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  • Writer's pictureTerrie

How many genres are there? Really? THAT many?

As I was perusing year-end and end-of-decade lists, I found more than a couple genres that I were new to me. How is that possible, I wondered. You mean there's more than just Mystery, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Nonfiction, General and Historical Fiction???

I guess the proliferation of sub-genres allows publishers, and readers, to focus more exactly on what they like to read. So I set out to compile a list of genres and some of the sub-genres that I could find - we'll start off with 30. If you know of another, let me know - let's make this the most complete list ever!

General Fiction: a catch-all category for novels that don't fit another designation but are primarily plot or character driven with a solid story arc. There are sub-genres to the sub-genres in this category including everything from military fiction to disaster thriller to chick lit and so many more. That may be too much detail for this list. Here are the most common.

Classics: a book with universal appeal that has stood the test of time and has relevance to multiple generations

Contemporary: set in current time and reflecting current political, social, and personal issues; generally any time period post WWII

LGBTQ fiction: novels written by or featuring a character that is LGBTQ

Literature: fiction primarily of ideas, controversial or complex subjects, with a strong focus on prose

New Adult: marketed to fit the post YA readers of ages 18-30, focusing on themes like leaving home, developing sexuality, and career choices

Women's Fiction: specifically written for and marketed to women focusing on a character's relationships, life struggles, and emotional growth

Graphic Novels: books in a comic strip format but telling more in-depth stories about everyday events

Historical Fiction: books where the setting of historical events, people, or places are crucial to the story

Alternate History: take an actual historical event and imagine a different ending; may also include some fantastical elements crossing into fantasy (magical realism)

Horror: a story designed to evoke fear or revulsion and frequently features vampires, zombies, ghosts, or just people determined to hurt others in sadistic ways


Cozy Mystery: an amateur sleuth, a small tight-knit community, a not-so-gruesome crime, and even the bad guy isn't evil but is usually just pushed beyond his limits; no overt sex or violence

Legal Mystery: as you would imagine, novels revolving around or based on a legal case or courtroom drama

Psychological Thriller: books focusing the fear or action internally with lots of flashbacks and interior dialog

Thriller: designed to be suspenseful, even causing fear, as dark themes are explored; usually violent, often graphic

Nonfiction: books written about facts, real events or people. As with General Fiction this category covers a lot of ground, everything from cookbooks to history, from self-improvement to spirituality.

Autobiography: an account of a person's life written by that person

Biography: an account of someone's life written by someone else

Memoir: a collection of specific memories or series of events about a person's life written by the person or someone else

Romance: most commonly a love story where a conflict arises, the relationship falters, love overcomes all; it can be combined with almost any other genre

Speculative Fiction: a broad category that incorporates elements that don't exist in the real world

Dystopian or Utopian: opposites: utopian is the ideal society while dystopian is usually a nightmare society when everything is falling apart after a calamitous event

Fantasy: usually the setting is in a fictional universe often inspired by real world myths or folklore; or mythic medieval settings (even in fictional universes) are common, featuring magic or supernatural creatures

Magical Realism: books containing magic as a component in an otherwise realistic story

Science Fiction (sci-fi): incorporates science or scientific principles in exploring space, time travel, parallel universes, or extraterrestrial life

Supernatural: using creatures like zombies, witches, ghosts, spirits, dragons, etc., stories are told that don't fit our normal understanding of the world and how it works

Urban Fantasy: a story that takes place in a city but is filled with supernatural elements

Western: books that take place in the American 'old west' with cowboys, settlers, native Americans (Indians) and their conflicts as they try to settle America

Young Adult (YA): written for the 12-18 year old, commonly the protagonist is a teenager dealing with issues and problems associated with that age group; the YA genre encompasses most every adult genre or theme, just written for a younger audience

Do you read in a genre that you didn't even know had a specific name? What genre do you gravitate toward?

top photo by Terrie Purkey, 2nd photo by Kari Shea via

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