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Types of Book Genres

Types of Book Genres

Any real reading aficionado will know that there is a multitude to choose from when it comes to the various book categories. For those who don't know all about it, today you can take a look at what they are.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Every book lover has a favorite genre that they first turn to whenever picking out their next read. Truth be told, there's so much to choose from, it's almost like having a genre for every mood, if that's how you'd like it to be. But what exactly is the meaning of the word genre, and what does it suggest when one talks about the different types, irrespective of whether it is the various genres of music, or even that of literature. Get a load on the meaning of the word genre, and go on to taking a look at the different book categories.

Genre: Defining the Word

The word genre is best understood when spoken of as something that it is used to describe the categorization of the different types of music, literature, or any other subject. A genre basically refers to a certain classification of works when they share a certain similarity, either in terms or character or maybe even technique. The word is essentially a French word, and is derived from the Latin word genus, generis, which implies either "type, kind, or sort". What helps with understanding the word genre is the fact that it is easy to identify a certain kind of book, and knowing what to expect by very simply taking a look at the synopsis given about the same. In general, when it comes to literature there are several genres, so how about taking a look at these various book categories.

Varieties of Books

As mentioned above, there is an amplitude of genres when it comes to books and literature, the two major groups however are fiction and nonfiction. How about getting started with them, and going over each of them in a fair bit of detail...

Fiction
The first major genre that is also perhaps one of the most popularly known genres is fiction. Literary works belonging to this category are probably amongst the more commonly found. Fiction books are all about imaginary or make-believe writing. The thing about fiction though is that it could often be partially inspired by a real-life situation, but that's about as far as it could go. Another characteristic about fiction is that it is a very large genre on the whole, and has a lot of subdivisions to it. Some of the more popular kinds of fiction are:

Romance: For anyone that is a stranger to this genre, all I can say is Mills & Boons. Do you still feel like a stranger to the concept of romance novels now? There are only two ways to describe this genre... 1.) People who love it & 2.) People who don't!! Fiction of this kind mainly revolves around love, relationships and anything that resembles anything sappy! (No, I'm not a fan!). Even if it's filled with emotional turmoil throughout the novel, books like these inevitably have a happy ending, and everything is all hunky-dory by the time you're done reading books like these.

Popular works: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë), Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell), and more recently, Twilight series (Stephanie Meyer).

Science Fiction: This type of writing is most often made up of time travel, stories set in space, aliens, intense technology and all such characteristics. At times it could well qualify as fantasy too. An important feature of this kind of writing is that even though the major set up may be fictional, there could be elements of scientific truth in them too. Elements such as scientific principles or laws are often stressed on, all while combining it with other highly make-believe instances.

Popular works: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Arthur C Clarke), The War of the Worlds (H G Wells), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton).

Historical Fiction: First off, books like these, as also those of science fiction, are sometimes referred to as cross-genre books too. Stories in books like these are always set in the past, and have a heavy historical undertone to them. In books like these, while the events or facts may be true (which they most often are), it is the characters that are absolutely fictional. Books belonging to this genre deal mostly with social settings from history, and lay a lot of emphasis on detail.

Popular works: War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy), To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee), Shogun (James Clavell) The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova), Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden).

Realistic Fiction: The best way to describe realistic fiction is by talking of it as being one of those situations which aren't real, but yet seem like they could happen with anybody, at any time. Books like these, more often than not are a product of a keen imagination, yet somehow, they manage to capture the readers attention well, especially since books like these may seem extremely relevant at times. This genre also normally focuses on a lot of mystery and adventure.

Popular works: Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson), Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (Jeff Kinney), Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo), Aesop Elementary (Candace Fleming), The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards).

Fantasy: Lots of magic and supernatural stuff going on here. Fantasy as the word suggests is something that is way out of the ordinary and beyond what one would expect or imagine. There is also a large use of mythical elements in these novels. Some of the common features of such fantastical works are talking animals, magical powers, and a larger than life setup. Long story short, fantasy is in fact all about make-believe.

Popular works: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll), The Lord of the Rings series (J.R.R. Tolkien), Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), Chronicles of Narnia series (C.S. Lewis).

Mystery or Thrillers: Even though these two genres aren't the same, they could be spoken of as closely related. Take a look at what each of them is about.

More often than not, mystery novels are about a detective solving a case, which normally gets solved by the time the novel seems to be coming to a close. These books are based on a logical way of thinking, they tend to make sense, keeping the reader interested.

Thrillers on the other hand are always about heroes, and villains. Good guys and bad guys. It also involves a lot of action, lots of suspense, is fast paced, and is just very stimulating on the whole. Thrillers can be either crime thrillers (revenge, kidnapping, etc.) or sometimes even psychological works (obsessions, stalking, etc.).

Popular works (Mystery): The Godfather (Mario Puzo), The Day of the Jackal (Fredrick Forsyth), The Hound of the Baskervilles (Arthur Conan Doyle), And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie), Dracula (Bram Stoker).

Popular works (Thrillers): The Count of Monte Christo (Alexandre Dumas), Odyssey (Homer), The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris), Along Came a Spider (James Patterson), The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown), A Time to Kill (John Grisham).

Nonfiction
The next major popular genre is that of nonfiction books. The absolute opposite of fiction, this form of literature is more often than not, based on facts. This genre is made up of fewer components than fiction, as most literary works are graded as fiction. The most common kinds of writing that make up this part of literature are books such as biographies and autobiographies, encyclopedias, almanacs, and dictionaries.

Biographies: In the simplest of words, a biography is a detailed account of someone's life. Needless to say, the person being written about is a popular public figure (actors, politicians, and the likes). These books are always based on the facts of a person's life, and there is absolutely nothing fictional about them. Biographies give an exhaustive idea about the persons life, and all that has been significant, both on a personal and professional front.

Popular works: Biographies of Aristotle, Galileo, Einstein, Archimedes, Descartes.

Autobiographies: As opposed to biographies which are a detailed account of someone's life, but written by another person, an autobiography is a personal write up about one's own life. It is always a true story about a person's life, and it gives the reader a detailed look into the author's life.

Popular works: Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler), Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), Open: An Autobiography (Andre Agassi), An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Mahatma Gandhi), Dreams from My Father (Barack Obama).

Encyclopedias: Before the advent of the internet, these were sources of information. When in doubt, everybody referred to an encyclopedia. Providing very detailed information on practically any subject that one would need, encyclopedias were the one stop for all kinds of information. Very evidently since these books are about providing facts, there is nothing make-believe in them. Encyclopedias could vary from being either general ones, or some even for one specific subject. These days what has also become extremely popular are online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, and the likes.

Popular works: Britannica, World Book, Encyclopedia Americana.

Upon a close look, there are also genres such as fables, folk literature, poetry, drama, picture books, fairy-tales etc., (the latter few being amongst the more popular of the various book categories for children). For the most part of it, we've always been aware of the various genres that literature has been made up of, but not all of us have necessarily had the chance to explore them in depth. It also goes without saying that everyone of us has our favorite authors and genres, but don't hesitate every once in a while to get experimental and try reading something that you probably wouldn't read otherwise.