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The ultimate guide to book genres

What genre of book should I read?

The genre of book you should read is all a matter of taste and in some cases fashion. There’s definitely a taste for cosy crime out there at the moment, thanks to the phenomenal success of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and its follow up, The Man who Died Twice. But romance is a perennially popular genre, as is science fiction and fantasy. Referring to genres is useful because it categorises books, making it easy for the reader to choose what to read next. Of course, genres can cross over, and you may find yourself reading romantic futuristic fiction. In books almost anything goes!

If you are writing a book, then it is essential that you know something about genres. This will help you sell your book to the right audience when you get it printed.

What kind of genre is the most popular in books?

Romance tops the book genre list when it comes to book sales. Well doesn’t everyone adore a good love story? It is a truth universally acknowledged, to steal from Jane Austen, that women read more fiction than men in the UK. In fact, women account for 80 percent of fiction sales, which explains the popularity of romantic fiction.

What are the five main book genres?

There are a several different type of book genre but these are by far the most popular:

1. Romance
2. Mystery
3. Science fiction and fantasy
4. Horror
5. Biographies

Romance books

Top of the genres, romance novels can range from Mills and Boon’s undemanding but addictive love stories, to genres that include historical romance and paranormal romance. Included in this genre are novels like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which could be labelled classic romantic fiction.

As you can see; genres aren’t all that straightforward.

Mystery books

Mystery novels are really popular. The undisputed queen of the mystery is Agatha Christie but there are modern masters of the art too.

These are the books that end up as movies and TV series’. Think writers such as Harlan Coben and Lee Child and books like Gone Girl. They usually start with an exciting or shocking incident then gallop along until they reach their satisfying conclusion. Sub-genres include cosy crime, whodunnits, scientific procedurals, noir novels and detective novels. Thrillers too are mystery novels, sharing the same fast paced narrative and crime element.

Fantasy and science fiction books

Fantasy fiction can include everything from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones. These are usually epic tales that take you into another world. Many are based in a dystopian past or future and they may feature magical creatures such as wizards and warlords. They can go by other names such as steampunk, high fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, and sword and sorcery. Science fiction can cross over into these categories but, unlike fantasy, science fiction is usually based on science and technology and has an element of “this might happen one day”.

Horror books

Horror books can be both thrillers and mysteries. They could even contain fantasy scenarios. The absolute master of the horror genre is of course Stephen King.

Autobiographies and biographies

Also, memoirs. These are all non-fiction books which tell the stories of a person’s life. They could be popular celebrities, historical figures, politicians, and even “ordinary” people who have lived extraordinary lives or done something spectacular.

Travel books

These aren’t just guides to where to take a holiday but more autobiographies that occur in a place that is not the writer’s usual habitat.

Children’s fiction books

This genre starts with picture books and encompasses everything from short stories to Harry Potter books. Fairy tales are also a subgenre of children’s fiction.

Self-help and inspirational books

The self-help and inspirational genre is factual, offering advice case studies and anecdotes. They can also be anything from spiritual guides, to guides to health and happiness.

Type of book genre

If you want to understand more about types of book genre you can pay a visit to your local bookstore or library. This is where you’ll find all the genres grouped together in one place and you’ll be able to work out which are your favourites (obviously the ones you keep going back to!)

How to describe the genre of a book

Book genres come in two types. There are those that are literary fiction and genre fiction. Literary fiction is the kind of book you might have studied for GCSEs at school. They are the sort of books that win Pulitzer Prizes and critical acclaim, whereas genre fiction are the books you might buy from a bookshop but also a train station or supermarket. That is not to say they are any less brilliant than those that are literary, character driven and more cerebral. There are some amazing writers in the genre category. These are the children’s writers who fuelled our desire to read more when we were young, the thriller writers that kept us up late at night desperate to find out whodunnit, and the romance writers who made us fall in love with their hero and sent us on a roller coaster of emotions.


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