When writing your novel. It’s important to get an idea of what type of genre, or category, you will be writing for. Here is a list of some of the most popular form of genres. It’s not all inclusive but should give you an idea of what type of books are out there.
Remember that you can always mix and match; be careful that you stay focused.
Please Note: This list includes some of the most popular genres used by publishers. Look at Wikipedia’s page on book genres; it’s huge! This list is just to help you focus on choosing your niche.
Literary (or Narrative)
The literary genre is more of a general and realistic style of writing. Authors focus on writing a realistic take on the human experience. It can involve other genres (such as romance or science fiction) but is often focused on the basic story.
For example, a book about everyday events that happen in a person’s life that may involve crime at one point in the book. The focus is not on that particular crime or incident, so it isn’t a Crime/Thriller. Sometimes the genre is a catch-all and other genres are classified as subplots.
Popular Example — The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Children’s fiction stories are written for the entertainment of children. They often contain a mixture of stories, rhymes, pictures, interactive devices, and games. Picture books with illustrations and educational concepts are among the most popular children’s book. Other books in this genre include fairy tales, legends, historical fiction, modern fantasy, realistic fiction, and folktales. Depending on the publisher, young adults books may in this category. This sub-genre has exploded in recent years so young adult books are now put in their own category.
Popular Example — Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
A mystery book is a type of fiction about a crime and/or mysterious event that is (usually) not solved until the end of the story. Most novels have a detective (or a different protagonist) solve the crime or unusual situation through a series of incidents. Sometimes the hero teams up with a detective to solve a mystery. Some novels involve a regular person solve a crime or mystery with no outside help at all.
Popular Example — Say You’re Sorry (Morgan Dane Book 1) by Melinda Leigh
Historical fiction is a story with fictional but realistic characters and events that take place in a historical setting. The story often revolves around world-real settings and time frames. For example, Regency romances are set during the years 1811-1820. They also often try to dramatize real-world events as they occurred. You might find the hero of the book jousting with Henry Tutor or enlisted in the army during World War II. This genre often uses crossovers with science fiction, fantasy, or thrillers.
Popular Example — The Song of Achilles: A Novel
LGBT fiction is fiction that appeals primarily to an LGBT readership as its focus is an exploration of gay relationships and issues. The genre also crosses into romance, thriller, crime fiction, fantasy, and so forth, such as an LGBT romance novel. So, it is usually considered a sub-genre rather than the main genre.
Popular Example — Henry and Cato: A Novel by Iris Murdoch
Poetry is usually composed of verse and prose that is rhythmical in composition. These books are often used for conjuring an emotional response from the reader.
Popular Example — Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Romance fiction centers around a relationship story arc. These novels may flirt with other genres (such as fantasy) but the plot focuses on the growing or deteriorating relationship. A “happily-ever-after” ending is the standard way of ending a book. Some romance novels have skirted this tenant in creative ways.
Popular Example — Matchmaking for Beginners: A Novel by Maddie Dawson
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Science fiction novels usually have a plot or setting based on an imagined science or futuristic environments. New technologies, or fantastical ideologies, are often introduced. A fantasy story is a similar genre, but it usually involves unrealistic characters, settings, or abilities (i.e. magic).
Popular Example — The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Popular Example — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Urban fiction, also known as street lit or street fiction, is usually set in an inner-city setting. These novels focus on the cultural and socio-economic reality of the characters. The main plot often deals with street life, extreme violence, gangs, and poverty. This type of fiction is sometimes blended in with other genres, as well, such as romance. It is also sometimes referred to as a sub-genre rather than the main genre.
Popular Example — A Real Love by Porscha Sterling
Women’s fiction includes character-driven novels written about women crafted to appeal to women. They are also usually written by women. Unlike with a romance novel, the core story revolves around a woman and something that is happening in her life. This genre is also often referred to as a sub-genre.
Popular Example — The High Tide Club: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews
Teen & Young Adult
Teen and Young Adult (YA) books are usually stories targeted to teenagers, often between the ages of 12 to 18 years of age. Protagonists within this genre are often facing the same types of issues as other young adults and are within the same age range and experience. This is a fast-growing genre that has grown out of the children’s fiction genre.
Popular Example — The Selection by Kiera Cass
Biography & Memoir
A biography is a book written about another person’s life using various methods of research. An autobiography or memoir is a book written by an individual about their life or an incident in their life. Think of it this: biography is the third person and a memoir would be the first person.
Popular Example — Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden
The business genre includes books that discuss business terms and techniques. For example, a book may cover business administration, management, financial, and/or marketing. Books in this genre can cover every type of business; from freelance to startup to small business to a mega-corporation. Besides business tips, financial advice is also categorized in this genre. Sub-genres may include entrepreneurship, personal finance, and motivational management.
Popular Example — The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Hardcover) by Eric Ries
Cooking & Food
Like with the surging popularity in watching shows about cooking, writing about food is turning into one of America’s favorite past times. This wide-reaching genre can deal with recipes, memoirs, health, travel, and “how-to.” For example, how to barbecue, how to eat vegan, how to cook seafood, etc.
Popular Example — Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
Nonfiction educational books deal with passing along informational material. They can range from materials for the teacher to textbooks that train the students. These novels can also be about different forms and types of education that are available.
Popular Example — The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
Family & Home
Non-fiction books in the family genre focus on subjects that revolve around the concept and structure of families. The topics may involve children, teenagers, aging, divorces, and children with disabilities. They are often presented as how-to books, self-books, and memoirs. The genre relating to books about the home often deal with subjects related to the structure or concepts of a home. Topics can include gardening, repairs and how-to, and decorating.
Popular Example — Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Relationships: Stories about Family, Friends, and Love by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Amy Newmark
Health and Wellness (also, Self-Help)
Health and Wellness books focus on the understanding and improvement of the body and/or the mind. Self-help books focus on instructing the readers on how to solve personal problems. Many Health and Wellness books have a cross-over with the self-help category.
Popular Example — Craveable Keto: Your Low-Carb, High-Fat Roadmap to Weight Loss and Wellness by Kyndra Holley
Popular Example — The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Historical non-fiction books tell the stories of an event (or series of events) that happened in the past. The story can either take a factual take on the topic or could speculate about an event. For example, a book about the Salem Witch Trials may have a book that gives contemporary accounts and sticks to the known facts. Another book may build a story around speculating as to the cause of the trials (bad grain?) while presenting non-fictional (although sometimes questionable) accounts to back the theory.
Popular Example — The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Law & Politics
Books in this genre focus on the study and history of law and politics. Law books may often focus on one case, such as the Dred Scott Case (see The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics). Other books may discuss a series of laws about a particular topic, such as A People’s History of the United States. Political books cover significant events in government and include biographical or autobiographical books.
Popular Example — My Life in Court – by Louis Nizer
Popular Example — A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey
These non-fiction books deal with the application and study of the scientific method in the physical and natural world. The goal of these books is to explore, observe, and answer questions using a logical base. Although a few teeter on the edge of becoming science fiction books, these books look to ask questions, gather and examine evidence, and come up with a (hopefully) logical hypothesis.
Popular Example — A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Spirituality & Religion
Non-fiction books in the spirituality and religion genre discuss a variety of religious and spiritual beliefs, from Christianity to paganism and Judaism to Buddhism. Authors often trace their own journey into their spiritual belief system, whether religion-based or not. These novels can also include history, how-to techniques, memoirs, and biographies.
Popular Example — Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment (Enlightenment Series) by Deepak Chopra
Popular Example — Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Non-fiction books in the spirituality and religion genre discuss a variety of religious and spiritual beliefs, from Christianity to paganism and Judaism to Buddhism. Authors often trace their own journey into their spiritual base, whether religion-based or not. These novels can also include history, how-to techniques, memoirs, and biographies.
Popular Example — I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Looking for more specific information? Check out The Book Genre Dictionary. An excellent site for narrowing down your niche and understanding your genre!