance/Erotica: In this book genre, romance is the center point of the plot. The entire novel moves around the relationship, though other plot points may be present.
- Historical: This book genre is exactly as it sounds: a fictional story that takes place in the past. Usually, historical fiction centers around known events or problems that take place in a time significantly before the present.
- Memoir: It tells the reader about the most defining moments in an author’s life that have led them to where they are and who they are today. A memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message wished to share with readers.
- Self-help: A book aimed to aid someone in their personal life, as well as lift them to make positive change. Self Help books give techniques and tactics for you to pursue self-improvement. These self-help books include leadership, motivation, habit creation, productivity, mindset, and more.
- Religion/Spirituality: Books that explore a particular faith. These religious texts can include history, books about the practice, or holy books.
- Biography/Autobiography: A biography or autobiography is the story of a particular person’s life. You can also find collections of letters or diaries that fit in this genre.
- Business/Finance: Business books are all around the creation and management of a company. These books can also cover career progression.
- History: Any book covering historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. And since this is nonfiction, they all have to be accurate. Many history books are much different from what you might have read in school. There are several books simply covering different events in history written in a more entertaining fashion versus a factional play-by-play textbook.
- Health & Fitness: The health book genre is vast and covers a wide variety of different topics. These can be topics ranging from fitness, holistic healing, to more complex medical topics and in-depth coverage of different health conditions.
How Many Different Book Genres Are There?
Once you break down a book from the two types (fiction and nonfiction), there are almost endless genres of books. Apart from the popular genres mentioned above, there are many other well-known genres that one might come across and are equally interesting.
- Adventure: It has a trip, journey, or quest of some kind as the overall plot. It often focuses on both the character’s physical journey and the journey they go through as a person throughout the novel.
- Contemporary: The contemporary book genre is simply books written in the current time with most of the parts of the novel revolving around common issues in a character’s life. This genre is actually more of the absence of a genre. The term is used to tell readers that this book takes place in current times, though it might cover other genres as well.
- Dystopian: A book genre in which the current government or society has been destroyed and the book centers around the aftermath.
- Mystery: This book genre is defined by the plot focusing on solving a mystery, most often with the mystery impacting the main character to the point where they’re the ones involved in solving it. Many other genres can have mysteries within them (in fact, most do), but what makes a book specific to this genre is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.
- Cookbooks: Cookbooks are those featuring recipes and directions for making the dishes correctly. Not only that, but many cookbooks feature stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.
- Art: This book genre encompasses several different types of books. However, all of them require the same thing: a focus on something art-related. There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre like if it covers art facts, teaches specific art methods, discusses are in detail (art history), and others.
- Motivational: Essentially, motivational books focus on problems that can prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams, and how to solve them. Most often, motivational books can be lumped in with other book genres like health, fitness, business, and self-help.
- Travel: Travel guides or an in-depth review of different travel destinations, this book genre will cover all of them.
- Humor: A joke book or a book revolving around a humorous endeavor of some sort, it falls under this book category. Books in this genre are also often gag gifts or are meant to be facetious.
- The Classics: When a book has stood the test of time and is still relevant and thought-provoking.
- Literary Fiction: It is often indirect in its theme and includes some kind of analysis on what it means to be human.
- Mythology: Books or stories about ancient religions that are not actively practiced anymore.
- Philosophy: An academic view of knowledge and existence.
- Alternative Belief: These are books that look at the non-mainstream belief systems that many people have. These include psychic powers, astrology, and fortune-telling.
- Educational Texts: Books that look at and are involved in the education system. This includes Textbooks, Education books, Pedagogy, Lesson plans, and others.
- Reference: Necessary and objective information, like dictionaries, encyclopedias, book abstracts and study guides, and books of quotations.
As you can see, there are hundreds of different genres of books.
How to Choose a Book Genre to Read?
Books speak a lot about the writer and the reader. One may pick up a book simply because they want to live in a world that exists on the hardcover or want to learn something new. However, a genre-based choice makes the experience even more enriching. One way of narrowing your reading options is by considering which genres encapsulate your favorite appeals. Most people have a fairly robust understanding of well-known genres. Though there are exceptions (many of which would fit into sub-genres), a genre serves as a sort-of-calling card when it comes to appeals. Genre conventions offer an easy way for readers to find their tribe. So you understand your appeals and genre preferences, now you can get down to business: The hundreds, even thousands, of options readily available in each genre and start narrowing down. You might go by their covers, look for recommendations online, going by other’s opinions, and also looking at awards books have received, or might as well ask a librarian!
There’s no question that reading is important — it educates, inspires, entertains, and so much more. But with thousands of books published every week, how does a reader decide which one to pick up? Genre; definitely is the answer to it. Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into book genres.