Authority Self-Publishing

List of Book Genres: 30 Fiction And Nonfiction Genres You Should Know

What’s so important about knowing the genres of books ?

Well, if you’re an author with a work in progress, you’ll want to know its genre to ensure your ideal readers find and read it.

List a science fiction novel as a paranormal romance, for example, and you’ll likely end up with a flurry of negative reviews. No one wants that.

Readers of specific book genres have expectations you’ll want to meet if you want them to enjoy your book and recommend it to others.

You also want readers to see your book’s cover and know it’s the genre they want.

So, knowing your book’s genre not only helps with marketing. It can make all the difference in your writing career.

What does your book genre tell you?

30 book genres explained, fiction genres, nonfiction genres, most popular book genres.

Once you know your book’s genre, you can write it knowing the following expectations your book should meet:

For example, if you’re writing YA fantasy, you’ll run afoul of your readers (and their parents) if your story includes a sex scene or graphic violence.

If you’re writing a cozy mystery, you don’t want your book’s cover to look like it belongs on a horror novel.

And if you’re writing fantasy , you’ll want to find a designer who specializes in that genre and knows how to create covers worthy of a Rick Riordan novel.

Unless you’re an experienced cover designer (like Derek Murphy of CreativIndie ), DIY covers using stock photos will put your fantasy novel at a serious disadvantage.

With that in mind, enjoy this list of 30 types of book genres with descriptions and an example (or two) for each. It’s not an exhaustive list; there are upwards of 40 genres — more if you count sub-genres and mixed genres.

But it’s enough to help you identify your book’s genre.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction , you’ll be prepared to meet genre expectations and market your book appropriately to reach your target audience and maximize sales.

Your readers will also appreciate your taking the time to learn what this post will teach you. And so will your book’s editor and cover designer.

List of Book Genres

  • Fantasy — The fantasy genre involves world-building and characters who are supernatural, mythological, magical, or a combination of these. Examples: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Science Fiction — Similar to fantasy, this genre explores futuristic or technological themes and ideas to address scientific “what if” questions. Examples: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle
  • Dystopian — Sometimes considered a subgenre of fantasy or of science fiction, this genre is usually set in a bleak future (near or distant) to explore cultural or social issues. Examples include Wool by Hugh Howey and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Adventure — Any novel that focuses on an adventure undertaken by the main character (with or without help) falls under the adventure genre. This genre can easily be combined with others. Example: White Fang by Jack London
  • Romance — Any novel where the main storyline centers on a romantic relationship falls into this category, which has several subgenres. Examples include The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
  • Detective & Mystery — One of the toughest genres to write, this one centers on a mystery and involves either a professional or amateur sleuth. Examples: Murder on the the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
  • Horror — The goal of this genre is to scare your readers and keep them that way until the hero vanquishes the threat. Example: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Thriller — This genre also has scary elements, but its main objective is to keep your reader in a state of suspense until the story’s resolution. Example: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • LGBTQ+ — Fiction with authentic LGBTQ+ representation falls into this category, which is sometimes considered a subgenre of contemporary fiction but can also be mixed with romance, fantasy, and other genres. Example: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Historical Fiction — This genre covers fiction set in a specific time period and providing historically accurate detail relevant to the period and its characters. Examples: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Young Adult (YA) (13-17 yrs) — This is fiction for readers aged 13 to 17 years. Example: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
  • Children’s Fiction — Fiction in this genre is written for kids aged up to 13 and is further divided into smaller subgenres. Example: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty.
  • Memoir & Autobiography — Each of the books in this genre is a true account of the author’s own life. Memoirs are typically related to a specific time in the author’s life or to a specific theme of the author’s choosing. Example: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Biography — Biographies are books written on someone other than the author — generally someone well known or someone whose life and or death can teach the world something worth learning. Example: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  • Cooking — In this genre, you’ll find books on every kind of cooking someone in the world took the time to write about, as well as cooking for different diets and nutritional needs. Example: Indian Instant Pot Cookbook by Urvashi Pitre
  • Art & Photography — This genre includes books on artists of all kinds, as well as on each type of art and its history. Example: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup
  • Self-Help / Personal Development — This genre is all about helping your reader realize their potential, develop their gifts, and live fulfilling lives. Example: Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport
  • Motivational / Inspirational — This genre’s main purpose is to get you to do something, to inspire you, or to challenge your perspective. Example: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
  • Health & Fitness — Here you’ll find books on both mental and physical health concerns as well as diets and weight loss. Example: Lies My Doctor Told Me by Ken D. Berry
  • History — This genre focuses on a specific time period or covers a broad span of time, often describing specific historical characters. Example: Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Harari
  • Crafts, Hobbies & Home — Look to this genre for topics related to creating a home and developing specific hobbies or crafts. Examples: The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker
  • Families & Relationships — If it deals with family life, marriage, or any kind of interpersonal relationship, your book belongs in this genre. Example: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
  • Humor & Entertainment — Books in this genre are supposed to make you laugh or at least keep you entertained. Many also belong to the memoir genre. Example: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • Business & Money — If you’re writing a nonfiction book on business topics, wealth building, or managing your money, it probably belongs to this genre. Example: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • Law & Criminology — Books on the legal system, on laws, criminal justice, and related topics belong in this genre. Example: The New Jim Crow: Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Politics & Social Sciences — Books in this genre discuss politics or issues related to one or more of the social sciences (psychology, sociology, social work, etc.). Example: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Religion & Spirituality — From personal guides to spiritual memoirs to histories, this genre covers religions of all kinds along with spiritual practices. Example: Runes for Beginners by Lisa Chamberlain
  • Education & Teaching — Any book that proposes to teach the reader how to do something — or how to do it better — belongs to this genre. Example: Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution by Zak George and Dina Roth Port
  • Travel — This genre includes travel guides and travel-heavy memoirs. Example: The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World by Lonely Planet
  • True Crime — These often read like well-crafted crime fiction but are true stories that chronicle real crimes, typically with exacting detail. Examples: If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen

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How Long Should A Short Story Be?

According to QueryTracker , of all the genres listed above, the top ten most popular fiction genres are the following:

  • Young Adult (YA)
  • Fantasy (including YA and Children’s)
  • Children’s
  • Literary Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Thrillers /Suspense
  • Middle Grade
  • Romance/ Erotica
  • Picture Book

And these are the top ten most popular nonfiction genres:

  • Narrative/Creative Nonfiction)
  • Religion/Spirituality
  • Cultural/Social Issues
  • Business/Finance
  • General Nonfiction
  • Health & Fitness

If your book doesn’t belong in one of these top ten lists, don’t worry. Plenty of books that fit into other genres get published every year — traditionally or independently.

These lists indicate the genres most often submitted to literary agents as well as the genres most often requested by them.

If you know your book’s target audience is plenty big enough to justify your investment of time, energy, and other resources, it makes no difference whether your chosen genre is on the most popular list.

Use what you learn with us at AuthorityPub to write, launch, and market your book to bestseller status.

List of Book Genres

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to identify your book’s genre (or genres), how will that influence your decisions regarding cover design, editing, and marketing tactics?

Where will you find more of the kind of readers who will love your book, so you can send them word when it launches?

Maybe you’ve already found some Facebook groups for your genre. Or maybe your reader following on Twitter is steadily growing, thanks to your use of targeted hashtags.

What could you do today to begin marketing your book, so you can whet the appetites of your genre’s biggest fans among your social media connections and email subscribers?

We keep abreast of indie publishing trends and tactics to help writers like you make a good living with their books.

Because it can be done. And if that’s your goal, I’ll do everything I can to help you get there.

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The Master List of Book Genres: 95 Fiction & Nonfiction Genres

POSTED ON Jul 19, 2023

Audrey Hirschberger

Written by Audrey Hirschberger

Not sure what genre your current book is? We’re here to help! We’ve compiled the ultimate list of book genres to put your confusion to bed once and for all. 

When you go through all the work of self-publishing your book, the last thing you want to do is mislabel it. That’s where our master list of book genres comes in. This list of book genres will help you to definitively place your book, so it can be found and shared by your target readers. 

Sometimes, your book will encompass more than one genre. In fact, it could be a mix of four or five genres! Our list of book genres will help you determine precisely how to label your book – and ensure it receives the love it deserves.  So, without further ado, let’s dive into the only book genres list you’ll ever need. 

This List of Book Genres Contains:

The ultimate list of book genres (both fiction and nonfiction).

Here is the definitive list of book genres that are used today. The first 79 items in our list of book genres are types of fiction , followed by all the nonfiction genres. They are listed in alphabetical order for ease of navigation.  

1. Action/Adventure fiction

The first genre in our list of book genres is action & adventure fiction. Action & adventure books contain a risk-filled journey and a thrilling series of action sequences. The threat of danger is ever-present, and the plot moves quickly. 

Examples : The Ryanverse series by Tom Clancy and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

2. Children’s fiction

Children’s fiction includes made-up stories that are written specifically for children. They cover themes and language that are age-appropriate and can contain many different book genres and subgenres within the pages. 

Examples : Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne.

3. Classic fiction

Classics are fictional books that have stood the test of time and are considered exceptional works of literature. Classic fiction is often used in academic discussions. 

Examples : Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 

4. Contemporary fiction

Contemporary fiction stories are set in modern times and don’t contain any elements of fantasy (see below). These stories give the reader a window into a specific human experience. Some may be written for entertainment, and others may be written as political or social statements. 

Examples : A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. 

5. Fantasy 

Fantasy is undoubtedly one of the most popular genres in our list of book genres. Books in the fantasy genre include supernatural or magical elements. These can be set on Earth, or in completely made-up worlds. A fantasy book series is not bound by the laws of science, physics, or even reality. 

There are many subgenres of fantasy, including:

6. Dark fantasy 

Dark fantasy books are written in a tone that evokes a feeling of dread. They feature morally gray characters and often include elements of horror. Sometimes the story is told from a villain or monster’s point of view. In dark fantasy, the events that might shock in an actual horror book are portrayed as normal. 

Examples : The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

7. Fairy tales

No list of book genres would be complete without fairy tales. The stories of Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers are what we most associate with “classic” fairy tales. They rely on themes of good vs. evil, contain a moral lesson (often for children), and usually end with a “happily ever after.” 

Examples : Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer.

8. Folktales

A folktale is a story or legend that originated in a particular region or group of people and was passed down through generations. Most folktales are hundreds of years old, but modern fantasy writers often take inspiration from these tales. 

Examples : Momotaro and Arabian Nights .

9. Heroic fantasy 

Heroic fantasy centers around a “hero” on a quest, and relies heavily on themes of good vs. evil. 

Examples : The Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

10. High fantasy

There is often confusion between high fantasy vs. low fantasy. The easiest way to distinguish the two is that high fantasy is set in an alternate or secondary world. There is often a quest involved, as well as high stakes like preventing the end of the world or conquering an evil overlord. 

High fantasy books tend to have lots of characters and a high page count – and are therefore sometimes called “epic fantasy” books. 

Examples : A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin and the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. 

11. Historical fantasy

Historical fantasy stories are set in during an easily recognizable historical period – but with magic added in. 

Examples : Babel by R.F. Kuang and Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

12. Low fantasy

Low fantasy is a fantasy story that is set on Earth, where magic interacts with humans. It often has a more intimate and personal story arc than high fantasy stories. 

Examples : The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. 

13. Magical realism

Some consider magical realism to be its own genre, and others a subgenre of fantasy. This genre doesn’t contain magical creatures, but instead focuses on magical things that happen in our world. There is a general underpinning of magic that is often portrayed as commonplace. 

Examples : One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

14. Mythic fantasy 

Mythic fantasy centers around mythology, most often Greek or Roman mythology. The story may focus on the gods themselves, on their descendants, or on humans who interact with the gods.  

Examples : Circe by Madeline Miller and Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan. 

15. Urban fantasy 

Urban fantasy is a fantasy book set in a city. These stories are usually set in the real world (low fantasy) and are about the relations between humans and supernatural beings.  

Examples : The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

16. Graphic novel

Graphic novels are works that are highly illustrated, with a series of comic panels and speech bubbles to tell the story. Graphic novels aren’t limited in terms of scope and can be used to cover many different book genres in our list of genres. 

You will find lots of fantasy and sci-fi graphic novels, but also nonfiction, historical fiction, and classics! 

Examples : Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Watchmen by Alan Moore.

17. Historical fiction

Next on our list of book genres is historical fiction. These are fiction books that are inspired by real events in history but are not factual retellings. They allow readers to be transported into the past through the eyes of one or more characters.  

Examples : The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

Every list of book genres needs a little horror in the mix! Horror is an increasingly popular book genre, with many subgenres nested under it. Horror stories are fictional works meant to disturb or frighten. Some horror subgenres include:

19. Body horror

Body horror features graphic mutilations, disfigurations, or violations of the human body.

Examples : Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

20. Comedy horror

Comedy horror books are one of the more interesting (and contradictory) on the list of book genres. They are just as likely to make you laugh as they are to make you scream. They are often referred to as “black comedies,” and rely heavily on the unexpected. 

Examples : Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix and Man, F*ck This House by Brian Asman.

21. Gothic horror

Gothic horror features a battle between humanity and unnatural evil forces. The overall feel of gothic books is quite bleak and gloomy, and they are often set in castles or old manor houses. There is often a descent into madness involved. 

Examples : The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

22. Lovecraftian/Cosmic horror

Lovecraftian horror, also known as “cosmic horror” was popularized by the author H.P. Lovecraft (Imagine inventing your own category in the long list of book genres!). Lovecraftian novels assume that there are otherworldly forces that once ruled the Earth and are here again to destroy us. It relies on the dread that things are outside of your control. 

Examples : The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft and The Croning by Laird Barron.

23. Paranormal horror

Paranormal horror includes supernatural themes such as hauntings, curses, and possessions.

Examples : The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

24. Post-apocalyptic horror

Post-apocalyptic horror is set after our civilization has collapsed. It examines how we survive amidst zombies, plagues, climate change, or whatever disaster wiped humanity out.

Examples : The Stand by Stephen King and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

25. Psychological horror

Psychological horror plays with your mind and twists your thoughts. There doesn’t need to be any monster for the fear to work its magic. Psychological books play with paranoia and self-doubt.

Examples : Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

26. Quiet horror

Quiet horror or “soft horror” leaves out the graphic scenes of some of the other horror types on our list of book genres. Instead of graphic violence, it relies on the atmosphere and mood to completely creep you out. 

Examples : December Park by Ronald Malfi and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

27. Slasher

Slasher books contain sociopathic villains who are trying to kill the protagonists. They feature a lot of violence and suspense. Examples : Psycho by Robert Bloch and The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum.

28. LGBTQ+ 

Any fiction book that places LGBTQ+ characters at the forefront is considered LGBTQ+ fiction. It can otherwise fall into a number of genres on this master list of book genres.

Examples : Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

29. Literary fiction

Literary fiction is fiction writing that is considered highly valuable and artistic. These books often cover serious topics that make the reader stop and think. They can blend with many genres in this list of book genres. 

Examples : The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. 

30. Mystery

One of the most fun genres in our master list of book genres is mystery. Mystery books contain an event (often a murder or a crime) that remains a mystery until the end of the book. These page-turners keep you guessing and often feature big plot twists. 

Some subgenres of mystery include:

The first mystery subgenre on our list of book genres is capers. Capers are usually told from the point of view of the thief. They are light-hearted and humorous mysteries that focus on how (and if) they can get away with the crime. 

Examples : The Heist by Daniel Silva and The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block.

32. Cozy mystery

Cozy mysteries are not grim or gruesome. They are light-hearted, and usually set in small towns where a crime is solved by an amateur detective – often a woman. 

Examples : A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette and Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano.

33. Gumshoe/Detective mystery

Detective mysteries don’t have direct police tie-ins, and the mystery is solved directly by a professional or amateur detective. 

Examples : The Terry Orr series by Jim Fusilli and the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs.

34. Historical mystery

Many items in this list of book genres are crossovers between two different book genres. Historical mysteries are fictional mysteries set in a historic time period.

Examples : Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara and Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia. 

35. Howdunnits

Unlike the other mystery types on our list of book genres, Howdunit mysteries are not about finding the perpetrator. In fact, they usually tell you who committed the crime straight away – and then focus on answering HOW the crime was committed. 

Examples : A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin and The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester.

36. Locked room mystery

Next on the ultimate book genres list are locked room mystery books. These books cover “impossible” crimes – such as a murder committed in a windowless room that was locked from the inside. OR – they feature a small group of characters stuck together in a confined space. 

Examples : Malice by Keigo Higashino and One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. 

Noir books, like film noir, involve classic morally-compromised detectives in trench coats solving crimes. Noir stories are usually set in gritty cities and have a dark or bleak atmosphere. 

Examples : The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and Queenpin by Megan Abbott.

38. Procedural/Hard-boiled mystery

Hard-boiled mysteries are more hardcore than other mystery types on our list of book genres. They include more violent, sex, and graphic details, and often include forensic science and autopsy reports – closely following an actual police procedure.

Examples : The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane.

39. Supernatural mystery

Supernatural mysteries combine elements of two other items on our book genres list: horror and fantasy. They involve mysteries that appear to include supernatural elements (which may or may not be explained with non-supernatural solutions).

Examples : The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker and The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie.

40. New adult

New adult books are a newly developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–29 age range. New adult fiction includes more adult themes and graphic sex scenes than young adult books but still focuses on story arcs about coming-of-age of finding identity.

Examples : Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire and The Deal by Elle Kennedy.

41. Romance

Nothing on our list of book genres is read as voraciously as romance novels. Romance books turn some real profit for authors and center around would-be lovers and the obstacles they face in getting together.

Some subgenres of romance include:

42. Contemporary romance

Contemporary romance books take place in modern day and feature more relatable and realistic situations. 

Examples : Beach Read by Emily Henry and The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood.

43. Dark romance

Dark romance is one of the most intense items on our list of book genres. It contains morally-gray characters and very mature content. These stories often come with trigger warnings, and center around plots of trauma and violence such as stalking, kidnapping, sex trafficking, or the mafia. 

Examples : Asking for It by Lilah Pace and Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton.

44. Erotic romance

Erotic romance books focus on the buildup of sexual interactions and explicit sex scenes between characters. 

Examples : Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and Bared to You by Sylvia Day. 

45. Fantasy romance (Romantasy)

Like others on this list of book genres, fantasy romance books mix (you guessed it) two genres. In this example, it’s fantasy and romance. They follow a typical romance book formula but are set in fantasy worlds. 

Examples : Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

46. Gothic romance

Gothic romance novels are dark and gloomy and focus on the hurdles women face to be with the person they love. There are often secrets and mysteries involved, and they are usually set in old manor houses. 

Examples : Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen and Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood.

47. Historical romance

Historical romance stories are romance books set in a specific historic era. 

Examples : Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. 

48. Paranormal romance

Paranormal romance books usually feature romantic partners that are supernatural – such as vampires or werewolves. 

Examples : The Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer and the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton. 

49. Regency

Regency romance novels are typically set during the Regency Era in England (1795–1837) and focus on the societal norms of that time. Think balls, walks on the promenade, and marriages with much ado. 

Examples : The Bridgertons series by Julia Quinn and Arabella by Georgette Heyer. 

50. Romantic comedy

Romantic comedy books are precisely how they sound – romance books with ridiculous events and obstacles that will make you laugh out loud.

Examples : Nine Rules To Break When Romancing A Rake by Sarah MacLean and Shortcake by Lucy Watson.

51. Romantic suspense

Romantic suspense novels are closely tied with gothic romance – which is where they first originated. You can think of romantic suspense novels as being about 50% romance and 50% suspense/mystery.

Examples : Verity by Colleen Hoover and The Witness by Nora Roberts. 

52. Sci-fi romance

Sci-fi romance is a romance story with a science fiction setting or plot line. This could revolve around space travel, time travel, or any other sci-fi theme (see below). 

Examples : The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer. 

Satire books use humor and irony to poke fun at (or discredit) politics, systems of government, or societal norms. 

Examples : Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Animal Farm by George Orwell. 

54. Science fiction

On our list of book genres, science fiction is most closely related to fantasy, with made-up worlds and species. But where science fiction and fantasy differ is that science and technology are at the root of science fiction stories. They still follow the laws of physics and possibility – not magic.  

Here are some of the subgenres of science fiction (also known as “sci-fi”):

55. Apocalyptic sci-fi

Apocalyptic science fiction takes place after an apocalyptic event and focuses on how the remaining humans survive. It is similar to post-apocalyptic horror but focuses more on the reality of life and less on scare tactics and monsters. 

Examples : Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler and Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. 

56. Colonization sci-fi

Colonization science fiction books focus on colonizing a new planet or settlement after the Earth has been destroyed.

Examples : Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson and The Word for World Is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin

57. Hard sci-fi

Hard science fiction books place a heavy emphasis on math, physics, chemistry, engineering, or other sciences. They have realistic science based on currently proven facts. 

Examples : The Martian by Andy Weir and The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

58. Military sci-fi

Military science fiction books focus on a battle between two groups. This may be on Earth, in space, or between multiple planets. 

Examples : Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

59. Mind uploading sci-fi

Mind uploading sci-fi focused on the concept that your consciousness can be uploaded or downloaded into another body or computer. This could be through alien intervention, complete brain transplants, or technology. 

Examples : Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan and Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

60. Parallel world sci-fi

Parallel world science fiction deals with alternate realities. Characters pass through multiple worlds very similar to their own with interesting consequences. 

Examples : Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and the Firebird series by Claudia Gray.

61. Soft sci-fi

While hard sci-fi focuses on the sciences and the “how” behind sci-fi plots, soft sci-fi focuses more on the human element. Soft sci-fi books examine politics, social constructs, and relationships amid a sci-fi backdrop. 

Examples : 1984 by George Orwell and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

62. Space opera

Space operas are action books that are set in outer space. They often are long-running epic series. 

Examples : The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert and The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

63. Space western 

Take a western book and put it in outer space, and you have a space western. Thinks lawless frontiers, morally-gray characters, and lots of shoot-outs.  

Examples : The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and Persephone Station by Stina Leicht.

64. Steampunk

Steampunk books are a mix of the past and future. They feature steam-powered technology and 19th- and 20th-century aesthetics combined with futuristic elements.  

Examples : Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Soulless by Gail Carriger.

65. Short story 

Next on our list of book genres is short stories. Short stories are stories that are anywhere from 1,000 – 15,000 words in length, and they can be a mix of any topics on our list of genres.

Examples : The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and How to Become a Writer by Lorrie Moore.

66. Thriller

Another popular genre on our list of book genres is thrilled. A thriller often shares many attributes of mystery novels, but not all mysteries are thrillers, and not all thrillers are mysteries. So what differentiates these two items on our list of book genres? Thrillers are meant to evoke anxiety and tension and are first and foremost about the protagonist trying to save or protect themselves. Some subgenres of thriller fiction include:

67. Action thriller

Action thrillers include fast plot lines, violence, high-speed chases, and a life-changing journey for the protagonist. 

Examples : The Summer House by James Patterson and The 6:20 Man by David Baldacci.

68. Conspiracy thriller

In conspiracy thrillers, the protagonist is up against a powerful organization after discovering a conspiracy that puts their life at risk. 

Examples : Deception Point by Dan Brown and Private Moscow by James Patterson.

69. Disaster thriller

Disaster thrillers are written about natural or man-made disasters, such as volcanoes, tsunamis, or nuclear attacks.

Examples : One Second After by William R. Forstchen and Ashfall by Mike Mullin.

70. Espionage thriller

Espionage thrillers feature spies or secret agents as the protagonists. They usually need to infiltrate a foreign government or crime ring. 

Examples : Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre and the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. 

71. Forensic thriller

Forensic thrillers rely on finding evidence such as DNA or fingerprints to catch the perpetrator. 

Examples : The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver and the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. 

72. Historical thriller

Historical thrillers are thrillers set in a specific time period. They often include real historical events and conspiracies. 

Examples : The Devils of Cardona by Matthew Carr and The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

73. Legal thriller

Legal thrillers center around court and legal dilemmas. The protagonist can be a lawyer or someone wrongfully accused.

Examples : The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly and A Time to Kill by John Grisham.

74. Paranormal thriller

Paranormal thrillers add paranormal or supernatural elements to a typical thriller plot.

Examples : The Outsider by Stephen King and Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak.

75. Psychological thriller

Psychological thrillers are one of the most popular types of thriller on our list of book genres. These thrillers put the protagonist’s sanity at risk along with their physical safety. Because the protagonists are unstable, they are often unreliable narrators. 

Examples : The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides and The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn.

76. Religious thriller

Religious thrillers are written about religious secrets or stolen religious artifacts. There may be dangerous cults involved. 

Examples : The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

77. Western

A classic American genre on our list of book genres is Western fiction. These books take place in the American Old West and feature plots with cattle ranches, bounty hunters, and shootouts. 

Examples : Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

78. Women’s fiction

Women’s fiction can cover a variety of topics on our list of book genres and refers to any book written about the female experience or the role of women in society.

Examples : The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

79. Young adult

Like women’s fiction, young adult fiction can cover most topics on our list of book genres, but they are written for and about young adults, typically between ages 13-17. These books often cover coming-of-age story arcs and the trials of adolescence.   

Examples : A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

80. Art & photography

While all the topics leading up to this point were fiction, the rest of the items on our list of book genres are nonfiction topics. These are factual books about real life. 

The first nonfiction topic on our list of book genres is art and photography. Art and photography books can be written about art, or be more visual books that showcase art and photography. These make great coffee table books.  

Examples : Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton and Art: The Definitive Visual Guide by Andrew Graham Dixon.

81. Autobiography/Memoir

Memoirs and autobiographies are written by the author about their own life. They focus on the author’s life trials and accomplishments. 

Examples : Becoming by Michelle Obama and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

82. Biography

Biographies are books written about an important or interesting person, usually after they have died, and often cover the entire span of the person’s life. 

Examples : A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar and Prince: A Private View by Afshin Shahidi.

An essay is a short piece of writing where the author gives their thoughts (and often an argument) on a specific topic. They may be reflections and observations of the author, or a political statement. 

Examples : Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin and Once More to the Lake by E. B. White.

84. Food & drink

Next on our list of book genres are cookbooks! Cookbooks can be simple collections of recipes, or contain information about the chef’s life or home country. They can cover food, beverages, or both. 

Examples : Half-Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard and The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich.

85. History

Historical nonfiction is a well-researched, factual accounting of a historical event or time period. 

Examples : The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant and The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber & David Wengrow.

86. How-To/Guides

How-to books teach the reader how to get better at a craft, skill, or hobby, or give them an overview of all the information they need to know on a specific topic. 

Examples : The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing by Zachary Petit and How to Read Tarot by Jessica Wiggan. 

87. Humanities & social sciences

The next item on our list of book genres covers a number of topics. Books in the humanities study human society and relationships – and can include anthropology, sociology, politics, and many other subjects.

Examples : Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. 

Humor books are written with one goal in mind – to make the reader laugh! They are often satirical essays or memoirs. 

Examples : Bossypants by Tina Fey and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling.

89. Parenting 

Parenting books teach parents how to raise their children – including how to prepare for their arrival!

Examples : Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields and The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel.

90. Philosophy

Philosophy nonfiction explores ethics, moral dilemmas, and the purpose of life on earth.  

Examples : Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

91. Religion & spirituality 

Books on religion and spirituality cover a range of topics, from actual religious texts like the Bible and the Quran to books on spiritual philosophies, mindfulness, and energy healing.

Examples : The Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

92. Science & technology 

Science and technology books are written about the sciences – either to help readers have a greater understanding of them or to teach about the evolution of technology. 

Examples : The Joy of Science by Jim Al-Khalili and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

93. Self-help

One of the most popular nonfiction genres on our list of book genres is self-help. Self-help books cover topics from finances to organization to mental health and help readers improve themselves in some way. 

Examples : Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. 

Undoubtedly one of the most fun nonfiction topics on our list of genres is travel. Travel books can be travel guides to various countries or memoirs of the author’s own travels. 

Examples : Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Down Under by Bill Bryson.

95. True crime

The last item on our master list of book genres is true crime. True crime books describe actual crimes from start to finish.

Examples : In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.


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But when you're a major reader, it's easy to get caught up in what seems to be an endless array of genres that sometimes seem to box you in. Do you prefer sci-fi or fantasy? (But wait, are they the same thing?) What are the key differences between a thriller and a mystery ? Oh, and what does "literary fiction" even mean?

For all you bibliophiles who would like these burning questions answered, we've listed—and defined—the most popular book genres in both fiction and nonfiction so you'll know exactly what to look for during your next visit to the bookstore .

Fiction : " Something invented by the imagination or feigned" - Merriam-Webster

Action and Adventure

Action and adventure books constantly have you on the edge of your seat with excitement, as your fave main character repeatedly finds themselves in high stakes situations. The protagonist has an ultimate goal to achieve and is always put in risky, often dangerous situations. This genre typically crosses over with others like mystery, crime, sci-fi, and fantasy. ( Harry Potter anyone? )

Life of Pi

The Three Musketeers

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

You may think of these books as the throwback readings you were assigned in English class. (Looking at you, Charles Dickens .) The classics have been around for decades, and were often groundbreaking stories at their publish time, but have continued to be impactful for generations, serving as the foundation for many popular works we read today.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Little Women

Little Women


Vintage Beloved

Comic book or graphic novel.

The stories in comic books and graphic novels are presented to the reader through engaging, sequential narrative art (illustrations and typography) that's either presented in a specific design or the traditional panel layout you find in comics. With both, you'll often find the dialogue presented in the tell-tale "word balloons" next to the respective characters.


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The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Detective and mystery.

The plot always revolves around a crime of sorts that must be solved—or foiled—by the protagonists.

The Night Fire

The Night Fire

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None

While usually set in a fictional imagined world—in opposition, Ta-Nehisi's Coates's The Water Dancer takes place in the very real world of American slavery— fantasy books include prominent elements of magic, mythology, or the supernatural.

The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer


Ninth House

Historical fiction.

These books are based in a time period set in the past decades, often against the backdrop of significant (real) historical events.

The Help

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Memoirs of a Geisha

Vintage Memoirs of a Geisha

Meant to cause discomfort and fear for both the character and readers, horror writers often make use of supernatural and paranormal elements in morbid stories that are sometimes a little too realistic. The master of horror fiction? None other than Stephen King .


The Haunting of Hill House

Bird Box

Literary Fiction

Though it can be seen as a broad genre that encompasses many others, literary fiction refers to the perceived artistic writing style of the author. Their prose is meant to evoke deep thought through stories that offer personal or social commentary on a particular theme.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

Olive, Again

Olive, Again

The Dutch House: A Novel

The Dutch House: A Novel

Oh romance, how could we ever resist you? The genre that makes your heart all warm and fuzzy focuses on the love story of the main protagonists. This world of fiction is extremely wide-reaching in and of itself, as it has a variety of sub-genres including: contemporary romance, historical, paranormal, and the steamier erotica . If you're in need of any suggestions, we've got a list of the best romances of all time and the top picks of the year.

Brazen and the Beast

Brazen and the Beast

Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday

The Savior

Science Fiction (Sci-Fi)

Though they're often thought of in the same vein as fantasy, what distinguishes science fiction stories is that they lean heavily on themes of technology and future science. You'll find apocalyptic and dystopian novels in the sci-fi genre as well.

The Testaments

Nan A. Talese The Testaments

The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy


Short Stories

Though they encompass many of the genres we describe here, short stories are brief prose that are significantly, well, shorter than novels. Writers strictly tell their narratives through a specific theme and a series of brief scenes, though many authors compile these stories in wide-ranging collections, as featured below.

This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her


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Suspense and thrillers.

While they often encompass the same elements as mystery books, the suspense and thriller genre sees the hero attempt to stop and defeat the villain to save their own life rather than uncover a specific crime. Thrillers typically include cliffhangers and deception to encourage suspense, while pulling the wool over the eyes of both the main character and reader.

Gone Girl

The 19th Christmas

The Guardians

The Guardians

Women's fiction.

Another genre that encompasses many others, women's fiction is written specifically to target female readers, often reflecting on the shared experiences of being a woman in society and the protagonist's personal growth.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer

The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts

Red at the Bone

Red at the Bone

Nonfiction : "Writing or cinema that is about facts and real events" - Merriam-Webster

Biographies and Autobiographies

Serving as an official account of the details and events of a person's life span, autobiographies are written by the subject themselves, while biographies are written by an author who is not the focus of the book.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Traditionally penned by professional chefs or even your favorite celebs , cookbooks offer an appetizing collection of recipes, specific to a theme, cuisine, or experience chosen by the author.

Cravings: Hungry for More

Cravings: Hungry for More

The Jemima Code

The Jemima Code

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1

Typically written in the first-person, writers use their own personal experiences to reflect on a theme or topic for the reader. Many acclaimed authors—like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison—combine these pieces into collections of social commentary.

Notes of a Native Son

Notes of a Native Son

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist

The Source of Self-Regard

The Source of Self-Regard

These books chronicle and layout a specific moment in time, with a goal to educate and inform the reader, looking at all parts of the world at any given moment.

John Adams

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

While a form of autobiography, memoirs are more flexible in that they typically don't feature an extensive chronological account of the writer's life. Instead, they focus on key moments and scenes that communicate a specific message or lesson to the reader about the author.

Born a Crime

Born a Crime


The Glass Castle

With poetry—a form of written art— authors choose a particular rhythm and style to evoke and portray various emotions and ideas. Sometimes the message is clear (like a straight-forward love poem ) while with others, the meaning is hidden behind a play on words—it all depends on the writer's style, intent, and chosen theme.

Sylvia Plath: The Collected Poems

Sylvia Plath: The Collected Poems

The Sun and Her Flowers

The Sun and Her Flowers

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

Whether the focus is on emotional well-being , finances, or spirituality, self-help books center on encouraging personal improvement and confidence in a variety of facets of your life.

Everything Is F*cked

Harper Everything Is F*cked

Dare to Lead

Dare to Lead

The Secret

Like its much-loved television counterparts, true crime books chronicle and examine actual crimes and events in exacting detail, with many focusing on infamous murders, kidnappings, and the exploits of serial killers.

Catch and Kill

Catch and Kill

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

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Book Genres: 85 Genres & Subgenres of Fiction & Nonfiction

Book genre list | book genres, last updated on: october 16, 2022, action and adventure fiction, classic fiction, contemporary fiction, dystopian fiction, fantasy fiction, graphic novel, historical fiction, horror fiction, lgbtq+ fiction, literary fiction, mystery fiction, romance fiction, satire fiction, science fiction, short story, thriller fiction, utopian fiction, western fiction, women’s fiction, young adult, nonfiction genres, art and photography, historical nonfiction, how-to and diy, memoir and autobiography, religion and spirituality, book genres.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, navigating the world of books can sometimes be tricky. You like a book, but what genre is it, and how can you find more like it? Or how can you write one like it? Often genres seem to overlap. Is it historical fiction with a twist of romance or romance with a twist of historical fiction? Here we break down the top 33 book genres across fiction and nonfiction, with a look at their 52 subgenres.

Action and adventure books often follow a structure known as the Hero’s Journey, in which the protagonist has a goal to achieve, but is put in risky, often dangerous situations order to achieve said goal. In short, the protagonist is going to spend an awful lot of time fighting for survival before finally beating the odds and succeeding in their mission. These books are characterized by edge-of-your-seat tension, leaving readers wondering from page to page how the protagonist can possibly extract himself (or herself!) from their latest obstacle. The fast-paced action keeps the pages moving along, rarely giving the reader a moment to catch their breath before diving into the next challenge.

Action and adventure typically crosses over into many other genres, including mystery, sci-fi, crime, and fantasy.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the action and adventure fiction book genre

Classic books are typically considered noteworthy or exemplary. These are books that stand the test of time. Love them or hate them, they are the ones often taught in schools. These books span a variety of genres. Classics are often those books that readers are aware of, and may even know the plot of, even if they’ve never read the books. Some examples of classics include Frankenstein , The Secret Garden , and Great Expectations .

An image showing the book covers for several books in the classic fiction book genre.

Contemporary fiction is one of those genres for books that don’t fit in any other bucket. The one overarching element here is that these books take place in present day. Contemporary fiction features ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. The story’s conflict often revolves around a problem in the protagonist’s everyday life.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the contemporary fiction book genre.

Dystopian fiction typically centers around a grim society in which everything is as bad as can possibly be. Most often, dystopian novels take place in an alternate future in which our world has been ravaged by such calamities as war, apocalypse, plague, or environmental disaster. At the heart of most dystopian literature is an oppressive government that the protagonist must fight against. Dystopian novels offer a frightening vision of the future, and are frequently written as a “warning” of what may come if we do not change our ways. Although traditionally categorized under science-fiction, Dystopian literature has become so prevalent that it now stands as a genre of its own.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the dystopian fiction book genre.

Fantasy novels are characterized by the inclusion of magic or supernatural elements. The characters in fantasy novels are often drawn in part or in whole from mythology or folklore. While some fantasy is set in our own world with a magical element, other fantasy novels feature entirely made up worlds and creatures. Fantasy novels are purely speculative, and are often not tied to reality or science.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the fantasy fiction book genre.

Fantasy comes in many forms and includes many different and varied subgenres.

An image showing the subgenres of fantasy fiction.

Magical Realism

Sometimes considered a genre unto itself, magical realism focuses on magical elements at play within our world. In magical realism, the magical and the mundane peacefully coexist. These books do not feature such magical creatures as vampires or sorcerers, but rather focus on supernatural happenings within our world. This underpinning of magic flows like a current through the book, and is easily accepted by the characters within it. Some examples of magical realism include Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Dark Fantasy

A subgenre of fantasy, dark fantasy often presents a gloomier world. The supernatural occurrences in dark fantasy often have a dark, brooding tone meant to infuse terror or dread, and there is an obvious lack of heroes. Frequently these stories incorporate elements of horror. As opposed to straight horror in which the villain might be a serial killer, in dark fantasy, the villain might be a werewolf, vampire, other monster. It is not uncommon in dark fantasy for the story to be told through the monster’s point of view. Some examples include Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King.

Fairy Tale fiction is often a reimagined version of classic Hans Christian Anderson and Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Set in the modern world, these books rely heavily on the motifs and plots of folklore. Some examples of fairy tale fantasy include Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and Beauty by Robin McKinley.

Heroic Fantasy

A subgenre of fantasy, heroic fantasy often takes place in a world filled with magic, in which modern technology does not exist. Focusing heavily on the themes of good versus evil, these books typically feature a large cast of characters led by the “hero” who is on a quest to set something right. The protagonists in heroic fantasy often come from low upbringings or are viewed as underdogs who have little chance of success, but who must nevertheless prevail and complete their quest. Some examples of heroic fantasy include The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

High Fantasy

High fantasy, also called epic fantasy, focuses on stories set in an entirely fictional world. Magical elements are usually at the forefront of the plot, and the characters typically find themselves on a quest with global stakes. When most people think of fantasy, this is what they are considering. High fantasy includes book such as Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. High fantasy novels tend to be longer than most other subgenres of fantasy due to the rich world-building associated with the genre.

Pro Tip: High fantasy takes place in made-up worlds, while low fantasy takes place in our world. These genres do cross at times, when characters begin in our world and journey to another world, such as in The Magicians by Lev Grossman, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Historical Fantasy

Historical fantasy features stories set in a historical period, with an added element of magic. Typically these stories are set it pre-20th century. Stories such as The Once and Future King by T.H. White qualify as historical fantasy.

Low Fantasy

Low fantasy, also known as intrusion fantasy, is categorized by magical elements that appear in—or intrude on—an otherwise normal world. Such stories as talking animals or inanimate objects coming to life would be considered low fantasy. One example includes The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. These books often cross genres with magical realism.

Mythic Fantasy

As its name implies, mythic fantasy relies heavily on mythology, often introducing characters from Greek or Roman mythology. These gods and goddesses may factor directly into the book, or the focus may be on their descendants. Some example of mythic fantasy include The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan and Circe by Madeline Miller.

Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy typically includes the involvement of magical elements or beings in a city setting. These stories are typically set in the real world and may focus on either the peaceful coexistence of humans and supernatural beings or a conflict between them. Some examples include The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz.

Graphic novels aren’t defined so much by their content, but by their appearance. Graphic novels are highly illustrated books, with the story being told through speech bubbles and a series of comic panels. These books have gained popularity in recent years for children ages 6-10, though many classics are also now being made into graphic novels. Some examples of graphic novels include Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Narwhal and Jelly by Ben Clanton.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the graphic novel book genre.

Historical fiction refers to books that take place in the past. These books typically center around imaginary characters experiencing real historical events. Historical fiction is often enriched by historically accurate details from the specific time period. The goal of historical fiction is to maintain authenticity around the time period, with a focus on accurately portraying customs, traditions, and events of the time. It is not uncommon in historical fiction for fictional characters to interact with real-life figures. One of the best examples of historical fiction is the wealth of World War II-era books that have been released in recent years.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the historical fiction book genre.

Historical fiction often covers a single time period, but there are a few subgenres of historical fiction.

Multi-period epics or sagas

A subgenre of historical fiction, multi-period epics tend to follow families or events over several generations. These books may be written as single volume or may stretch across several volumes. Some examples of multi-period epics include The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, Salt Houses by Hala Alyan, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Historical romance

A subgenre of historical fiction, historical-romance is often a love story between two characters, set against the background of real-life historical events. While these books could also fall easily into the romance category, true historical romance tends to focus more heavily on history, using it as an essential element of the storytelling, rather than simply a setting for the book. One example of such a book is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

Horror books do one thing: they cause discomfort and fear for a reader. The whole point of a horror book is to scare readers—to make you jump out of your skin at every page turn and feel trepidation at what’s coming next. Sometimes infused with paranormal elements, sometimes based on straight reality, a good horror book makes you feel like your skin is crawling and keeps you up at night wondering what’s waiting to jump out and get you.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the horror fiction book genre.

Like many genres, horror can be broken into several subgenres.

An image showing the subgenres of Horror fiction.

Body Horror

Body horror is a specific subgenre of horror that offers vivid depictions of graphic violations or mutilations of the body. Often the story centers on a graphic disfiguration or destruction of the human body. Examples of body horror include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Troop by Nick Cutter.

Gothic Horror

A subgenre of horror, gothic horror is often categorized by a battle between humanity and an unnatural force of evil (whether manmade or supernatural.) These books often take place in gloomy environments with bleak landscapes and can regularly center around mysteries, castles, spirits and hauntings, madness, and even some romance. Some examples of gothic horror include Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Lovecraftian Horror

Lovecraftian horror, popularized by American author H.P. Lovecraft, begins with the assumption that otherworldly beings once ruled our planet and that they will return to destroy all of humanity. One such example is The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle

Paranormal Horror

Paranormal horror introduces elements of the supernatural. Common themes in paranormal horror include hauntings, possessions, and curses. Some examples include Firestarter by Stephen King and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.

Psychological Horror

Psychological horror contains no monsters. Instead, it plays on a reader’s mind and their innermost thoughts. Psychological horror is categorized by suspicion, self-doubt, paranoia, and distrust of self and others. Some examples of psychological horror include Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Slasher Horror

Slasher horror is categorized by the presence of madmen: slashers, cannibals, sociopaths. In these books, the villains are physically after the protagonists. The horror comes from the suspense of never knowing when they will pop up. Given the nature these stories, they can often cross over with psychological horror. Examples of slasher horror include Psycho by Robert Bloch and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.

Quiet Horror

Quiet horror, also known as soft horror, relies on a reader’s imagination to make a story scary. Rather than graphic depictions of horror, quiet horror uses atmosphere and mood to set the tone, leaving most of the graphic details to the reader’s imagination. One example of quiet horror is The Sound of Midnight by Charles L. Grant.

LGBTQ+ features strong representation of LGBTQ+ characters as the protagonists of the book. Any book featuring such a representation can be considered LGBTQ+, regardless of what genre it otherwise falls into.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the LGBTQ+ fiction book genre.

Literary fiction is similar to contemporary fiction, in that it doesn’t typically fit into any specific genre. Rather, literary fiction is characterized by what is considered to be the highly artistic value of the writing. Literary fiction is meant to make a reader really stop and think, often offering a personal or social commentary on the book’s theme. Literary fiction also tends to be more on the serious side, and to touch on more serious topics.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the literary fiction book genre.

Mystery fiction, also known as detective fiction, always revolves around a mystery that must be solved. Mystery fiction always features several elements: a crime, an investigator, witnesses, clues, suspects, and of course a perpetrator. These mysteries may vary from a missing item to a murder, depending on the genre.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the mystery fiction book genre.

Mystery fiction often crosses over with thriller and suspense, but mystery comes in a variety of genres.

An image showing the subgenres of mystery fiction.

Detective Fiction

Detective fiction is characterized by an investigator—whether professional or amateur—who is trying to solve a mystery. The key distinction between detective fiction and police procedurals is a lack of direct ties to the police. Often detective fiction showcases an investigator who runs a detective agency of sorts, and who may work with the police, but not for them. Some examples of detective fiction include Sherlock Holmes , Nancy Drew , and the Hardy Boys .

Capers are light-hearted mysteries in which the protagonist is typically the thief. Infused with humor, these books typically focus more on how (and if!) the culprit will get away with the crime. One such example is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Cozy Mystery

Cozy mysteries tend to be lighthearted. Although murder may occur, it is never presented in grim detail. In cozy mysteries, crimes are typically solved by amateur detectives rather than professionals. Crimes typically occur in small towns where everyone knows everyone else. One example of a cozy mystery is Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke.

Hardboiled Mystery

A subgenre of mystery, hardboiled mystery is exactly as it sounds: hardcore. These books often feature overworked professional detectives who are fighting their own demons. Hardboiled mysteries may include violence, sex, or graphic details. One example of a hardboiled mystery is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

Historical Mystery

Mystery often crosses over with other genres, and this is one such case. Historical mystery is simply a mystery novel set in a historic time period, such as The Service of the Dead by Candace Robb.

Howdunit mysteries answer the question of who committed the crime immediately. Instead, these books focus on solving the question of how a crime was committed. One example of a Howdunit is A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin.

Like film noir, noir mystery focuses on the classic detective trope: a tragically flawed detective in a trench coat attempting to solve a crime. One example includes Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson.

Police Procedural

Police procedurals focus on police investigations. These books tend to be highly researched to mimic how actual police investigations function. They often include autopsy reports and forensic science. Such books may switch points of view between the detectives and the perpetrator of the crime. Two examples of police procedurals include The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly and Killer Instinct by James Patterson.

Supernatural Mystery

Supernatural mystery crosses over with horror and fantasy. These books, which may cross over with other mystery genres such as detective mystery or police procedurals, typically feature a mystery that involves some form of supernatural occurrence. Often the investigator finds a non-supernatural, logical solution to the mystery, but this is not always true. In some cases, the mystery is solved, but a supernatural element remains unexplained. One example of a supernatural mystery is In the Woods by Tana French.

Romance novels are typically about a romantic relationship. Typically the would-be lovers are faced by a series of obstacles that keep them apart for most of the book. In romance novels, all typically ends well with the two partners getting together. Romance novels are characterized by sensual tension and desire, and in many cases include intensely described sex scenes.

Pro Tip: romance novels for kids usually revolve around school crushes. Middle grade romance is clean, going no farther than kissing. YA and New Adult will both include sex scenes but not in as much detail as adult romance.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the romance fiction book genre.

Romance fiction can be broken into multiple subgenres.

An image showing the various subgenres of romance fiction.

Contemporary romance

Contemporary romance takes place in modern day and features women trying to find love amid modern technology and social situations. These books tend to be more relatable than other books in the romance genre as readers may have experienced similar situations. Examples of contemporary romance include The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory and Ghosted by Rosie Walsh.

Erotic Romance

Erotic romance focuses on the development of a relation through sexual interactions. In erotic novels, the buildup to the sexual interaction is as important to the plot as is the actual sex scenes. Both serve to further the relationship between two characters and the intimate nature of the relationship they are building. While some might view sex scenes in such books as graphic, they are in fact integral to relationship building and to cut them from the story would be to severely damage plot development. One example of erotic romance is Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James.

Gothic Romance

Dark, gloomy, and atmospheric, gothic romance typically showcases women battling through terrifying ordeals to be with the ones they love. Gothic romance is filled with secrets and mystery, and often takes place in old crumbling manors or mansions. Jane Eyre is a perfect example of gothic romance.

Historical Romance

A subgenre of both historical fiction and romance, historical romance mixes the best of both worlds to create a sweeping romance set in a particular historic era. Often these books take place during real-life historical events and feature fictionalized versions of real historical figures. One example of historical romance is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Paranormal Romance

A subgenre of romance, paranormal romance follows the rules of typical romance with one twist: at least one of the romantic partners is typically some sort of supernatural creature. This may include angels, vampires, werewolves, or demons, to name just a few. While paranormal fantasy focuses heavily on the action of the story, paranormal romance focuses heavily on the development of the romantic relationship between two people, and the ups and downs they face in finally coming together. One example of paranormal romance is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

Regency Romance

A very specific subgenre of romance, regency romance is typically set between 1795 and 1837, known as the Regency Era in England. Regency romance offers a heavy focus on society and societal norms for women at the time. Such events as dinner parties, balls, and marriages are often at the forefront of regency romance. One example of a regency romance is Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt.

Romantic Suspense

Romantic suspense goes beyond typical romance, blending with suspense and thriller books. These books tend to be more fast-paced and suspenseful, featuring such elements as stalkers, kidnapping, and even murder. One example of romantic suspense is Something About You by Julie James.

Time Travel

Time travel romance features a protagonist who must travel through time in order to find her true love. Often these books flip between present day and the past, with some confusion occurring between the protagonists two timelines and relationships during each one. A common conflict in such books is the decision about whether to stay in the past or to return to a protagonist’s own time. One example of time travel romance is The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Satire is the use of humor, exaggeration, irony, or ridicule to criticize, humble, or discredit the target of a book. Typically satire offers a political commentary of sorts. One example of satire is George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the satire fiction book genre.

Science fiction often feels similar to fantasy in that it is characterized by new worlds and made-up species of characters. Where science fiction differs from fantasy is its heavy reliance on science at technology, both of which lay at the root of all science fiction stories. The worlds portrayed in science fiction stories are not made up of fantastical creatures, but rather of those created or discovered through science.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the science fiction book genre.

Like fantasy, science fiction can be broken into a variety of specific genres.

An image showing the many subgenres of science fiction.

Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Apocalyptic science fiction typically takes place following a major calamity such as apocalypse, pandemic, or environmental disaster. Often such books include the decline or destruction of the human race and the attempts of the remaining humans to survive. Examples of apocalyptic science fiction include The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Passage by Justin Cronin.


Colonization science fiction typically focuses on a world in which the earth has been destroyed and humans must colonize a new planet or form a new settlement. Some examples of colonization science fiction include The Last Colony by John Scalzi and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. These books often cross over with the subgenre of dying earth.

Hard Science Fiction

Hard science fiction offers a strong focus on technology. Scientific concepts are often explained in great detail, often to the detriment of plot and character development. Examples of hard science fiction include Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward and Foundation by Isaac Asimov.

Military Science Fiction

Military science fiction tends to focus on armed conflict between two groups. This may be an interstellar or interplanetary conflict, or it may be more localized to a single planet. Themes such as bravery, sacrifice, and duty factor heavily into military science fiction, and the protagonists are typically members of a local military. Some examples of military science fiction include Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlan and the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.

Mind Transfer

Mind transfer is a subgenre of science fiction in which a human’s consciousness is uploaded or downloaded into either a computer or another human brain. This may occur through computer, alien intervention, physical brain transplant, or the use of a psychic power. Some examples of mind transfer science fiction include Neuromancer by William Gibson and Accelerando by Charles Strauss.

Parallel/Alternate Worlds

Parallel/alternate worlds science fiction typically focuses on the idea that there are multiple versions of the world with identical people living very different lives. These books are the epitome of the butterfly effect theory, in which a single change sets off a new world. Often characters in these books reach alternate worlds by traveling through a wormhole. One example of alternate world fiction is The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov.

Soft Science Fiction

Soft science fiction focuses less on the “how” and the actual science behind how a world came to be ad more on the actual characters. These stories tend to deal more with the “soft” or social sciences, focusing heavily on humans and not technology. One example of soft science fiction is Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin.

Space Opera

Space operas often feature swashbuckling action set against the backdrop of outer space. Space operas tend to be long-running series with a continuing story arc. Some examples of space operas include the Dune series by Frank L. Herbert and Enders Game by Orson Scott Card.

Steampunk blends the technology of the future with the design and aesthetic of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Steampunk typically features steam-powered technology rather than modern-day technology. One example of steampunk fiction is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

Short stories can appear in any genre. What binds them together as a genre of their own is their length. Anywhere between 1,000 and 15,000 words, these stories are shorter than typical novels. Often several short stories along a common theme appear together in a book. Some examples of short story collections include Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower and Pastoralia by George Saunders.


Thriller, also known as suspense, often crosses paths with mystery and crime fiction. Thriller fiction, however, typically revolves around a protagonist trying to save themselves rather than trying to save someone else. Fast-paced and action-packed, thrillers often include deception and plenty of cliffhangers. These books are meant to evoke feelings of anxiety, tension, fear, and lots of curiosity!

 An image showing the book covers for several books in the thriller fiction book genre.

Thriller fiction can be divided into multiple genres.

An image showing the many subgenres of Thriller fiction


Action thrillers typically focus on a protagonist’s need to struggle through a life-changing journey. This may be a quest they set for themselves or one they find themselves unwillingly a part of. Action thrillers are fast, bold, and loud. Often categorized by multiple locations, violence, and high-speed chases, these books bring about a rush of adrenaline with every turn of the page. Some examples of action thriller include The Martian by Andy Wier and The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum.

A subgenre of thriller and suspense, conspiracy thrillers typically involve a protagonist facing off against a large, powerful organization. The protagonists in conspiracy thrillers are often journalists of amateur sleuths who inadvertently stumble upon a conspiracy, setting off a chain of events in which they end up fighting for their lives. Conspiracy thrillers are typically filled with rumors and lies that the protagonist must wade through on their way to uncovering the truth. Some examples of conspiracy thrillers include The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon and The Firm by John Grisham.

Disaster thrillers revolve around some sort of environmental disaster or Armageddon-type situation. In disaster thrillers, the protagonist typically finds himself racing against time either to stop a disaster or to escape from an oncoming disaster. The disasters may include natural ones such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or meteor strikes, or may be man-made disasters such as nuclear attacks. Some examples of disaster thrillers include The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton and The Virus by Stanley Johnson.

Espionage thrillers are often set during war time and feature spies or secret agents as the protagonists. Espionage thrillers are typically categorized by corruption at the highest levels of government or a need to infiltrate a foreign government or crime organization. Espionage thrillers come with high stakes—often the livelihood of an entire country! Some examples of espionage thrillers include Blowback by Brad Thor and One Rough Man by Brad Taylor.

Forensic thrillers rely heavily on forensic scientists to solve a crime. Often in forensic thrillers, catching the perpetrator rests on finding evidence such as blood splatter, DNA, fingerprints, or bone fragments. Forensic thrillers are typically a race against time to catch the bad guy before he strikes again. Some examples of forensic thrillers include Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen and Trace Evidence by Elizabeth Becka.

Historical Thriller

As with most historical books, historical thrillers are set in a specific time-period and often include characterizations of real-life events or people. Historical thrillers often include real historical documents, mysteries, or conspiracies. It is not uncommon for a historical thriller to feature a contemporary protagonist trying to solve an old mystery. Some examples of historical thrillers include The Terror by Dan Simmons and The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins.

Legal Thriller

Legal thrillers often center around courtroom drama or legal dilemmas. The protagonists in legal thrillers are most often lawyers who find themselves thrust into the middle of a dangerous case and racing against time to save their clients—or themselves. Some examples of legal thrillers include The Client by John Grisham and Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow.

Paranormal Thriller

Paranormal thrillers follow the same rules as a typical thriller with the addition of paranormal elements to the story. The paranormal elements may appear as conflicts for the protagonist to overcome or it may be the protagonist himself who displays paranormal tendencies. Some examples of paranormal thrillers include The Outsider by Stephen King and The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

Psychological Thriller

Psychological thrillers rarely find in physical peril. Rather, protagonists often end up in a situation where their own sanity is at risk. The protagonists of psychological thrillers are often mentally unstable to begin with, which tends to make them unreliable narrators. Some examples of psychological thrillers include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

Religious Thriller

Religious thrillers typically revolve around a religious artifact or a secret held by a religious organization. In some thrillers the artifact has been stolen and must be recovered, while in others the artifact is surrounded by a mystery that must be unraveled. The protagonists of religious thrillers tend to be highly educated with a deep understanding of religion. The best example of a religious thriller is The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

Utopian Fiction is a style of fiction that takes place in an idealized society, where everything is as good as it can possibly be. Utopian fiction typically includes the intrusion of conflict into an otherwise perfect world. It is not uncommon for the intrusion of this conflict to ultimately cause the seemingly perfect society to crumble as certain truths come to light.

 An image showing the book covers for several books in the utopian fiction book genre.

Western fiction typically takes place in the American Old West. It is set from the late eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century and covers such themes as bounty hunters, cattle driving, the gold rush, and prairie settlements.

 An image showing the book covers for several books in the western fiction book genre.

Women’s fiction refers to an overarching group of books targeted toward women. These books typically reflect on the shared female experience and the role of women in society. Women’s fiction often includes themes that revolve around the home, family, and community. These books focus on the growth of the female protagonist as they navigate their way through such real-life challenges as divorce, illness, job loss, or betrayal.

 An image showing the book covers for several books in the women's fiction book genre.

Young adult books cover a large swatch of genres. What holds this genre together is the age of the protagonists. Typically ranging from 13-17, young adult novels are coming of age novels in which the protagonists cope with the unique challenges of adolescence.

 An image showing the book covers for several books in the young adult fiction book genre.

Unlike fiction, which is made up by the authors nonfiction is fact-based. Whether an accounting of an author’s life, a list of recipes, or a deep dive into business, nonfiction must be true, and authors are held accountable for the veracity of the words they put on paper. Still, nonfiction is varied, with many different genres.

Art and photography books tend to fall into the category of “coffee table” books. Meant to be admired more than read, they may discuss an artist’s work in detail or simply showcase their work.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the art and photography nonfiction book genre.

Like autobiography, biographies chronicle the life of a person of interest. Biographies are not written by the person whose life they detail, however. Often biographies are written long after a person of interest has died, and look back at the entirety of their life.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the biography nonfiction book genre.

Cookbooks are more than just a collection of recipes. They are often an introduction to a chef and a particular style of food that they either find to be important or that has shaped them. These days, cookbooks frequently cater to either a particular style of food or to a diet plan.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the cookbook nonfiction book genre.

Historical nonfiction focuses firmly on the facts of a historical event. These books are incredibly well-researched as every fact in them must be accurate. The goal of this book is to educate readers on any given topic. While history textbooks would technically fall into this category, most historical nonfiction is a bit more exciting!

An image showing the book covers for several books in the historicalnonfiction book genre.

How-to books and DIY, otherwise known as Do-It-Yourself, offer readers a way to develop a hobby, skill, or craft. Often the nature of these books is clear from the title, which clearly indicates what it the book will teach the reader how to do.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the How-to/DIY nonfiction book genre.

More often than not, humor is written in the form of a memoir or a satirical essay. As opposed to typical memoirs that focus on serious topics, humor focuses on the light-hearted nature of people’s lives. The goal of humor is simple: to make people laugh!

An image showing the book covers for several books in the humor nonfiction book genre.

Memoirs and autobiographies each provide an account of an authors’ life, as written by the author. The difference is that memoirs tend to focus on a certain defining moment in an author’s life while an autobiography focuses on an author’s accomplishments.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the memoir and autobiography nonfiction book genre.

Parenting encompasses a wide range of subjects, from how to discipline a child to how to homeschool a child to how to prepare for children. Any book that offers advice on how to raise or maintain a family typically fits into this genre.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the parenting nonfiction book genre.

Philosophy nonfiction includes an exploration of such topics as ethics, the purpose of life, and the understanding of the human condition. These books used to belong to such classical philosophers as Aristotle and Plato, but these days they are becoming more common and more accessible.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the philosophy nonfiction book genre.

Religion and Spirituality is a broad genre, and can encompass anything related to either religion or spirituality. Religion and spirituality books range from a history of the church or a spiritual memoir and everything in between.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the religion nonfiction book genre.

Self-help is one of the most popular nonfiction genres. These books exist to help people help themselves. Self-help can cover a variety of topics, from managing your finances to learning how to stay organized. At their core, self-help books are mean to uplift a reader and give them a definitive path forward toward solving their problems.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the self-help nonfiction book genre.

Travel books come in many shades. They may be actual guidebooks, or may appear in the form of travel memoirs with an author sharing their own journey and the path they followed. Travel books often feature suggestions on what sights to see, where to eat, and where to stay.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the travel nonfiction book genre.

True crime is a nonfiction genre in which the author examines an actual crime from start to finish, detailing not just the crime, but the policework that went into solving the crime and the ways in which real people were affected by crimes. True crimes are most often stories about high profile murders.

An image showing the book covers for several books in the true crime nonfiction book genre.

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A Reader’s Guide To The Different Book Genres

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Margaret Kingsbury

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents,, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians , or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom .

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Genres are ways of categorizing books to make them more easily found by readers. Categorizing book genres is a necessity with any large collection. Whether it be at a library or bookstore, readers need to know where to find a book, and also find similar types of books they might enjoy. But categorizing books also comes with its headaches. Some authors write across multiple genres, or a single book can be considered multiple genres. And some people have pet peeves about categories and/or category names. Be that as it may, book genres are still the most practical and efficient way to tag books for readers.

What does genre mean to me?

I used multiple methods for choosing and defining fiction and nonfiction genres and sub-genres. In addition to my 11 years of experience as a book buyer, I looked at the websites of a couple large bookstores, a few publisher websites, and the library of congress categories. The following book genres are an amalgamation of these sources.

Side notes: These categories apply to all age groups, thus, young adult, middle grade, etc. are not included as separate genres. Young adult books exist for every single one of these book genres, for example. Similarly, I don’t include graphic novels, because there can be graphic novels in any category. Graphics are a way of presenting a genre vs a separate genre.

A Reader's Guide to Book Genres

Fiction Book Genres

Books that describe imaginary events and people, or tell a story about real people and events using imaginary details.

A book or author that’s stood the test of time and has continued to inspire meaningful discussion and thought across generations. As gruesome as it sounds, I argue that the author needs to be dead for a book of theirs to be considered a classic. For example, Toni Morrison continues to write and to be an active member of the literary community. While I have no doubt her books will be classics, for now, they’re literary fiction.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Literary Fiction

Books deemed as having artistic qualities. Often subtle in theme and contain some kind of social/political/personal commentary on what it means to be human. Can contain other genre elements, but the author uses those elements not to be parts of that community, but to highlight an important theme in their work.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

General Fiction

These books offer fun, engaging stories in a contemporary setting. They’re more approachable than Literary Fiction, and contain none of the genre elements in other categories.

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Historical Fiction

Books that take place at least 30 years before the time the author writes them. Subcategories are often broken up by time frames.

Circe by Madeleine Miller

A book where the primary plot involves falling in love (of the romantic variety) and has a happy or emotionally satisfying ending. Because this is a category with many sub-genres, the examples listed are by sub-genre.


Death by Dumpling cover image


High-stake novels with frequent scene changes, where the protagonist is constantly being put at risk.

Novels set in either a completely fictional world, or set in a version of this world that includes magic.

Science Fiction

books categories list

A novel where supernatural elements create fear and terror, both within the novel and for the reader.

Nonfiction Book Genres

Books that utilize factual information about a topic to the best of the author’s ability.

Books which examine past true events. These can be broad surveys of a specific country, region, and/or time period, or they can focus on a specific event or set of events. They’re often heavily researched and can utilize academic language or be highly narrative.

The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss


Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings

Books where the information is primarily concerned with the aesthetic vs the factual.

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Books which examine a specific religion, the history of religions, and/or the practice of worshiping a deity/deities. Includes holy books.

The History of God by Karen Armstrong

Folklore Studies

Collections and studies of fairytales, legends, storytelling, and folklore.

From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner

Study of the nature of knowledge, existence, and being from an academic perspective.

The Psychic Life of Power by Judith Butler

New Age & Alternative Beliefs

Books that examine nontraditional spirituality or non-mainstream belief practices.

Health & Wellness

Books that describe ways of staying healthy: how to prevent or fight a specific medical issues; nutritional ideas; alternative medicine; nursing textbooks; sex, etc.

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup

Books which explain physical or natural science concepts, including mathematics, technology, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering and more.

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled On by Hawking Became Loved by Marcia Bartusiak

Social Science

So You Want to Talk about Race cover

Books that examine mental and emotional functions and well-being.

Books that look at the education system, including teaching how-to guides, curriculum guides, lesson plan collections, homeschool guides, special education, and test prep.

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks

Books which provide basic, objective information, like dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books of quotations.

Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory by Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace

Business & Economics

Books about managing and creating businesses, job skills and career advice, personal and business finance, investing, and how money works.

Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Joy Deangdeelert Cho andMeg Mateo Ilasco


Books about the ways communication occurs, communicating in other languages, the best ways to communicate, and the technical aspects of types of communication.

Home & Garden

Books about designing, organizing, taking care of, decorating, and otherwise loving homes and gardens.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Animal & Pet Care

Books about taking care of and loving animals.

The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy Hens  by Kathy Shea Mormino

Recreation & Leisure

Books about activities and hobbies done or consumed primarily for enjoyment.

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I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook by Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad

Books that tell the story of a specific crime or criminal, collect stories of various criminals, or tell of a historical crime.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

And hey, book genres can be funny too.

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The Ultimate List of Book Genres: 36+ Genres Explained

Genres are crucial to your writing success. They inform word count, writing style, and content. From a marketing point of view , they help you create a profitable niche and build a specialized brand that is instantly recognizable.

In addition, readers are more likely to enjoy a book that is written in their favorite genre. Also, they won’t hesitate to leave a negative review if a book fails to meet their expectations. With well over 12 million Kindle books on Amazon in 2022, writers ignoring genres risk lower sales and unsatisfied readers.

This guide gives you an overview of the 36 most popular book fiction and nonfiction genres out there.

List of Fiction Genres

Science Fiction

Action & adventure, literary fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, magic realism, graphic novel, short story, young adult.

List of Nonfiction Genres


Memoirs & autobiographies, food & drink, art & photography, self-help & motivational, crafts, hobbies & home, humor & entertainment, business & money, law & criminology, politics & social sciences, religion & spirituality, education & teaching, fiction genres.

Fiction writing has become very popular over the years. In fact, the first half of 2021 saw a 25% increase in fiction books sold in comparison to Q1 and Q2 of 2020. 

Fiction is a genre of literature where the author creates imaginary characters, worlds, and events. This means that the storyline is completely fictional, unlike nonfiction stories, which tell real-life experiences.

Literary Genre Quiz (Easy)

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Your answer:

Correct answer:


Your Answers

Fantasy fiction is a genre of literature that involves magic, mythical creatures, and fantastical settings. It is not uncommon for these stories to have supernatural elements and characters who live in imaginary worlds. 

Some common tropes include dragons, elves, fairies, wizards, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, angels, and talking animals. Fantasy stories may also involve time travel, alternate universes, parallel dimensions, and other mystical concepts.

The genre was born out of medieval tales such as Beowulf and King Arthur legends and often revolve around the struggle between good and evil. 

Today, fantasy books like Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien are read by millions around the globe.

While fantasy has dozens of subgenres, there are two main types of fantasy fiction: epic fantasy and high fantasy.

  • Epic fantasy focuses on the adventures of ordinary people who fight monsters and save kingdoms. 
  • High fantasy features heroes who wield magical weapons and travel through fantastic lands.

Average word count: While fantasy works often span dozens of volumes and millions of words, their average word count ranges between 60,000 and 200,000+ depending on the genre.

Knight defending against fire-breathing dragon in fantasy battle

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that deals with scientific ideas and principles. Science fiction stories often use futuristic settings and technologies. In a sci-fi setting, scientific advancement has typically advanced beyond our current understanding.

Many science fiction stories deal with space exploration, colonization, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and extraterrestrial life. Other topics include time travel, robots, teleportation, and faster-than-light travel.

The term was originally coined in 1933 by Isaac Asimov , who defined science fiction as stories that take place in a future setting that includes elements of science and technology. In his book, he also mentioned three other categories of science fiction: fantasy, horror, and utopian/dystopian.

Science fiction is considered by some to be a subgenre of speculative fiction. Nowadays, however, it has become a genre of its own. From movies such as Star Wars to TV shows like The Expanse and Star Trek , sci-fi has taken over our lives. Some more examples of science fiction include 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, and Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.

Average word count: Science fiction works typically have between 60,000 and 90,000 words.

Futuristic laser-armed fighter evading spaceship in sci-fi scene

A dystopia is a society where basic human rights are denied and freedom is limited. In dystopian literature, the main character often faces oppression from the government, corporations, or other groups. Themes include totalitarianism, environmental destruction, poverty, war, and genocide.

There are several types of dystopian fiction, from sci-fi dystopia to dystopic satire. Some examples of dystopian works include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. These books offer readers a glimpse into what life might be like under adverse conditions.

Average word count: Dystopian books have between 60,000 and 110,000 words on average.

Woman gazing at dystopian floating island cities from cliff edge

Action & adventure stories are often considered to be the most exciting genre of literature. They feature heroes who fight against evil forces or face dangerous situations. The setting usually takes place in exotic locations such as jungles, deserts, mountains, etc.

Action & adventure novels are typically known for their thrilling plots , action scenes, and gripping characters. They also tend to focus on themes such as friendship, loyalty, courage, honor, justice, love, and redemption. 

There are two main categories of action & adventure books: those that focus on the hero (the protagonist) and those that focus on the villain. In both cases, the story revolves around the conflict between good and evil.

Examples include The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.

Average word count: Adventure books are brimming with words, as the average word count hovers between 120,000 and 200,000 words.

Action-packed scene of Agent sprinting through laser barriers

Romance novels are often considered to be a genre of literature that focuses on love stories between two characters. In many cases, books are written from a female perspective and tend to focus on the emotional aspects of relationships. A typical plot discusses the choice the protagonist must make between a “bad boy” (or girl) and a “good” one.

The term ‘romance’ was coined in 1813 by Sir Walter Scott, who wrote his novel Ivanhoe under the pseudonym of William Harrison Ainsworth. Since then, the word has become synonymous with love stories.

There are three main types of romance novels: historical romances, contemporary romances, and paranormal romances. 

  • Historical romance novels typically take place during the Victorian era or earlier periods, such as the Elizabethan era. 
  • Contemporary romance novels feature modern settings and storylines. 
  • Paranormal romance novels are set in fantasy worlds where magic plays a major role.

Another common romance subgenre, popularized in movies, is romantic comedy, where romance includes comedic elements.

Famous romances include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding.

Average word count: Romance books tend to have between 70,000 and 100,000 words.

Romantic moment of couple kissing on Paris bridge, Eiffel Tower

Mystery fiction is often described as a literary subgenre that combines elements of crime and detective fiction. Some examples include Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Dan Brown.

There are two main types of mystery fiction: whodunnit and whydunnit.

  • Whodunnits are mysteries where the reader wants to discover who committed the crime. The perpetrator’s identity remains unknown until the story ends. The protagonist is often presented with clues throughout the narrative that allow them to solve the mystery.
  • Whydunnits are mysteries where we may know the killer from the start and readers want to figure out why someone committed the crime. This has been the traditional style of mystery writing in China, where books often start with a description of the crime and who committed it. The rest of the book describes the efforts of the hero to catch them and reads like a game of chess between the two main characters—protagonist and antagonist.

There are several additional subgenres within mystery fiction, such as thriller, suspense, psychological, historical, etc. 

Mystery fiction has existed since ancient times. In Greek mythology, Oedipus was trying to solve the riddle of his parentage. In more contemporary times, Sherlock Holmes solved crimes using logic and deduction.

Average word count: Most mystery books contain 60,000 to 90,000 words. 

Detective with Gun and Flashlight in Dark, Mysterious House

Horror fiction is defined as fictional narratives that contain themes of terror, fear, and dread. It often involves supernatural elements or horrific events such as murder, torture, cannibalism, etc. Stories typically revolve around characters who face threats that they cannot overcome alone.

Horror fiction has existed for centuries. The genre was born from the Gothic novel movement in 18th-century England. In modern times, it was revived during the 19th century, especially after Edgar Allan Poe wrote his famous short story, The Tell-Tale Heart .

In modern times, horror fiction has become a major part of our culture. From books to movies, television shows to video games, horror fiction is everywhere and it is widely read and appreciated around the globe.

Examples include The Omen by David Seltzer, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, and Stephen King’s and H.P. Lovecraft’s works.

Average word count: Horror books typically have from 60,000 to 90,000 words. 

Chainsaw-Wielding Zombie in Abandoned Horror House Setting

Thriller fiction is a genre of crime fiction that focuses on suspense and psychological thrillers. Thrillers often feature complex plots and characters who are psychologically damaged or mentally unstable. Themes include murder, kidnapping, revenge, espionage, terrorism, and other crimes.

Thriller novels have become extremely popular over the years. James Patterson’s Alex Cross series, John Grisham’s The Firm , and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity are some famous examples.

Average word count: Thriller books contain 60,000 to 100,000 words on average.

Suspenseful Shadow Holding Knife in Thriller Scene

Paranormal fiction is a genre of literature that deals with supernatural themes such as ghosts, demons, vampires, and other creatures from folklore or mythology. The term was coined in the early 20th century and has since grown into its own subgenre within the horror and fantasy genres.

Paranormal fiction is a relatively new literary form. In recent years, authors have begun writing stories that feature characters who interact with supernatural beings. These stories often include elements of science fiction and fantasy.

There are several types of paranormal fiction. Some focus on the supernatural, while others explore our inner demons. Regardless of their subject matter, these books are usually classified under the umbrella of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery.

Some famous examples include Neil Geiman’s The Graveyard Book , Stephen King’s The Shining , and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire .

Average word count: There are 60,000 to 90,000 words in an average paranormal book. 

Red-Robed Conjurer Summoning Demons in Paranormal Ritual

Western fiction is a genre of writing that originated in Europe during the 18th century. The term was coined by French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt who defined it as “the literature of the West” and originally referred to stories that take place in the West (i.e., North America, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). Today, Western Fiction has become a major part of our culture and stories tend to focus on events that happened in the United States from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

Western fiction is often considered to be a subgenre of historical fiction, although some authors prefer to call themselves “historical novelists” instead. Regardless of its name, the main characteristic of these types of books is their setting—think Shane by Jack Schaefer, The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey, and Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams.

Typical Western works encompass a wide range of genres such as poetry, drama, short story, novel, essays, etc. These books often deal with themes such as love, war, and history.

Average word count: The average length of Western fiction is 50,000 to 80,000 words.

Tense Cowboy Showdown by Saloon in Classic Western Scene

Literary fiction is a type of fiction that focuses on character development and narrative structure rather than plot.

The term was coined by critic Harold Bloom in his book The Western Canon (1994). He defined it as “A novel written in English from 1500 to 1800 whose author takes seriously the project of representing human life as it might be lived.”

Nowadays, literary fiction is distinguished from other types of fiction by its focus on character and story. 

Classical literary fiction examples include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

On average, literary fiction works are between 80,000 and 120,000 words long.

Woman in White Dress Bringing Life to Barren Land in Literary-Fiction

Historical fiction is a genre of literature where historical events or characters are fictionalized. This type of writing allows readers to experience history through a new lens.

The story takes place during real-time periods, but the author makes changes to the facts. For example, the main character might be someone who was never born in the time period they live in. Or the setting might be changed from modern times to another era.

Historical fiction has existed since ancient times, with some historians including in the genre Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey . There are also examples of historical fiction in medieval texts such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight .

Today, historical fiction is often considered a subgenre of fantasy and science fiction. Some authors even combine these genres together. 

Modern examples include The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Average word count: Historical fiction books contain on average 60,000 to 90,000 words. 

Spartan Warrior Battling Lion in Historical Fiction Setting

The term contemporary fiction was coined by critic Harold Bloom in his book The Western Canon (1994). It is defined as stories written after World War II. The genre was born out of the post-war era, where writers had to deal with the aftermath of war and the challenges of rebuilding society.

Contemporary fiction is often described as being realistic, gritty, and dark. This type of writing tends to focus on issues such as poverty, racism, war, and violence in a way that is particularly relevant to modern readers since it takes place in everyday, familiar settings.

It’s important to note that contemporary fiction isn’t always realistic. In fact, some authors deliberately write their books in a way that makes them seem unrealistic. This allows readers to experience something new and exciting without being overwhelmed by reality.

Some examples of contemporary fiction include Angels & Demons by Dan Brown, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

Average word count: There are between 60,000 and 90,000 words in a contemporary fiction book.

Solitary Figure with Yellow Umbrella in Grey City, Contemporary Fiction

Magic realism is a literary genre that combines elements of fantasy and reality. The term was coined by Argentine writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude .

Magic realism is a style of fiction where fantastic or supernatural events occur within realistic settings. This type of writing has become very popular over the last decade, especially in Latin America.

This form of literature often features fantastical characters who live in a real setting. For example, they might be able to fly, see into the future, or travel through time. Magical realism also uses surreal imagery and symbolism to convey its messages.

Notable examples include The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

City-dweller Steps into Magical Forest in Magic Realism Scene

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This term was coined in 1969 to describe those who identify themselves as LGBTQ+. The acronym has since evolved into a broader term that encompasses sexual orientation and gender identity. In recent years, the term has also come to include other identities such as pansexual, polyamorous, asexual, demisexual, intersex, non-binary, and two-spirit.

LGBTQ+ fiction explores themes related to human sexuality. Some examples include stories about same-sex relationships, homosexuality, and bisexuality. There are several types of fiction, including romance novels, erotica, and science fiction.

Some examples include Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Fever King by Victoria Lee, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.

Passionate LGBTQ Women Kissing in Front of Rainbow Flag

Graphic novels are books that combine text and illustrations. They are often considered to be a hybrid between comics and literature. Graphic novels are usually longer than other types of books and they tend to focus on storytelling rather than plot development.

They are also known as comic strips or comic books. The term graphic novel was coined in the 1970s. In the 1980s, graphic novels became very popular because of their ability to tell stories using pictures instead of words alone.

There are two main categories of graphic novels: sequential art (comics) and non-sequential art (graphic novels). Sequential art is a form of visual narrative where each page tells a story. Non-sequential art is a collection of images that don’t necessarily follow a linear storyline.

Maus by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are excellent examples of graphic novels.

Average page count: Graphic novels can vary widely in length, ranging from 50 to 500 pages.

Dynamic Ninja Fight Scenes in a Graphic Novel

Short stories are often thought of as children’s literature, but they are also very popular in adult fiction. They are usually written in prose and focus on character development rather than plot twists or action sequences.

Short stories are generally shorter than novels, and they tend to feature characters who are less complex than those found in longer narratives. Themes include love, friendship, family relationships, and other human emotions.

There are two types of short stories: the short story and the novella .

The short story focuses on a single event. It has fewer pages (usually between 100 and 300) and can be anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 words long. Famous short stories include The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and the short stories of Philip K. Dick.

The novella is longer (between 400 and 800 pages), and its main theme is usually broader than that of the short story. Examples include Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Vintage Typewriter Crafting a Short Story

YALIT (YA Literature) is a term coined by the American Library Association to describe books written specifically for young adults. The term was coined in the early 1980s, although YA books had existed since the 19th century.

The genre covers a wide range of topics from romance to science fiction. It is aimed at readers between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. YA fiction is often described as being similar to literary fiction, but with a younger audience. This means that the stories tend to focus on themes such as love, friendship, family, and relationships, and are character-driven rather than plot-driven.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Lord of the Flies by William Goldin, and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger are some famous examples of Young Adult fiction.

Average word count: Young adult works are between 50,000-80,000 words long, depending on the subgenre.

Sword-Wielding Young Girl in Mysterious River

New adult fiction is a genre of young adult literature that focuses on characters who are 18 years old or older. The books often feature themes such as love, relationships, and career choices.

This type of fiction was originally written for adults, but now it’s being published for teens and young adults too. They are popular with all ages because they offer a fresh perspective on life and romance., as well as a sense of empowerment and independence.

Examples include The Mistake by Elle Kennedy, Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

Sunset Cliffside Stroll for New Adult Couple

Children’s fiction is a genre of children’s literature that focuses on stories aimed at young readers. The term was coined in the early 20th century by American librarian Lilla Cabot Perry, who published her book What Is Children’s Fiction? in 1922.

There are two main types of children’s fiction: picture books and chapter books. 

Picture books tend to focus on storytelling through illustrations, whereas chapter books often feature longer narratives. 

Chapter books are usually written for older kids (ages 8–12) and contain more complex storylines. They also tend to include more mature themes such as death, divorce, and bullying. 

Classic examples of children’s books include Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss.

Average word count: Children’s books are much shorter than adult books, having an average word count that ranges between 300 and 1200 words.

Child Riding Baby Elephant with Wooden Sword in Jungle Adventure

Nonfiction Genres

Nonfiction writing is a type of literary genre where the author writes from personal experience or observation. Unlike fiction, the events described are factual rather than imagined. The writer uses facts and figures to tell stories and convey information. 

There are four basic types of nonfiction writing: self-help, hobbies, academic, and journalistic. Self-help books are for people who wish to improve themselves. Then, there are those aimed at people who want to enjoy their hobbies more. Academic writing focuses on research and analysis, whereas journalistic writing involves reporting events. Both forms require extensive knowledge of the subject matter.

Biographies are often written about famous people or historical figures. The difference with autobiographies is that the author and the biography’s subject are not the same person. Biographies tell us who their subject was, where they came from, and why they became successful. Biography writing is also known as biographical essay writing.

The main purpose of a biography is to provide information about the subject. This helps readers gain insight into their personality, character, achievements, and other important details.

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert are some of the most famous examples of biographies.

Average word count: Typically, biographies are between 80,000 to 100,000 words long.

Life Stages Collage: Child, Adult Man, and Old Man in Biography

Biographies are fascinating accounts of someone’s life. Autobiographies and memoirs are similar, except that they focus on the writer’s own life story.

An autobiography is defined as a book describing the author’s personal experiences. Memoirs are similar to autobiographies except that they focus on specific time periods and events in the author’s life.

There are two types of memoirs: nonfiction and fiction. Nonfiction memoirs are factual accounts of real events in the author‘s life. Fiction memoirs are fictionalized accounts of actual events in the author’s life.

Famous memoirs include The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

Average word count: Memoirs usually have 45,000 to 80,000 words.

Triumphant Boxer Raising Arm in Crowded Boxing Ring

Food and Drink books are a great way to get inspired or even learn something new. These books are usually written by experts who share their knowledge through recipes, tips, and other useful information. They can take the form of a recipe book or a travel log, with some merging the two into a novel format.

Many are written by TV personalities, while others are written by chefs. Some examples include Nadiya’s Everyday Baking by Nadiya Hussein, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain, and One: Simple One-Pan Wonders by Jamie Oliver. 

Average word count: It is difficult to estimate word counts in cookbooks, as most cookbooks focus on the number and categories of recipes—desserts, snacks, soups, etc.

Passionate Cook Tossing Vegetables in Wok Over Open Flame

Art and Photography Books are collections of photographs or paintings that tell a story. These books are usually published by famous photographers or artists who want to share their work with the public.

These books are often great sources of inspiration as they contain beautiful images and stories that will surely inspire you. They are often used as coffee table books and conversation starters.

Popular examples include On Photography by Susan Sontag or Wonderland by Annie Leibovitz.

Average word count: Art and photography books are visual testimonies, hence they have a lower word count, ranging from 10,000 to 60,000 words.

Abstract Painting on Easel in Stylish Modern Apartment

Well-known examples are The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss or Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Multitasking Master in Self-Help Scene

History books are often written by historians who study historical documents such as letters, diaries, newspapers, etc. They also interview experts and survivors to get their perspectives on the subject. The information gathered helps them write accurate accounts of important events.

They commonly include information about wars, politics, economics, culture, science, religion, etc. 

There are several types of history books, such as encyclopedias, chronicles, and textbooks. The main difference between these types is their focus. For example, a textbook focuses on teaching students about specific topics.

Some of the best history books also show how the past has influenced the present and what lessons we can learn and apply to our future. 

Famous examples include Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, 1491 by Charles C. Mann, and A History of American People by Paul Johnson.

Average word count: History books have on average 30,000 to 70,000 words. 

Adventurer Approaching Desert Pyramids in Historical Journey

Crafts, Hobbies & Home books cover a wide range of topics from cooking to gardening to home improvement. 

The term hobby was coined in 1833 by William Morris, who described his art activities as a hobby. In modern usage, the word has come to mean any leisure pursuit that does not involve earning a living wage. Popular hobbies include sports, writing, painting, woodworking, knitting, baking, photography, and other interests. 

As the name suggests, Crafts, Hobbies, and Home books teach you how to enjoy your hobbies more by honing your skills. They are great resources for learning new skills or improving existing ones. They also provide a relaxing break from everyday life. Whether you want to learn how to cook, play guitar, or paint, these activities can help you develop valuable skills.

Some famous examples include Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , Crochet Cute Critters by Sarah Zimmerman, and Woodworking Plans and Projects by Anthony Deck.

Average word count: Most crafts and hobbies books are heavy on images that are self-explanatory. You can have crafts books with as few as 3,000 or as many as 50,000 words.

Assorted Crafting Tools on Wooden Table for Hobbies

A humorous book is a story written in such a way that readers can easily identify with the characters and situations. Humorous stories often feature exaggerated events, unusual settings, and unexpected twists. They are a great way to relax after a long day at work or school. They also provide a good laugh every now and then. 

Humor books often focus on everyday life. The main character is someone who has problems dealing with their daily life. These stories are meant to entertain and amuse the reader.

Popular examples include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. 

Average word count: Humor books can be quite succinct, ranging from 10,000 words to 50,000 words.

Playful Clown Making Happy Grimace on Stage

Business and Money Books are very important for every entrepreneur who wants to start their own company or become successful in their current job. These books contain information about various topics such as finance, marketing, management, etc.

Business and Money Books are typically written by experts who have years of experience in their field. They provide valuable insights into the subject matter they cover. The authors share their knowledge through writing and teaching.

Popular examples include Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Confident Entrepreneur with Stacks of Money Coins in Business

Are you interested in learning more about criminal justice or law enforcement? If yes, then you should read some law and criminology textbooks. These books cover topics such as crime prevention, police procedures, and legal issues.

Law and criminology is a field of study that focuses on the relationship between law and society. Criminologists study crimes committed by individuals and groups, whereas lawyers focus on the laws that govern these behaviors. Law and criminology also involve studying the causes of crime and devising ways to prevent them from happening.

Both law and criminology deal with the same subject matter but differ in their approaches. The main difference lies in the way each discipline deals with the problem at hand. For example, criminologists look into the reasons behind why certain crimes occur, whereas lawyers examine the legality of those actions.

Criminal Law by Joel Samaha, The Crime Book by DK and Peter James, and Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton E. Samenow are some popular examples.

Stern Judge Swinging Gavel in Law and Criminology Setting

Political Science and Sociology are both academic disciplines that study human behavior and society. These fields also include the study of government, politics, and other aspects of life. As such, Politics & Social Sciences books cover topics such as economics, history, law, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, etc.

The main difference between Political Science and Sociology is that Social Sciences focus on individuals, whereas Politics focuses on groups.

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Prisoners of Geography by Tim  Marshall, and Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger are some examples of Politics & Social Sciences books that changed the way we think.

Average word count: As most academic books, politics and social sciences works have on average 80,000-90,000 words.

President Giving Speech with Jets Flying in Background

Religion and spirituality books are written by authors who want to share their personal experiences and insights. These books cover topics and spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, prayer, and mindfulness.

Religion and spirituality books cover topics such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and other religions. 

Many people believe these books are only relevant to those who practice their faith. In reality, however, they offer insights into human nature and psychology that apply across cultures and religions. For example, they provide a way to explore our inner selves and connect with other people. In addition, they give us a chance to reflect on life and discover new ways to live.

Some popular examples include The Bible , Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

Average word count: Most religion and spirituality works have between 50,000 and 70,000 words.

Meditating Man in Jungle with Temple for Spiritual Exploration

Teaching is a profession that requires patience, passion, and knowledge. Teaching books are essential tools for teachers who want to improve their skills and become better educators. They also offer practical solutions to problems faced by educators.

The First Days of School by Harry Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation by David Goodwin and Pete Hegseth, and Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Rafe Esquith are some popular examples.

Scientist Writing Equation on Blackboard for Educational Insight

Travel books are great resources for anyone who wants to explore new places or get inspiration from other cultures. They also provide useful information about local customs and etiquette.

Travel books come in various formats such as guidebooks, coffee table books, and even children’s picture books. The latter category has become very popular over the last decade.

A good travel book often includes detailed maps, historical facts, cultural insights, and practical information about where to stay, eat, shop, and play.

While the genre has a long and distinguished presence—see, for example, Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad —it is publishers such as Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide that have popularized the genre by publishing hundreds of travel books. 

Average word count: Travel books rely on images to make us dream, so word counts range from 20,000 to 50,000 words.

Map, Compass, and Globe on Table for Travel Enthusiasts

True Crime Books focus on real events and are often written by authors who have had personal experiences with crimes or criminals. Some of them even go into detail about the criminal’s background and life before they committed their crimes.

The stories are told from the perspective of the victim, perpetrator, or both. These books are often controversial because they contain graphic details of violent crimes.

There are several types of true crime books. For example, some are biographies of serial killers, while others are memoirs of victims. There are also true crime anthologies, such as true crime podcasts, and true crime blogs.

Famous examples include Scoundrel by Sarah Weinman, Columbine by Dave Cullen , and Party Monster by James St. James.

Average word count: On average, true crime works are 80,000-90,000 words long.

True Crime Scene with Chalk Outlines and Blood Stains

The first Greek laws were written by Solon in 594 BC. They were in the form of poetry to make them more memorable, thus ensuring compliance.

This highlights the power of poetry and poems . A poem is a short piece of writing that uses language to convey ideas or emotions. The word comes from the Greek poiesis ( ποίησις ) meaning creation. In English, a poem is defined as a composition consisting of lines (or stanzas) of verse.

Poetry books are collections of poems written by famous poets. They are usually published in book form and contain both prose and verse. Poems are often considered to be some of the greatest literary creations ever created.

There are various types of poetry books, such as anthologies, compilations, and collections. Anthologies are collections of individual poems that are grouped together according to the theme, style, or subject matter. Compilations are collections of poems that are selected because they share similar characteristics. Collections are simply groups of poems that are chosen because they represent a particular time period or place.

If you are interested in poetry, you may enjoy The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson , as well as the poems of John Keats and C.P. Cavafy.

Average page count: Poetry books are usually between 70 and 100 pages long.

Handwriting Poem with Pen and Ink in Artistic Scene

Why Genres Matter

For both authors and readers, genres matter, as they let us choose the works we enjoy more. At the same time, it can be fun to mix things up every now and then. 

Hopefully, the above list will help you with this by inspiring you to try your hand at something new. You can even create your own unique subgenre that consists of the best elements of your favorite genres. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

Literary Genre Quiz (Hard)

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Nicholas C. Rossis

Nicholas C. Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies, children’s books, or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, and enjoys the antics of his dog, cat, and young daughter, all of whom claim his lap as home. His books have won numerous awards, including the prestigious IBBY Award.

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22 Different Types of Books (Genres and Non-Fiction Options)

Posted on January 31, 2019

22 Different Types of Books (Genres and Non-Fiction Options)

If you consider the thousands of different books available in the world, the adage, “So many books, so little time” takes on a completely new meaning. In fact, just the genres and sub-genres are so many that they are impossible to list down.

All book lovers have their own favorite genre — in fact, multiple favorite genres. In all honesty, there are so many genres to choose from, that there are many who have a preferred genre for every mood.

Book Genre Chart

Chart of all fiction genres

What is a Genre?

A genre is a category or style of literature, music, art and other forms of entertainment. The genre system first began as a classification process for ancient Geek literature, including poetry, prose, and performance. Each genre has a specific, distinct style relating to theme, content, tone, details, and intensity. Patterns of speech for a tragedy would not be appropriate for a comedy, for example. To make matters even more confusing, most works of fiction fall under more than one genre. Case in point: “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift falls under classic, fantasy, satire, and adventure.

Types of Books

All books can be broadly classified under two main categories: fiction and non-fiction

The Chronicles of Narnia Boxed Set

A work of fiction is one that is derived from the imagination. The great thing about fiction is that it could be inspired or partially borrows from real-life situations, but that is as far as it could go. Fictional books are often synonymously categorized under the umbrella term of “novel.” The category of fiction is immense and has a huge plethora of sub-divisions or genres, which is both a boon and a curse for bookworms.


The polar opposite of fictional books, nonfiction books are based on facts, true accounts of history and real events. Also, unlike fiction books, nonfiction books have relatively few genres. The most common types of books that make up nonfictional works are biographies, autobiographies, almanacs and encyclopedias.

Genres of Fiction Books

As mentioned before, the subcategories of fiction are too many to count. We have, however, tried our best and listed some of the most common types of genres below. Remember, many of these books can be fitted under several different genres.

Little Women (Puffin in Bloom)

Humorist writer Mark Twain once said, “Classic – a book which people praise and don’t read.” Perhaps that was true during his time but today, classics are some of the most commonly read books and are widely taught in most schools. These books pertain to a particular time period and place, and are deemed to have literary merits

Some examples of famous literary classics are “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll and “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.

British Classics. A Tale of Two Cities

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Tragedy is a branch of drama written in a serious style that focuses on human suffering or tragic events, brought into motion most often by a heroic individual. Much of the works of tragedy serves to question the role of man in the universe and plays a historic role in the self-definition of the Western civilization.

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo,” William Shakespeare wrote in his tragedy drama, “Rome and Juliet” and indeed, he and his Elizabethan contemporaries were the ones who produced the most successful and famous tragedy dramas that survived the test of ages.

Some famous tragedies by different writers are “Hamlet” by Shakespeare, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte and “Requiem of a Dream” by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Science Fiction

The War of the Worlds

One of the most complex genres of literature, science-fiction is an umbrella term for a genre of fiction dealing with the advanced concepts of science, technology, time travel, space exploration, extra terrestrial life, alternate timelines, cyberpunk and end of the world. As such, science fiction books often veer off into the world of fantasy, adventure, mystery, supernatural and dystopian fiction.

Fortunately, this genre also encompasses some of the most thrilling literary works. Some examples of science fiction books are “Frankenstein” or “The Modern Prometheus” (which is also a tragedy) by Mary Shelley, “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The most enjoyed genre by teens, young adults and even older individuals, fantasy books are works of speculative fiction, which generally revolves around magic, the supernatural and witchcraft. A lot of fantasy writers use mythology, theology and folklore as inspiration.

Like science fiction, the depth of this genre is vast and contains sub-genres like fairytales, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, gods and demon fantasy, gothic fiction and fables.

Some of the most famous fantasy books include the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling, “Lord of the Rings” by J.R. Tolkien, “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King, “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton, and “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis.

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

Fairytale is a subgenre of fantasy but because it’s such a vast category, it deserves its own section. Most fairytales take the form of short stories, though today, this is not always the case. Such books usually involve fairies, dwarfs, princesses, goblins, unicorns, elves, talking animals, trolls, dragons and other magical creatures.

Some of the most famous fairytale books include “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson and Snow White.

Uprooted: A Novel

The adventure genre usually follows a reluctant hero leaving his familiar world behind to embark on a dangerous quest, where he encounters challenges, temptations and revelations. Helped along by mentors, guardians and friends, the hero navigates the unfamiliar world of adventure, defeats evil and returns home, successful and transformed.

This is one of the most popular types of creative fiction genre and is crossed by fantasy, supernatural, mystery, thriller and other sub-genres. Some of the best example of adventure fiction is “Treasure Island” by R. L. Stevenson, “The Hobbit” by J.R. Tolkien, “the Prisoner of Zenda” by Anthony Hope, “The Odyssey” by Homer and “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne.

The Hobbit

Crime & Mystery

Murder on the Orient Express[MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS][Paperback]

The crime and mystery genre of fiction usually revolves around a mysterious death or a baffling crime that needs to be solved. Usually, the book’s main protagonist is a detective who solves the mystery by logical deductions. The other characters are suspects and each of them are assigned credible motives and opportunities to commit the crime.

The best mystery novel genre usually focuses on the starkly different views of morality and the societal aspects that the hero and the antagonist represent. Crimes and mystery novels are the most popular genre in the United States.

Some of the most masterful mystery novels are “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown and the “Sherlock Holmes” novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Gone Girl

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is based less on accurate historical facts and more on imagination. This literary genre takes place in a setting located in the past and pays attention to the mannerism, society and other details of the period depicted. To make the books seem true to life, authors sometimes insert notable historical figures in the setting, so that readers can better understand how these people would have responded to their environment.

Some historical novels include “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “Schindler’s Ark,” popularly known as “Schindler’s List” by Thomas Keneally and “Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys.

The Book Thief : Film tie-in(Paperback) - 2016 Edition

A humorous fiction is a novel-length work of comedy, wherein the writer seeks to amuse or entertain the reader in a carefully woven narrative. The humor genre is also so huge that it needs to be divided into several sub-genres, including shock comedy, horror comedy, irony, satirical and parody.

Some of the best humorous novels include “My Family and Other Animals,” (which is also a semi-fictional autobiography) by Gerald Durrell, “The Confessions of a Shopaholic” series by Sophie Kinsella and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Fictional Diaries

Memoirs Of A Geisha by Arthur Golden (1998-06-04)

Fictional diaries are works of literature where the story is told in the form of a character’s diary. This is different from biographies, which only narrate true events, rather than fictionalized versions of fictionalized characters.

Some notable examples of fictional diaries include “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney, “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 6)

One of the most complex and profound genres of fiction, satire features the abuses, vices, maltreatment, corruption and shortcomings that seek to shame societies, individuals and governments into improvement.

Most satirical fictions feature dark humor and irony, although its greater purpose is actually constructive criticism of the society.

Some famous examples are “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde and “The Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess.

A Clockwork Orange

Although romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative involving awe-inspiring incidents (like the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” by the 14 th  century Chinese writer Luo Guanzhong), these days the genre mostly focuses on a loving relationship between two people. Often, these books end in “happy endings,” although that is not a given. Romance fictions also come in a variety of subgenres, like historical romance, fantasy, drama and paranormal.

Some famous romance novels are “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez , “Eleanor &Park” by Rainbow Rowell and “Love Story” by Erich Segal.

By Rainbow Rowell Eleanor & Park [Paperback]

A genre of fiction which seeks to provoke feelings of fear, disgust, shock, terror and loathing in the reader, horror books have roots in ancient mythology and folklore.

The ancient Romans and Greeks focused on evil, death, afterlife, the demonic and these principles embodied within a person. These elements were manifested into creative works featuring witches, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other monsters.

The horror genre creates an atmosphere of fright and creepiness. It may often be supernatural but that is not always the case.

One of the best horror writers of our time is Stephen King, whose novels “Carrie,” “The Shining” and “It” have terrified generations of readers. Some other prominent horror novels include “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin.

Rosemary's Baby: Introduction by Chuck Palanhiuk by Ira Levin (2011-06-23)

Dystopia, literally translated from Greek as “bad place,” is a society that is frightening or disagreeable. Dystopian fiction often portrays characteristics of such societies and such books are often crossovers from the science fiction genre. Some of these books may feature apocalyptic literature, though not always.

Some of the most distinct dystopian works are “1984” by George Orwell, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

The Handmaid's Tale

Genres of Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction genres are fewer than fiction books. As with fiction, they often have cross-genre status.


I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

A biography is a detailed, intimate and highly personal narration of an individual’s life story. A biography written by the subject themselves is called an autobiography or autography. The work doesn’t just involve the person’s birth, education, work, relationship and death; it revolves around the circumstances leading to each. Most biographies are nonfiction, though some may add an element of exaggeration to it, which may result in the literature becoming semi-fiction.

Some famous example are “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai and “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Memoirs are a collection of an individual’s experiences and events.  They are sometimes considered a subgenre of biographies, although memoirs focus on a single touchstone in an individual’s life, rather than their entire life.

Some examples are “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert and “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

Night (Night)

Self-Help Book

Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition: All Your Favorite Original Stories Plus 20 Bonus Stories for the Next 20 Years

A self-help book is one that is written to help readers solve personal physical, emotional and psychological problems. These books are also classified under “self-improvement” and have now become a postmodern cultural phenomenon. Although these books purport to help people, many of them are often written as catharsis by authors who have struggled to solve their own issues.

Some of the best self-help books are “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” by John Gray and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex

Narrative Nonfiction

Cravings: Hungry for More

Also called creative nonfiction or literary nonfiction, this genre uses literary techniques to create a factually accurate body of work. This type of genre encompasses biographies, memoirs, food writing, itinerary and personal essays.

Some examples are “The Art of Travel” by Alain de Botton, “Cravings: Hungry for More” by Chrissy Teigen and “Calypso” by David Sedaris.

The Art of Travel by de Botton, Alain (2014) Paperback

Nonfiction Novels

In Cold Blood

Broadly speaking, nonfiction novels feature real historical figures and events, woven together with fiction-like storytelling techniques. It is also sometimes called a work of “faction,” which is a portmanteau of fact and fiction.

Some famous examples are “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “The Armies of the Night” by Norman Mailer and “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Reference Books

Britannica Student Encyclopedia

As the name indicates, reference books are various types of text which can be referred for accurate information. The writing style is informative, there is no use of first person and the book is focused on facts. Some types of reference books are bibliographies, dictionaries, thesaurus, almanacs and encyclopedia.

The above genres are only some of the most popular types available in the market. Truth be told, all of us already know the basics of these genre, although not many of us have had the opportunity to explore them in depth. Everyone has a favorite type of book but it is even better to explore other genres. You never know what jewels you may find.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “We read to know we are not alone.”

The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2019

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A comprehensive guide to the different types of books

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1. What are the different types of books?

2. What’s the most popular book genre?

3. Every book genre, explained

4. Which book genre should you write?

➡️  There are 19 major fiction genres and 5 major non-fiction genres.

➡️  Each type of book has differences in target audience, market appeal, expected word count, and price point

➡️  Knowing the conventions of each type of book helps you outline and write a great book for fans of your genre.

There are dozens of different book genres, from adventure fiction to self-help books. Many books fall into multiple or crossover genres, such as fantasy and science fiction, or crime and mystery novels.

Each type of book or book genre has a different audience, ideal word count, and price point. If you’re thinking about writing genre fiction, it’s a good idea to know the conventions for your chosen genre before you start writing or planning your book.

Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of books.

What are the different types of books?

Here’s a rundown of every main book genre, including 19 fiction and 5 non-fiction book types:

  • Adventure stories
  • Fairy tales, fables, and folk tales
  • Historical fiction
  • Humour and satire
  • Literary fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Short stories
  • Women’s fiction
  • Young adult


  • Autobiography and memoir
  • Non-fiction novel

What’s the most popular book genre?

All readers have different tastes, so it’s tricky to determine which book genre is most popular. However, taking a look at the all-time bestseller list (excluding religious texts) sheds some light on book genre popularity:

‍ *Figures taken from Wikipedia in December 2023. Rounded to the nearest million books sold.

With nearly half of these bestsellers falling into the fantasy genre, this is arguably the most popular type of book among readers. This is backed up by the popularity of series like Harry Potter , Lord Of The Rings , and A Song Of Ice And Fire .

Understanding the importance of book genres

Genre is essential information for readers and publishers. It helps readers know at a glance if they’re interested in reading a book, and helps publishers understand the marketability of a book. It’s even important for categorising your book when it eventually hits bookshop shelves.

As a writer, you need to understand the different types of books so you can:

  • Fulfill reader expectations — Each genre comes with specific expectations (for example, mystery books must include a puzzle that needs to be solved). Don’t leave readers disappointed by mischaracterising your book.
  • Write something new — Getting a good grounding of other books in your genre will help you write an original story that doesn’t follow the same old tropes.
  • Get published — Knowing which genre(s) your book falls into will help you sell it to publishers (or readers if you’re self-publishing).

Every book genre, explained

Let’s take a look at each of the major types of books in more depth, with key information for writers looking to explore each genre including bestselling book examples and the average price for each kind of book.

1. Adventure stories

Adventure novels whisk readers off to faraway lands. Unlike fantasy novels, they tend to stay in the real world (although there’s often a lot of crossover between these genres). Children’s novels often fall into the adventure category, since they’re designed to spark imaginations.

Adventure story bestsellers:

  • The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • She: A History of Adventure — H. Rider Haggard
  • The Alchemist — Paulo Coelho

Number of adventure books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average word count: 96,000 words

Average price for a paperback adventure book: £8.99

2. Classics

Classics encompass a range of book genres, but they always stand the test of time. Classics include centuries-old stories like Homer’s Odyssey, but also more modern novels that have drawn significant acclaim and attention, such as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984.

Classic fiction bestsellers:

  • A Tale Of Two Cities — Charles Dickens
  • Dream Of The Red Chamber — Cao Xueqin
  • The Catcher in the Rye — JD Salinger

Number of classic books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback classics book: £6.88

From murder mysteries to true crime stories, crime is an ever popular genre of books. It tells sinister stories of wrongdoing, and the search for justice. This genre can be very lucrative, with many authors becoming household names, such as Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, and Harlan Coben.

Crime bestsellers:

  • And Then There Were None — Agatha Christie
  • The Godfather — Mario Puzo
  • Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn

Number of crime novels available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average word count: 89,000 words

Average price for a paperback crime novel: £8.94

4. Fairy tales, fables, and folk tales

Folk tales date back to ancient times, with Aesop being perhaps the most famous curator of these short-form stories. Many fairy tales are of unknown origin, but have survived through retellings down the generations. Modern fairy tale writers like Angela Carter put a contemporary spin on traditional tales.

Fairy tale bestsellers:

  • The Adventures of Pinocchio — Carlo Collodi
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull — Richard Bach

‍ Number of fairy and folk tale anthologies available on Amazon: 3,000+

Average word count: 30,000 words

Average price for a paperback book of fairy tales: £10.66

Fantasy may be the most popular modern book genre. Thanks to series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson , it’s particularly popular with young adult readers, although more and more fantasy novels are written for adults (George RR Martin, we’re looking at you). These stories take readers on a journey beyond the known world, to places conjured in the author’s imagination.

Fantasy bestsellers:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone — JK Rowling
  • The Hobbit — JRR Tolkien
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — CS Lewis

Number of fantasy books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average word count: 109,000 words

Average price for a paperback fantasy book: £10.44

6. Historical fiction

Authors like Hilary Mantel and Toni Morrison have popularised the historical fiction genre in recent years. These books give readers a glimpse into the past, with many stories set in times of great conflict and change.

Historical fiction bestsellers:

  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ — Lew Wallace
  • The Name of the Rose — Umberto Eco

Number of historical fiction books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average word count: 102,000 words

Average price for a paperback historical fiction book: £8.99

People never tire of being terrified — so horror novels remain some of the bestselling books in the world. While the genre has origins in Gothic stories like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , authors like Stephen King and R L Stine have modernised horror for adults and children alike. The genre has also spawned hundreds of popular horror movies based on books .

Horror bestsellers:

  • Flowers in the Attic — VC Andrews
  • Rebecca — Daphne Du Maurier
  • Jaws — Peter Benchley

‍ Number of horror books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average price for a paperback horror novel: £8.89

8. Humour and satire

From dark dystopian satire like A Clockwork Orange to comedic memoirs, the humour genre of books spans a range of titles. Comedy writing is a real art, so this genre can be hard to pull off for new writers — but a funny book is truly unputdownable.

Humour bestsellers:

  • Animal Farm — George Orwell
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — Mark Twain
  • The Good Soldier Švejk — Jaroslav Hašek

Number of humour books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average word count: No data available

Average price for a paperback humour novel: £8.89

9. Literary fiction

Literary fiction is reserved for books that don’t slot neatly into more traditional genres, although it can also be used to differentiate from lighter fiction. Most literary fiction books are character-driven rather than plot-driven, so they tend to be more introspective and meandering.

Literary fiction bestsellers:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee
  • War and Peace — Leo Tolstoy

Number of literary fiction books available on Amazon: 80,000+

Average word count: 98,000 words

Average price for a paperback literary fiction novel: £8.99

10. Mystery

Mystery is often seen as a subset of the crime genre, but it’s so popular and enduring that it deserves a category of its own. Agatha Christie, master of the whodunit, is the second best selling author in history, after William Shakespeare. Mysteries are full of suspense, and usually keep the reader guessing until the last moment.

Mystery bestsellers:

  • The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown
  • Angels & Demons — Dan Brown

Number of mystery books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average word count: 91,000 words

Average price for a paperback mystery novel: £8.99

Poetry is completely different to novels in form, structure, and style. It contains a wealth of genres in itself, from nonsense verse to war poetry. Poetry has fallen somewhat out of favour in modern book sales, though poets like Amanda Gorman and Ocean Vuong are repopularising the form.

Bestselling poets:

  • William Shakespeare
  • Alexander Pushkin

Number of poetry books available on Amazon: 30,000+

Average price for a paperback poetry collection: £10.19

Plays are written to be performed rather than read, but they’re still seen as a key literary genre. This is largely due to the enduring popularity of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as other theatrical greats like Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire and Oscar Wilde’s Salome.

Best selling playwrights:

Number of playscript books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average page count: 90-130 pages

Average price for a paperback playscript: £11.36

13. Romance

Everyone enjoys a good love story — which is why romance novels are one of the most popular types of books. Romance authors Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steel are the third and fourth bestselling fiction writers, with more than 2 billion book sales between them. Even non-romance novels often have a romantic arc at their centre, proving that love and relationships are central to many great stories.

Romance bestsellers:

  • The Bridges of Madison County — Robert James Waller
  • Love Story — Erich Segal
  • The Fault in Our Stars — John Green

Number of romance books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback romance novel: £8.99

14. Science fiction

From Stan Lee to Ursula K Le Guin, there’s no shortage of famous sci-fi writers. The genre has grown in popularity thanks to the boom in science fiction films based on books, such as Dune and 2001: A Space Odyssey . Sci-fi is often combined with fantasy, and there are some similarities between these types of books. But sci-fi books are usually bound by the laws of science as we know them in the real world.

Sci-fi bestsellers:

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four — George Orwell
  • Dune — Frank Herbert
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams

Number of sci-fi books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback sci-fi novel: £8.16

15. Short stories and novellas

Short stories are often found in anthologies or collections, which can be by the same or a variety of authors. Like poetry, short stories tend to be less popular with modern readers, though they remain popular with writers.

Short story bestsellers:

  • James Bond stories — Ian Fleming
  • Perry Mason stories — Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Jack Reacher — Lee Child

Number of short story collections available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback short story collection: £10.19

16. Thrillers

Thrillers are your typical page-turners. Full of action and suspense, thrillers can also often cross genres, particularly with crime and mystery. John Grisham, Stieg Larsson, and Gillian Flynn are some of the most popular thriller authors writing today, with Flynn’s Gone Girl among the top three bestselling books in the genre.

Thriller bestsellers:

  • The Eagle Has Landed — Jack Higgins
  • The Girl on the Train — Paula Hawkins

Number of thriller books available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback thriller novel: £8.99

War is a formative experience on an individual, national, and international level. Perhaps that’s why stories of war fascinate readers the world over, and remain such an enduring theme in modern fiction. War stories are often (though not always) a subset of historical fiction.

War bestsellers:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front — Eric Maria Remarque
  • All the Light We Cannot See — Anthony Doerr

Number of war novels available on Amazon: 40,000+

Average price for a paperback war novel: £8.99

18. Women’s fiction

Women’s fiction describes books that centre on the experiences and actions of female characters. It can be a controversial term — not everyone agrees with generalising fiction on a gendered basis — but it’s a common way for publishers to market these books. So authors should be aware of it as a genre in its own right. Women’s fiction encompasses books as wide-ranging as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americana to Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You.

Women’s fiction bestsellers:

  • The Women's Room — Marilyn French
  • Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
  • Fear of Flying — Erica Jong

Number of women’s fiction novels available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average word count: 94,000 words

Average price for a paperback women’s fiction novel: £8.99

19. Young adult fiction

Despite being targeted at 13-18 year olds, young adult books have sold more than perhaps any other genre in recent years. This is thanks to hugely popular series like Harry Potter , The Hunger Games , and Twilight. YA books often have a secondary genre, too — Harry Potter and Twilight , for example, are fantasy novels, while John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars is a romance.

YA fiction bestsellers:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — JK Rowling

Number of YA fiction novels available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average word count: 70,000 words

Average price for a paperback YA fiction novel: £9.39

20. Autobiography and memoir

Memoirs and autobiographies are popular among self-publishing writers who have incredible life stories to share. Many famous figures also write autobiographies, or hire a ghostwriter to write one on their behalf, giving fans a glimpse into their lives.

Autobiography and memoir bestsellers:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank — Anne Frank
  • Autobiography of a Yogi — Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Wolf Totem — Jiang Rong

Number of autobiography books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average price for a paperback autobiography: £9.99

21. Biography

There are millions of real-life stories out there just waiting to be told. Unlike autobiographies and memoirs, which the author writes about themselves, biographies tell the story of someone else’s life. These are often famous people — Irving Stone’s Lust For Life , for example, is a biographical novel about Vincent Van Gogh — but they can also be people you know, or lesser-known individuals of interest.

Biographical bestsellers:

  • Lust for Life — Irving Stone
  • Diana: Her True Story — Andrew Morton
  • Wild Swans — Jung Chang

Number of biography books available on Amazon: 80,000+

Average price for a paperback biography: £9.99

Essays are more academic than other forms of writing. They tend to follow a thesis set by the author, and elaborate on their perspective on a particular topic or theme. Essays can be book-length (such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists), or part of an essay collection (such as James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son ).

Essay collection bestsellers:

  • The Hite Report — Shere Hite
  • A Message to Garcia — Elbert Hubbard

Number of essay collections available on Amazon: 60,000+

Average price for a paperback essay collection: £9.07

23. Non-fiction novels

Non-fiction novels blur the line between fiction and reality. While the facts stay intact, the form and style is closer to that of a traditional fiction book. Non-fiction novels use character and other literary devices to tell a true story. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a classic example of a non-fiction novel.

Non-fiction novel examples:

  • Helter Skelter — Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi
  • In Cold Blood — Truman Capote
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee — Dee Brown

Number of non-fiction novels available on Amazon: 50,000+

Average price for a non-fiction novel: £9.99

24. Self-help books

Self-help books are probably the most popular modern non-fiction genre, since they offer the promise of self-improvement and healing. This also tends to make them a little more expensive than other genres. Books like Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People have become part of the modern self-help canon.

Self-help book bestsellers:

  • You Can Heal Your Life — Louise Hay
  • The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care — Benjamin Spock
  • Your Erroneous Zones — Wayne Dyer

Number of self-help books available on Amazon: 70,000+

Average price for a paperback self-help book: £12.27

Which book genre should you write?

Most writers naturally gravitate towards writing in a genre they enjoy reading. And while being well-read in a genre is important, it’s also helpful to learn more about the commercial aspects of your chosen type of book. This includes marketability, competition, and price points.

For example, non-fiction novels have fallen out of favour in recent years, but similar categories like historical fiction and autobiography are still very popular. So think about how you want to position your book, and the nuances of your chosen genre.

Learning more about your preferred genre helps you understand the market for your book, which is especially important when it comes to self-publishing your work.

Now you know a little more about your chosen genre, it’s time to plan your new book. Find out how to write a book outline — it’s a failsafe way to plan a book in any genre.

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Home / Book Publishing / List of Book Genres: 36+ Popular Genres for Writing

List of Book Genres: 36+ Popular Genres for Writing

There are a ton of book genres and subgenres out there. And if you're an indie author, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the genres you plan to write in. Knowing the major tropes and characteristics of your book genre helps ensure that you'll write a story that meets reader expectations.

So whether you want to write a novel or a non-fiction book, we've got you covered with this in-depth list of book genres.

We'll start with fiction and then cover non-fiction genres after that!

  • Fiction book genres and their characteristics
  • Nonfiction book genres and their characteristics
  • How to find the right genres and keywords quickly and easily

Table of contents

Action & adventure.

  • Contemporary
  • Historical Fiction
  • Magical Realism
  • Science Fiction
  • Thriller and Suspense
  • Young Adult
  • Short Story
  • Graphic Novel
  • What is Speculative Fiction?
  • What is Genre Fiction?

Art & Photography

  • Autobiography and Memoirs
  • Crafts and Hobbies
  • Family and Parenting
  • Health and Fitness

Religion & Spirituality

Science & technology.

  • Politics and Social Sciences
  • Genre Research Made Easy

Fiction Book Genres

General fiction genres are numerous. In fact, Amazon has over 14,000 categories to choose from! Luckily, we'll only be going over the major ones in this list. Getting your book in the right genres/categories is an extremely important ingredient for the success of the book . 

Once you have a good idea of the broad genre(s) that are right for your book, you can then use a software like Publisher Rocket to really dig down. Find the right niche for your book and get tons of keywords to use in your marketing campaigns with Publisher Rocket . More on this at the end of the article. For now, let’s explore fiction genres!

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The action and adventure genre is one that overlaps with a lot of other fiction genres, like thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction. This genre is known for plot-driven novels in which the protagonist is up against a larger-than-life threat. And the hero (almost) always wins in the end. Everything from swashbuckling stories and race-against-the-clock thrillers can be housed under the action and adventure umbrella.

Average Word Count for Action & Adventure Novels: 80,000 to 110,000.

Children's books cover several subsections that are typically divided by age group. These include‌:

  • Board books – Newborn to three (25 to 200 words)
  • Picture books – Three to eight years old (250 to 750 words)
  • Chapter books – Ages seven to nine (5,000 to 20,000 words)
  • Middle grade books – Eight to twelve years old (20,000 to 60,000 words)

Some even consider young adult novels children's books. But for this article, we have a separate section for the young adult genre. The conventions of these books depend largely on the age range, so it's important to know your audience by knowing which subsection you'll be writing under.

Contemporary fiction doesn't fit neatly into other genres because it usually lacks those things that are common in those genres. Instead of sinister government agents, monsters, or space aliens to contend with, characters in contemporary fiction are up against everyday life in the modern age. Relationships, work conflicts, and professional success are all common issues in these stories, which take place in modern times.

Average Word Count for Contemporary Novels: 70,000 to 90,000.

Dystopian novels bring us a bleak look at the future. Often couched under the larger sci-fi genre, these books explore social and cultural issues, taking them to extremes. The future is dark, but the human spirit often (not always) prevails in these stories. A few well-known examples include 1984 , A Handmaid's Tale , and The Hunger Games .

Average Word Count for Dystopian Novels: 60,000 to 90,000.

Dystopian Writing Tip: You can get really creative with this genre, throwing in elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. The most intriguing of these books put forth a unique twist on reasons for the rise of the dystopian society. 

Fantasy is among the most popular genres and is home to many other subgenres such as dark, epic, and heroic fantasy. Magic and non-human creatures often play big parts in the stories of this book genre. Some fantasy novels take place in their own unique worlds with their own rules, while others take the world as we know it and add little bits of magic here and there. The Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy are among the most popular fantasy stories out there.

Average Word Count for Fantasy Novels: 80,000 to 110,000.

Fantasy Writing Tip: Since there’s often a lot to tell the reader about the “rules” of a fantasy world, some writers get bogged down in exposition or world building. And while explaining the world to your reader is important, it’s best to do it piecemeal. Only give the reader what they absolutely must know to understand the action of the story. 

The historical fiction genre takes historical events and locations, interweaving a fictional storyline with them. Some of these stories feature real people on the periphery. Others mix imaginary characters with real historical figures to craft a compelling and entertaining story. Although not a book, Forrest Gump is an excellent example of a historical fiction story.

Average Word Count for Historical Novels: 80,000 to 110,000.

Historical Fiction Writing Tip: Readers will notice inconsistencies in this genre. They want to be transported to a different time, so research is highly important in this genre. As they say, the devil is in the details, and any detail that’s inaccurate or takes the reader out of the story is a devil indeed. That said, you don’t want to bog the story down with details, no matter how accurate. It’s a delicate balance to strike!

Almost everyone has heard of the Master of Horror, Stephen King. He's known for excellent horror writing; inspiring fear and dread in his readers. Whether you do this with monsters, paranormal entities, or run-of-the-mill killers doesn't really matter. What matters is that the tension is there throughout the story, building to a crescendo. Horror is one of the few book genres where readers won't be upset if the book doesn't end happily — provided the story is well-written and compelling.

Average Word Count for Horror Novels: 80,000 to 110,000.

Horror Writing Tip: In most horror stories, the stakes are death. It can be the death of the protagonist, a loved one, the whole town, or the entire planet. Anything less than death may disappoint readers and make the story less interesting. However, the risk of insanity may be a viable alternative when done well. Cosmic horror, from the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and his successors, often features characters teetering on the brink of insanity. 

Books with LGBTQ+ characters in prominent roles can fall under this genre. While some of these books are romances, they don't have to be. They can be action, fantasy, horror — whatever you want to write. But much of the time, these books are filed under the umbrella category of contemporary fiction.

Average Word Count for LGBTQ+ Novels: 60,000 to 110,000.

Literary fiction is characterized by “serious” subject matter that explores the human condition through a character-driven story. Literary fiction books don't fit well into any other genre and are considered more ‌art than entertainment. There may or may not be a story arc, and a happy ending is not guaranteed. In short, there's no standard formula or well-defined reader expectations for literary novels.

Average Word Count for Literary Novels: 80,000 to 120,000.

Like a good fairy tale, the magical realism genre blends our world with magic — often in a matter-of-fact manner. Birthed by writers from Latin America, this genre now enjoys additions from writers from all over the world. The characters in these stories aren't wowed by furniture that moves on its own or animals that talk — it's all presented as normal. These literary devices are often used to critique societal problems like oppression and imperialism.

Average Word Count for Magical Realism Novels: 60,000 to 80,000.

Mystery is a hugely popular genre that overlaps with multiple genres, like crime fiction and cozy mysteries. Most often, it starts with a murder and ends with the protagonist (often a detective) solving the mystery and capturing or vanquishing the murderer. Also called detective fiction, there's certainly a formula and clear reader expectations in this book genre. If you want to learn from the master, pick up any Agatha Christie novel to see what readers are clamoring for.

Average Word Count for Mystery Novels: 70,000 to 100,000.

Mystery Writing Tip: Most mysteries fall under two major categories: whodunit and howcatchem. The first is all about figuring out who did the crime (don’t forget that multiple people can be guilty). The second is about how to catch the criminal and make sure justice is served.  

While horror, fantasy, and romance subgenres can all feature paranormal elements, this genre has certain elements that set it apart. Most often, paranormal books are set in modern times and take place in our world (as opposed to a made-up world, as in fantasy novels). Some stories incorporate paranormal elements as an accepted part of the world, while others feature them as part of a hidden world that the public is unaware of. Most often, these elements include ghosts, magic, vampires, demons, psychics, and telepathy . You’ll often hear this genre called paranormal fantasy or urban fantasy. Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series and Kim Harrison’s Hollows series both provide great examples of paranormal books. 

Average Word Count for Paranormal Novels: 60,000 to 90,000.

Romance is a popular book genre that is known for its voracious readers. There are many subgenres under the romance umbrella, including sweet, steamy, and paranormal romance. While many stories have romantic subplots, books in the romance genre have the romantic relationship as the central plot of the story . This is another genre that has clear reader expectations. Namely, the “happily ever after” ending. The details of how you get there and how much steam you have in the story will depend on the subgenre. Lucy Score and Debbie Macomber are two prolific romance authors to read for guidance.

Average Word Count for Romance Novels: 60,000 to 100,000.

Romance Writing Tip: There are many tropes to choose from in the romance genre. A few of the most popular include: enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, forced proximity, billionaire, fake relationship, and marriage of convenience. Romance readers will expect the story beats common with certain tropes!

Science fiction features stories typically set in the future or in an alternative universe where humans share their reality with strange creatures. Other sci-fi stories don’t have any strange creatures and instead explore technological advances and space expiration. Again, there are many subgenres within science fiction. Hard sci-fi readers want to see technology that's technically possible driving a compelling story. Space opera readers don't care so much about whether the technology is possible. Instead, they want a grand adventure that often involves intergalactic battles and happens in many exotic environs.

Average Word Count for Science Fiction Novels: 80,000 to 110,000.

Science Fiction Writing Tip: Like fantasy, it’s important to limit the amount of exposition or “info dumping” before getting into the conflict of the story. Additionally, an internal conflict readers can identify with is paramount to writing a good story. You can explore lofty ideas, but the conflict and stakes should still be clear so readers can invest in the story.  

Thriller and suspense stories can have a lot in common with mystery novels. However, they can also be very different. What they all share is increasing tension throughout the story, leading to an exciting showdown between protagonist and antagonist. They generally have plot twists at every turn and are more plot-driven than character-driven. Lots of different subgenres are included in thriller and suspense. John Grisham is a master of the legal thriller while James Patterson is known for his suspense novels, just to name a couple.

Average Word Count for Thriller and Suspense Novels: 70,000 to 100,000.

Thriller and Suspense Writing Tip: Since this is a plot-driven genre, you may choose not to have a clear character arc for your protagonist. The most famous example of this type of story can be found in the Jack Reacher novels. Reacher is largely the same at the beginning of each story as he is at the end. His is an external conflict (i.e. seeking justice and/or vengeance), rather than an internal one. And for these types of thriller books, it works well. 

Also known as YA fiction, young adult novels often have characters the same age as the reader group (12 to 18). The journey in these novels typically involves the trials and tribulations of becoming an adult. There are young adult books that also figure into numerous fiction genres, including contemporary, literary, romance, and young adult science fiction. The Fault in Our Stars , The Hunger Games , and The Catcher in the Rye are all examples of young adult novels.

Average Word Count for Young Adult Novels: 45,000 to 80,000.

Some readers just want bite-sized reads instead of entire books. This is where the short story genre comes in. Stories in this genre are usually between 1,000 and 10,00 words and can fit into any of the other categories on this list. Most short stories are sold as themed collections, either written by one author or several. However, you can also write and sell single short stories on Amazon, although the market isn't great unless you're a well-known author already.

Average Word Count for Short Story Collections: 60,000 to 90,000.

Like short stories, graphic novels can also be a part of many other genres. It's the form that's important with these books. They come with artwork, so it's like reading a long comic book. But they don't have to feature superheroes. Just look at the autobiographical Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi or the historical fiction graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore.

Average Word Count for Graphic Novels: 30,000 to 70,000.

In discussions about fiction writing, you may have heard the term speculative fiction. While technically an umbrella genre of sorts, it encompasses many other genres on this list.

In short, speculative fiction is fiction that contains some fantastical elements that don't exist in our world. Often called “what-if” stories, the main genres of speculative fiction include fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and superhero novels. Essentially, it's the opposite of “realistic fiction,” thanks to one or more elements that don't exist or aren't possible in our reality.

Genre fiction is another term that's thrown around at writing conferences and among authors. To complicate things, speculative fiction and genre fiction have a lot of overlap.

Essentially, genre fiction describes novels written to fit the tropes, archetypes, and general structure of a specific genre. This is in contrast to literary and contemporary fiction, where there aren't any clear audience expectations. Well-known genre fiction categories include romance, crime fiction, fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, and suspense.

For indie authors, it's much easier to break into the business and see book sales writing genre or speculative fiction than it is writing literary fiction. This is because the audiences in these genres are well defined, making marketing much easier. If you're writing a literary novel, it may be good to find a literary agent who is interested in your novel first.

Nonfiction Genres

Nonfiction genres are often easier to figure out. But, like fiction genres, there can be some significant overlap. Luckily, Amazon allows you to change categories after your book is published if you want to. But before you can do that, you’ll need to know what the best genres are for your nonfiction book !

From books teaching art to those discussing it, this genre has many different kinds of books. Coffee table books showcasing an artist's work fall under this category. You’ll also find things like tattoo books and how-to-draw books in this genre. 

Average Word Count for Art & Photography Books: 5,000 to 100,000.

Autobiographies and memoirs are both written by the author (sometimes with the help of a ghostwriter) but focus on different things. An autobiography will detail the author's life chronologically. A memoir will explore a central theme, often focusing on a specific relationship, time, or event in the author's life.

Average Word Count for Autobiographies and Memoirs: 80,000 to 100,000.

Biographies are like autobiographies but written by someone other than the subject. They're typically about someone famous. The author will present a narrative that reads like a fiction book, but all the details are true and backed by research.

Average Word Count for Biographies: 80,000 to 110,000.

Yes, there are two children’s book sections; one for fiction and one for nonfiction. This nonfiction section is where you’ll find coloring books, activity books, and other nonfiction books aimed at helping children learn and develop. You’ll even find some true stories featuring children in this genre. So if you have an idea about a nonfiction book that will help children of any age learn something about themselves or the world, this is the genre for you.

 Average Word Count for Children’s Nonfiction Books: 500 to 1,500.

Cookbooks are instructional books on how to make food, from barbecue and scrambled eggs to homemade ice cream and fancy meals. Usually, the recipes in a cookbook are bound by a common theme. A few examples include comfort foods, holiday cooking, or Italian recipes.

Average Word Count for Cookbooks: 15,000 to 80,000.

From woodworking to crocheting, the crafts and hobbies genre can help readers get artistic and creative. If you've made a living selling cute magnets on Etsy or you've mastered creating realistic train models from scratch, you could write a book about it and market it under this genre!

Average Word Count for Craft and Hobby Books: 5,000 to 50,000.

No one gives new parents a handbook for raising their children. Luckily, you can find a book in the family and parenting genre that will help. There are books on the best things to do with a newborn baby, and others on how to deal with unruly teenagers. Some books in this section are just general guides on how to be a good parent and nurture the familial relationships. And while many of the authors in this genre are experts, experience does count for a lot. You could share your experiences raising a family by writing a book on this topic!

Average Word Count for Family and Parenting Books: 40,000 to 80,000.

The health and fitness industry is massive, and books are a big part of it. Whether it be a book of healthy eating tips or a body-building bible, you'll find it in this genre. If you’re writing a book on running, cycling, yoga, or just living an overall healthy life, it will fit well in the health and fitness genre.

Average Word Count for Health and Fitness Books: 20,000 to 50,000.

Learning from the past is important to ensuring a better future. And that’s what the history genre is all about. There are seemingly endless topics to write about here. Books about World War II, World History, Ancient Rome, and the Great Depression can all fit comfortably in this section. Biographies of historical figures may also be filed under this genre in addition to the biography genre. Even recent historical topics will go here, like the 2008 financial crisis!  

Average Word Count for History Books: 60,000 to 100,000.

The humor genre includes any nonfiction book whose purpose is to make readers laugh. There are humorous autobiographies from comedians and celebrities, books of jokes, and “bathroom humor” books with silly essays and observations about life. Humorist David Sedaris has several hilarious books in this genre. 

Average Word Count for Humor Books: 15,000 to 50,000.

Whether you're spiritual, religious, or even agnostic, there's bound to be something in this genre for you. Some books you'll find in this genre include those detailing the histories and beliefs of religions, inspiring true stories of faith lost and found, and even books about the beliefs of atheists and agnostics. If you've got something unique or inspiring to say about religion or spiritual beliefs, your writing could fit in well here.

Average Word Count for Religion & Spirituality Books: 40,000 to 70,000.

The exponential advance of technology is hard to keep up with, but you can try with books in this genre. Usually written by authors with advanced degrees or experts in their fields, these nonfiction books can range from simple explanations of physics to in-depth postulations about artificial intelligence — and everything in between.

Average Word Count for Science & Technology Books: 60,000 to 80,000.

The self-help genre is big, encompassing books on how to improve your life or your well-being. From increasing your confidence to changing your ideas about money, there are tons of subjects that fit in this genre. If you have life-changing tips to share with readers that can help them better their lives, write a self-help book!

Average Word Count for Self-Help Books: 40,000 to 80,000.

This genre includes a plethora of choices about complex political systems and the even more complex ways humans interact with each other. You'll find many social science topics in this genre, including psychology, sociology, and social work. Like many other nonfiction genres, the authors who write books about politics and social sciences are usually experts in their fields. So if that’s you, get to writing!

Average Word Count for Politics and Social Sciences Books: 50,000 to 90,000.

If you've done some traveling and have some great stories to tell, or you have some practical tips for fellow adventurers, this could be the genre for your book. You'll also find detailed travel guides in this section. Some of these books read like fiction, while others are packed with information, allowing the reader to pick out information about their city and interests. 

Average Word Count for Travel Books: 25,000 to 70,000.

True crime is one of the most popular nonfiction genres out there. From drug deals to murders to white-collar crime, these books deliver the goods on real-life crime stories, often reading like a thriller or mystery with a clear narrative instead of just a sequence of events. The book Helter Skelter is one of the most famous examples of a true crime novel.   

Average Word Count for True Crime Books: 60,000 to 90,000.

Knowing your genre isn’t just important for the placement of your book in online and physical stores. It’s also a key ingredient in an effective marketing strategy. Placing your book in front of readers who are willing to purchase it is half the battle. Of course, there’s more than one way to do this. You can comb through Amazon or Goodreads, searching for books like yours and writing down their genres and subgenres. Unfortunately, this is time-consuming. 

To solve this problem, we created Publisher Rocket, which combs through Amazon in seconds and presents you with all the information you need — including keywords to use in your marketing campaigns. A few searches on Publisher Rocket, and you can find out which genres are best for your book. You can even use it to find out what categories Amazon puts your book in after you publish it — something you can’t even do on Amazon itself. 

You can learn more about Publisher Rocket here . 

Jason Hamilton

When I’m not sipping tea with princesses or lightsaber dueling with little Jedi, I’m a book marketing nut. Having consulted multiple publishing companies and NYT best-selling authors, I created Kindlepreneur to help authors sell more books. I’ve even been called “The Kindlepreneur” by Amazon publicly, and I’m here to help you with your author journey.

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Last updated on Apr 21, 2021

Nonfiction: 24 Genres and Types of Fact-Based Books

Many readers think of nonfiction as a genre in itself. But take a look through your local bookstore and you’ll see dozens of sections devoted to fact-based books, while fiction titles are sorted into just a few broadly defined genres like ‘Fantasy/Sci-Fi’ and ‘General Fiction’!

To give nonfiction books the recognition they deserve and help authors choose the right category for their work, here’s a list of the 24 most common genres of nonfiction along with their identifying features. 

Expository nonfiction

Expository nonfiction aims to inform the reader about its subject —  providing an explanation for it, be it a historical event, natural phenomenon, fashion trend, or anything else. 

1. History 

History books are not to be mistaken with textbooks. Rather than cherry-picking details to be memorized about a person, an event, or an era, these nonfiction titles are more like cross-sections in time. They provide readers with as much of the social and political contexts of events as possible with the use of rich primary and secondary sources, so as to better understand their causes and their legacies. 

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond Tapping into geological, agricultural, and biological evidence, Diamond challenges perception of genetic differences and contextualizes the history of human development using various external, environmental conditions.

Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid The Eastern Front of WWII is not as well-discussed as the Western one, though it's just as important. To balance the viewpoints out a little, Anna Reid explores life in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) during one of the longest, costliest, and deadliest military blockades in history. 

Types of Nonfiction | History Books

2. Philosophy 

This is where the big questions get asked. While ‘philosophy’ conjures up the image of impenetrable books written by Nietzche and Confucius for the enjoyment of beard-stroking academics, that isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of this genre! Contemporary authors have taken care to make their writings more accessible without sacrificing depth of analysis.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy by Simon Blackburn An introduction to life’s grandest topics (ethics, freedom, self — all that jazz) as told through the prism of history’s greatest philosophers. Suitable for curious readers who don’t know their Aristotles from their Kants.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson The author smuggles in a history of the great philosopher king by presenting it as a self-help guide. By showing his readers how Marcus Aurelius’s beliefs can apply to modern life, Robertson appeals to readers who wouldn’t otherwise pick up a copy of Meditations from the library.

A Grammar of the Multitude by Paolo Virno See how philosophy has evolved in today’s international world through Paolo Virno's perspective. He advocates for the understanding of people as "multitudes" (courtesy of Dutch Enlightenment thinker, Spinoza). It's recommended that readers go into this book with some previous knowledge on classic philosophical paradigms. 



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3. Religion and Spirituality

Books about religion and spirituality can take many forms. Some are theory-based, some are written from personal experience, and some are structured like a self-help book, with the end goal of helping readers find their spiritual home. Oftentimes, each book focuses on a particular belief system — there are even Christian publishers who are solely dedicated to publishing books about their religion. 

📚 Examples 

Waking the Buddha by Clark Strand An interesting cross between a historical research and a personal spiritual exploration, this book details the rise and continued influence of the Soka Gakkai, an international Buddhist organization that works towards egalitarianism and social justice.

The Power of Now by Ekchert Tolle This self-help-style book brings readers closer to spiritual enlightenment by acknowledging how our mind focuses on the past and the future rather than the present. It's the first step on the path toward mindful connection with the joys of the moment. 

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Science books, or  “Science & Maths” books — as Amazon would categorize them — can get quite technical. Most of the time, they’re reporting on scientists’ academic research. And so, science books tend to be well-organized and follow academic conventions like referencing and indexing . But while they sound dry, the intriguing questions that they address can always be presented in ways that keep readers coming. In any case, readers can always choose to scan over the complex mathematical proofs, or authors can put all that into the appendix.  

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking See the concept of time through the logical and characteristically witty eyes of this world-renowned scientist. It doesn’t make for the breeziest read, but it will give readers a very in-depth understanding of this arbitrary but ever-present concept. 

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith Neil deGrasse Tyson takes readers on a tour of the universe's transformations through the years, introducing concepts of moons’ orbits and expanding stars along they way. All of this is a sturdy stepping stone to the complex realm of cosmology. 

Types of Nonfiction | Science Books

5. Popular Science 

Is this type of nonfiction just academic science books but repackaged for laypeople? Why yes indeed. Popular science books take complex research and processes and get rid of most of the jargon, so that your average Joe can pick them up and learn something new about our universe. They’re almost like Vox videos, but that you read instead of watch. 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson isn’t a scientist or an anthropologist, but he’s brought together knowledge from various disciplines to create this digestible, comprehensive exploration of the universe and the human race. 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson Tyson’s expertise as a science communicator shines through with this armchair-expert version of astrophysics, which he claims can be read on noisy buses and trains without much headache. 

6. Politics and Social Sciences 

With the ongoing social and political tumult across the world, there has been a rise in both the reading and writing of this kind of book. Some political and social science books are based more on anecdotal evidence, others are on par with academic papers in terms of depth of research. Either way, they usually pick out a specific feature or structure in society to analyze with a critical eye. 

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson Discover why some nations are stuck in poverty traps with these economists. Using empirical data, they compellingly demonstrate the importance of inclusive institutions in fostering growth. Their writing continues to inspire development theories and strategies worldwide.  

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge It started with a blog post which the author wrote to express her frustration toward the domination of white people in discussions about racism. It became a tour-de-force work on the experiences and realities of deep-rooted racial discrimination in society. 

A book of essays is a collection of themed pieces of writing written by an author, or multiple authors, who often has some sort of authority on or personal experience with the subject matter. While they sound incredibly serious, they don’t require as much research as the types of nonfiction we’ve mentioned above. They’re often quite introspective and personal, like op-ed pieces or magazine articles. In fact, many essay books are made up of articles that were previously published in newspapers or magazines.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin A collection of articles published in Harper’s Magazine , Partisan Review , and The New Leader , in which Baldwin discusses representations of Black people in the media, as well as his experiences as a Black man in Europe. 

The Good Immigrant , edited by Nikesh Shukla 21 writers of color come together to talk about their lives in the UK, and how they're sometimes made to question their sense of belonging despite being born and raised there. 

Types of Nonfiction | Essay Collections

8. Self-Help 

Out of all the non-fiction genres out there, this is probably the most popular one. The name itself is explanatory: a self-help book provides you with some guidance and actions through which you can solve personal problems. Self-help books can be research-based, or they can be reflective — like an extended blog post. Note, though, that while the latter kind may read somewhat like a memoir in style, if you choose to write a self-help book , you must explicitly advise the reader. 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell What makes a person successful? Gladwell argues that it’s hardly just luck — even prodigies aren’t guaranteed recognition. Pulling from various examples and sociological studies, he identifies several factors, beyond genetics, that anyone can optimize to boost their chances. 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson Sometimes what you need is for someone to give it to you straight. That’s when conversational, hilarious, blog-style books like this become handy. Mark Manson’s self-help book is all about accepting what you’re given and not allowing expectations ruin your happiness. 

9. Business and Economics 

While this a broad category that may include volumes with a journalistic flavor, business books tend to be guides to entrepreneurship and management. It’s a medium for those who've had experience in the workplace or the market to share their tips and tricks (and also a good tool for authors to bag guest-speaking events). In this sense, this kind of book is like self-help, but specifically for entrepreneurs and business managers. 

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz Master the art of financial management through real-life case studies and a four-principle system with which can be applied to any business. It's straightfoward and has enough examples to demonstrate its success. 

The Big Short by Michael Lewis Lewis makes the mess of the financial crisis of 2008 that little bit easier to wrap your head around in this darkly humorous book. He follows the stories of ordinary people who fell victim to the American financial sector, revealing the precariousness of this ever-expanding industry. 

10. Health and Wellness

There's no shortage of health and wellness books out there — what do we care about if not a long and healthy life, right? These books cover many different topics, from diets to sleeping habits, from stress management to dealing with anxiety. Most are written by researchers and doctors, who have the technical knowhow to offer sound insight and advice. 

Lifespan by David Sinclair Drawing from his knowledge as a geneticist, Sinclair gives readers the scoop on the ever-popular topic of aging. He assures us that for a long, healthy, and happy life, we should enjoy our chocolate and wine (in moderation, of course).

This Is Your Brain on Food by Uma Naidoo Food provides more than just nutrients for sustenance and growth — what you eat also impacts your mood and mental health. Dr. Uma Naidoo is a psychiatrist, nutritionist, and a professional chef, so you can trust she knows what she’s talking about. 

Types of Nonfiction | Health and Wellness Books

11. Crafts and Hobbies 

Once upon a time, before Google became the omniscient engine that held the answer to all our questions, people relied on craft books to teach them how to pick up a new hobby. Origami, crochet, calligraphy, gardening — you name it, there’s a book about it. Nowadays, books like these appeal to the audience not solely because of the skills but also the author. Authors are usually someone with an online presence and authority when it comes to the craft, and their book's tone and interior design usually reflect a bit of their personality. 

By Hand by Nicole Miyuki Santo Beautifully designed with plenty of samples with which readers could practice their own calligraphy, Santo’s guide is a meditative exercise book. It’s also a great avenue for her followers on Instagram to come closer to her art by practicing it themselves.  

Alterknit Stitch by Andrea Rangel For knitters who have already nailed down the basics and want to experiment with new patterns, this is the book to get. It demonstrates ways to have fun with this cozy hobby by defying the conventions of knitting. 

12. Travel Guides

Again, the internet seems to have taken over from books when it comes to helping travelers and tourists discover new places. Still, travel guides are a lot more comprehensive, keeping everything you might need to know about budgeting, languages, places to visit (or avoid), and much more, in one place. Ebooks are the perfect format for these guides — they’re easy for travelers to refer to on the go, and they’re not as costly to update to include the latest information. 

The Lonely Planet series This collection has been growing since the 1970s, and it now holds plenty of books with various focuses. There are guides solely on helpful phrases in foreign languages, and then there are regional, country-level, and city guides, all made with contributions from locals. 

The Time Out series While also written by locals, these books focus only on cities (mainly in Europe and the US). As with the magazine of the same name, the content of the books is all about local haunts and hidden shops that tourists may not be aware of. 

13. Cookbooks

Cookbooks make up another type of nonfiction that’s evermore popular, and not just because we’re cooking more and more at home nowadays. They’re increasingly beautiful, and to write a cookbook is to have a vision in mind about what kind of mouth-watering photos (or illustrations!) it would offer alongside easy-to-follow instructions. They also tend to have cohesive themes, i.e. desserts for vegans, at-home experimental fine-dining, or worldly culinary adventures from your kitchen.

In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen Grandmothers from eight different Eastern African countries show readers both hearth and heart through the familial stories associated with their food. Beyond the loving taste of traditional homecooked dishes, readers will also get to learn about life in the villages of Africa. 

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi Israeli-English chef Yotam Ottolenghi is the owner of several branches of restaurants, bakeries and food shops in London, but you can get a taste of his cuisine with this collection of 130 Middle Eastern recipes that can be made within 30 minutes. Who says simple cooking couldn't be adventurous?

Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger A slightly different take on cookbooks, Midnight Chicken is a manifesto for an joyful life, built on homemade food. Her recipes are simple and homely, just like the illustrations of her book, so that anyone can make them even after a long and tiring day.

Nonfiction Genres | Cookbooks

14. Parenting and Family 

Parenting is anything but easy, and since Supernanny is not always on air, a little help from experts and those who've had experience dealing with children is the next best thing. From understanding with the psychology of young minds to finding the best environments and ways to nurture them, parenting books with sound academic backing provide useful insights and advice to help readers become better guardians and caregivers. 

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Laura Markham Based on the latest research on brain development and clinical tests, Markham emphasizes the importance of the emotional connection between parent and child in development. When parents understand their own emotions, they can raise their children with empathy, set healthy boundaries, and communicate with clarity. 

Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau Beyond the home, there's a complex world which parents don’t have control of. Annette Lareau sociologically examines the social and political contexts in which children would be exposed to (if they live in America) and how childrearing can be affected by it.

15. Children’s Nonfiction 

 Explaining the world to children, even on a limited scale, can be incredibly difficult, as it’s hard to keep their attention. Luckily, a bit of assistance from an illustrator can do wonders. As a result, many children’s nonfiction books are in the style of picture books and chapter books. Topics covered include short historical accounts and biographies, or stories that explain scientific phenomena and how they are studied. For a more detailed breakdown of children’s nonfiction, check out editor Melissa Stewart’s system of classification .

The Little Leaders series by Vashti Harrison Read about exceptional men and women of various ethnic backgrounds throughout history, and enjoy their adorable portraits in this series. There’s hardly a better way to help children embrace differences than through nonfiction books about diversity such as this.

There Are Bugs Everywhere by Britta Teckentrup Open young minds up to the natural world through this colorful elementary guide to the insect world. Answering questions about where insects live or how they find and store food with engaging drawings, it’s a great educational tool for parents and teachers. 

16. Educational Guides 

Many educational guides as the YA version of nonfiction books. These are targeted at final-year high-schoolers and young college students, with the aim providing them some guidance as they reach that strange age where independence is desperately craved but also a bit scary. Unlike popular YA fiction , this is still definitely a niche, yet, as rising study-with-me YouTubers would show you, there is potential for growth. Other than that, there are also learning guides for older audiences as well. 

The Uni-Verse by Jack Edwards Sharing his experience in preparing for and being at university, Edwards hopes to ensure readers that they, too, could emerge from univeristy happy and successful. From how to take lecture notes to how to get along with your roommates, this guide is full of helpful advice for anyone who’s feeling a bit overwhelmed. 

Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt Education doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom, as Tom Vanderbilt shows us in this call-to-action for life-long learning. As testament to the value of learning as an adult, he tells the stories behind his journey with five skills: playing chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling. 

Types of Nonfiction | Educational Guides

17. Textbooks 

We’ve all had our fair share of poring over these books: each comprehensively puts together information about a specific subject (and sometimes even the subject of teaching itself). The content of textbooks also include questions that stimulate learners, encouraging them to reflect on certain matters. As they are meant to accompany a curriculum, textbooks have to be written with a good overarching grasp of the subject and solid understanding of pedagogy. Given all this work, textbook writers deserve more appreciation than they get!

Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press This popular series offers a short and concise introduction to just about every topic out there. Breaking big concepts and lesson outcomes into bitesize definitions, they make great overviews or quick refreshers before an exam.

Letting Go of Literary Whiteness by Carlin Borsheim-Black and Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides This textbook is made not for students but for teachers. Based on experiences and examples from their own classrooms, the authors supply advice, and real-life scenarios in which they apply, on how to be anti-racist in schools. 

18. Language Books 

Language books can be general guides as to how to learn any language, or they can go into the nitty-gritty of a particular language. Some of them aren’t even about learning to use and communicate in a language; instead, they take a dive into the origins and inner workings of these complex systems. Regardless, because of the complexity of the subject, these nonfiction titles require expert knowledge from the part of the author. 

Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher Linguist Guy Deutscher (a perfect name for the profession) makes the case for the connection between language and culture in this volume, opening up a whole new perspective on language learning beyond the practicalities. 

How to Speak Any Language Fluently by Alex Rawlings This book does what it says on the tin: it gives you the tools to pick up any language you want. Rawling's advice is as fun as it is helpful, so everyone can learn their language of choice with extra enjoyment! 

Many of them are memoirs of comedians and talk show hosts, others are written by celebrated essayists and journalists. The celebrity profiles of authors in the genre explains humorous nonfiction's popularity. While form may vary, most of these titles are penned as social commentaries that candidly talk about issues that are often overlooked.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell A witty exploration of the legacies of presidential assassinations in America, which notes how they’ve been used for political and commercial purposes that ridiculously undermine their historical importance. It’s history and politics, but with a healthy dose of sharp humor. 

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh Bill Gates says it’s “funny as hell” , and that’s all the advertising it needs. Taking the unconventional form of meme-worthy comic strips accompanied by texts to provide context, Brosh’s memoir is a candid reflection on both hilarious and bleak moments she's been through. 

Nonfiction Genres | Humor

20. Arts Books

The arts section is a fun mix — to name a few, there are photography collections, art catalogues, books on theory and critique, and volumes that teach artistic endeavors. With nuggets of wisdom from industry experts and often great attention paid to design details these books really are like pieces of artwork themselves. 

The World of Art series by Thames & Hudson This collection offers a variety of art styles and their hallmark pieces from across time and space. You could pick any one of them and feast your eyes on not only the art itself, but the wonderful interior design — courtesy of Adam Hay .

Women Artists by Flavia Frigeri In a now seminal feminist art history text written in the 70s, Linda Nochlin raised a provocative question: “Why have there been no great women artists?” Well, this addition to the Art Essentials series answers the question by showcasing 50 women artists throughout history, proving that the problem lies not in the lack of female artists, but in the failure to give them the recognition they deserve. 

Narrative nonfiction 

While narrative nonfiction books are still factual, they're written in the style of a story. As such a book's chapters have a flow — a story structure , if you will — rather than being systematically organized by topic. 

21. Memoirs and autobiographies

Memoirs and autobiographies are books about the writer’s life. The former covers a shorter time period, focusing on a particularly noteworthy moment, such as experience in a certain industry, or an unconventional childhood. It’s thus often written by younger authors. The latter follows a longer timeline, going through a whole life, like a personal history. As such, while anyone, with or without a public presence, can write a memoir , autobiographies are always penned by well-known figures. Autobiographies are also often used by politicians and activists to share their journey and views.

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym Prodigal violinist Min Kym was the youngest pupil at the Purcell School of Music, though her life wasn't a bed of roses. While struggling with the theft of a 17th-century Stradivarius in her possession (which made national headlines in the UK in 2010), she came to realize with incredible clarity that she had lost much more on the journey to meet the expectations of her teachers, her parents, and the world. And all of it was beautifully recorded in this memoir. 

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa Masaji Ishikawa's life in Japan is just like any ordinary person’s life, but to have gotten there, he’d undergone the challenges of escaping the totalitarian state of North Korea. His experience with this totalitarian state and his subsequent escape makes for a memoir readers can't put down. 

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela The man at the heart of one of the biggest, most publicised international movement against racial discrimination and for political freedom shares his journey from being an activist to his 27 years in prison in this autobiography. 

22. Biographies

Take note, biographies are different from auto biographies in a very crucial way, even though both are basically life stories. While autobiographies are written by authors about themselves , biographies are written by an author about somebody else . If the subject is alive, their consent should be acquired for ethical purposes (though this isn’t always done). A biography could also be penned long after its subject’s death, presented as a history book that’s focused solely on the life and circumstances of one person. Many of these have gone on to inspire award-winning movies and musicals.

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow Ron Chernow is truly the master of biographies, and any of his titles would be a great example of his brilliance as a writer and researcher. This Pulitzer Prize winner on America’s founding father is recommended for its nuanced portrait of a legendary figure. Chernow took four years to research and an additional two to complete the manuscript — it was no easy project!

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar Perhaps more famous for its movie adaptation starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, Sylvia Nasar’s biography provides a window into the turbulent life of schizophrenic mathematician and economist John Nash. While it challenged ethical practices by not consulting with Nash even though he was alive, the book was still very well-received. 

23. Travel Literature 

Some call them travelogues, others call them travel memoirs — either way, travel literature books straddle the line between informing on the many cultures of the world and self-reflection. Books that fall into this genre are usually quite poetic and insightful (unlike practical travel guides). They’re all about personal journeys that are meditative and eye-opening, and can be about a specific place or a series of places. 

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bike by Dervla Murphy In 1963, Dervla Murphy kept a daily diary of her trek “across frozen Europe and through Persia and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and into India.” After the trip, she published the diary and invited readers to join her on this remarkable feat, whether from their couch or as they start their own journey.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson Focusing on the place and not the journey, Bill Bryson documents his “farewell tour” of the UK as he prepared to return to America after almost two decades of living across the pond. Mixing cultural insights with a healthy dose of humor, he wraps his travel notes in social commentary to both satirize and praise the idiosyncrasies of the British. 

24. Journalism

Follow investigative journalists as they uncover ugly truths. Other than doing justice by in-depth and sometimes even dangerous investigations, this type of nonfiction also enthralls readers with the twists and turns of real events and details of actual underground operations, conspiracies, and court dramas, to name a few. 

All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Journalists Woodward and Bernstein's reports in The Washington Post won them a Pulitzer Prize and led to President Nixon’s impeachment. In this book, they recollect the process behind their famous exposé on Watergate.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow On his trail to investigate Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assaults, Farrow discovered a systematic mechanism which favors offenders with big pockets and silences the voice of victims. His book is thus an exposé on the journalism industry itself.

Voilà! Those are 24 of the most popular types of nonfiction along with some typical exmaples. And keep in mind that as more and more titles get released, the genres will expand beyond this list. It goes to show how expansive this side of the publishing world can be. If you’re writing , publishing, or marketing a nonfiction book , hopefully this list has clarified the purpose, styles, and formats of each genre so that you can find the perfect fit for your own work.

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List of All Categories in the Kindle Store

The Kindle Store has thousands of categories, and it’s hard to make sense of them all if you’re a self-published author. I’ve crawled all 4000+ categories across print and ebooks, for the US, UK and DE stores, and made them available for free. You can use this for:

  • Finding relevant categories for your books: you can search by a keyword (e.g. ‘military’,’lgbt’) and find all the categories which might fit it.
  • Comparing categories by popularity and activity: for instance, finding categories which are popular (#1-ranked book has a BSR of <1000), and ‘busy’ (more than 1000 books published in the last 30 days).

If you just want the data, you can download all the categories as an XLSX-format spreadsheet. Bonus : I’ve also made an online tool for each set of categories, which makes browsing them easy! Read on to find out all about it.

This is completely free and will stay that way. It isn’t paywalled, and you don’t have to sign up for it, so please share it with your author colleagues.

How do I use the list?

What do all the columns mean.

This is an XLSX file, so you can open it in pretty much any spreadsheet program:  Excel, LibreOffice, Numbers.  If you don’t have any of those,  Google Sheets  is a good free online alternative.  If you have any questions about sorting, filtering etc. just drop me an email and I’ll be happy to help you out.  

  • Book1Rank and Book100Rank are the Best Sellers Rank of the #1 and #100 book in the category as at the time I snapshotted it.  This will change, of course, but it’s a crude proxy measure of how many books the category is selling. 
  • Rank Trend tells you whether the Best Seller Rank of the #1 book has gone up or down since last month. ‘Book1Rank (last month)’ and ‘Book100Rank (last month)’ are listed at the end of the spreadsheet (to the right) if you want to check how big the increase or decrease is.
  • nLast30Days is the (rounded) number of books published in the last 30 days in this category, which is a crude proxy measure of activity.  Frustratingly for us, Amazon rounds this heavily to the nearest 1000, or sometimes 10000.  So it’s really only accurate to within an order of magnitude, but maybe still useful with that caveat.
  • Activity Trend tells you whether the number of books published in the last 30 days has gone up or down since last month. As above, nLast30Days (last month) is listed at the end of the spreadsheet if you want to compare them.
  • browseNodeID is the unique reference number for each category.  There are a standard set of pages for each category:  given the browse node ID for a category, you can work out what the URLs will be for them.  Specifically, what the URL for the Top 100 for that category will be, as well as the ‘Last 30 Days’ page, the ‘Last 90 Days’ page, and the ‘Preorders’ page.  Practically as an author, you can probably ignore this, except it’s the best way to uniquely identify a specific category (handy in situations where there are two or more commonly-confused categories). 
  • parentName and parentBrowseNodeID are the name and browse node ID of the parent category for the current one; again this isn’t super-useful, although I do use it to construct the ‘category path’ column.  And, there might be a time when you want to find everything underneath a particular category, I guess.

You can use this to find appropriate categories for your own work, and to look at the ranks and level of activity in each category.  It comes complete with:

  • Ranks of the #1 and #100 book in each category for this month and last month
  • The number of books published in the last 30 days for this month and last month
  • Links to the Top 100 and the ‘Last 30 Days’ for each category

Caveat : pulling all this data isn’t an exact science, and with a big website like Amazon, there are always a few strangenesses.  Within the 4000+ categories, you’ll definitely find a few places where something went haywire: either there wasn’t a 100th book in the category (this happens quite a bit!), or there weren’t any books in the last 30 days, or something else unexpected.  If you see something weird, use the links provided and go to the store to check it out yourself before you make any decisions based on it.  I do try to recheck everything if we don’t get back what we expect, but  something  is always changing at Amazon, and this kind of activity really makes that clear.

Was this useful? Kindletrends subscribers get a bunch of other goodies, plus weekly newsletters on trends in 14 different fiction genres.

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The New York Times Best Sellers - April 07, 2024

Authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the united states, sorted by format and genre..

This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

THE WOMEN by Kristin Hannah

7 weeks on the list

by Kristin Hannah

In 1965, a nursing student follows her brother to serve during the Vietnam War and returns to a divided America.

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Books-A-Million

THE #1 LAWYER by James Patterson and Nancy Allen

New this week


by James Patterson and Nancy Allen

A criminal defense attorney in Biloxi becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s murder.

FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros

47 weeks on the list


by Rebecca Yarros

Violet Sorrengail is urged by the commanding general, who also is her mother, to become a candidate for the elite dragon riders.

IRON FLAME by Rebecca Yarros

20 weeks on the list

The second book in the Empyrean series. Violet Sorrengail’s next round of training might require her to betray the man she loves.

JAMES by Percival Everett

by Percival Everett

A reimagining of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” shines a different light on Mark Twain's classic, revealing new facets of the character of Jim.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction

GET IT TOGETHER by Jesse Watters


by Jesse Watters

The Fox News host gives his take on some people whose political views differ from the ones to which he subscribes.

I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED by Jennette McCurdy

62 weeks on the list


by Jennette McCurdy

The actress and filmmaker describes her eating disorders and difficult relationship with her mother.

THE WAGER by David Grann

48 weeks on the list

by David Grann

The survivors of a shipwrecked British vessel on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain have different accounts of events.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel van der Kolk

186 weeks on the list


by Bessel van der Kolk

How trauma affects the body and mind, and innovative treatments for recovery.


121 weeks on the list


The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil.

  • Hardcover Fiction

46 weeks on the list


  • Hardcover Nonfiction

76 weeks on the list

BARBIE: THE WORLD TOUR by Margot Robbie and Andrew Mukamal


by Margot Robbie and Andrew Mukamal

The producer and star of the movie “Barbie” teams up with her stylist and a fashion photographer to capture looks inspired by the doll-size originals.

OUTLIVE by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

52 weeks on the list

by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

A look at recent scientific research on aging and longevity.

  • Paperback Trade Fiction

HAPPY PLACE by Emily Henry

3 weeks on the list


by Emily Henry

A former couple pretend to be together for the sake of their friends during their annual getaway in Maine.

ICEBREAKER by Hannah Grace

58 weeks on the list

by Hannah Grace

Anastasia might need the help of the captain of a college hockey team to get on the Olympic figure skating team.

THE HOUSEMAID by Freida McFadden


by Freida McFadden

Troubles surface when a woman looking to make a fresh start takes a job in the home of the Winchesters.

THE TEACHER by Freida McFadden


A math teacher at Caseham High suspects there is more going on behind a scandal involving a teacher and a student.

THE INMATE by Freida McFadden

A nurse practitioner at a maximum-security prison gave testimony against her former boyfriend that put him behind bars.

  • Paperback Nonfiction

283 weeks on the list

160 weeks on the list

The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil. The fledgling F.B.I. intervened, ineffectively.

MASTERS OF THE AIR by Donald L. Miller

8 weeks on the list


by Donald L. Miller

An account of the American Eighth Air Force in World War II; the basis of the TV series.

THINK AGAIN by Adam Grant

13 weeks on the list


by Adam Grant

An examination of the cognitive skills of rethinking and unlearning that could be used to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown

159 weeks on the list


by Daniel James Brown

The story of the American rowers who pursued gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games; the basis of the film.

  • Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous

ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear

226 weeks on the list


by James Clear


5 weeks on the list


by Charles Duhigg

MOSTLY WHAT GOD DOES by Savannah Guthrie


by Savannah Guthrie

ZAYTINYA by José Andrés with Michael Costa

by José Andrés with Michael Costa

THE CREATIVE ACT by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss


by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss

  • Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover

HEROES by Alan Gratz

by Alan Gratz

The friends Frank and Stanley give a vivid account of the Pearl Harbor attack.

THE SUN AND THE STAR by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro


by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

The demigods Will and Nico embark on a dangerous journey to the Underworld to rescue an old friend.


191 weeks on the list


by America's Test Kitchen Kids

Over 100 kid-tested recipes from America's Test Kitchen.

FERRIS by  Kate DiCamillo

by Kate DiCamillo

During the summer before fifth grade, 10 year-old Ferris contends with friends’ and family’s bouts with love.

THE EYES AND THE IMPOSSIBLE by Dave Eggers. Illustrations by Shawn Harris

11 weeks on the list


by Dave Eggers. Illustrations by Shawn Harris

A dog who serves as the eyes for three bison in a park enclosure devises a plan to free them.

  • Children’s Picture Books

HOW TO CATCH THE EASTER BUNNY by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton

29 weeks on the list


by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton

The Easter Bunny avoids traps in order to deliver eggs and candy.

THE GOOD EGG PRESENTS: THE GREAT EGGSCAPE! by Jory John. Illustrated by Pete Oswald

25 weeks on the list


by Jory John. Illustrated by Pete Oswald

Good Egg and his pals escape their carton!

PETE THE CAT: BIG EASTER ADVENTURE by James Dean and Kimberly Dean

45 weeks on the list


by James Dean and Kimberly Dean

A certain rabbit needs Pete's help.

GRUMPY MONKEY SPRING FEVER by Suzanne Lang. Illustrated by Max Lang


by Suzanne Lang. Illustrated by Max Lang

Jim Panzee catches a bad case of spring fever.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS by Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

436 weeks on the list


by Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

What to serve your dragon-guests.

  • Children’s Series

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney

784 weeks on the list


written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney

The travails and challenges of adolescence.


717 weeks on the list


by Rick Riordan

A boy battles mythological monsters.


130 weeks on the list


by Holly Jackson

Pippa Fitz-Amobi solves murderous crimes.

BOYS OF TOMMEN by Chloe Walsh

2 weeks on the list


by Chloe Walsh

In Ireland, friends at the private school Tommen College prepare for adulthood.

HARRY POTTER by J.K. Rowling

783 weeks on the list


by J.K. Rowling

A wizard hones his conjuring skills in the service of fighting evil.

  • Young Adult Hardcover

POWERLESS by Lauren Roberts

by Lauren Roberts

Forbidden love is in the air when Paedyn, an Ordinary, and Kai, an Elite, become romantically involved.

DIVINE RIVALS by Rebecca Ross

40 weeks on the list


by Rebecca Ross

Two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection.



by Holly Black

An imprisoned Prince Oak must decide between his love and his kingdom.

RUTHLESS VOWS by Rebecca Ross


In the sequel to "Divine Rivals," Roman and Iris will risk their hearts and futures to change the tides of the war.

MURTAGH by Christopher Paolini

by Christopher Paolini

Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn, must find and outwit a mysterious witch.

Weekly Best Sellers Lists

Monthly best sellers lists.

Book List: The 80+ Best Book Lists to Help You Find Your Next Great Read

Book List: The 80+ Best Book Lists to Help You Find Your Next Great Read Cover

When authors write books, they organize their thinking. As readers, if we want to do the same, we must organize our books. After all, reading the right book at the right time will have a disproportionately positive effect on our life. That’s where a book list comes in. If you keep a bunch of book lists at hand, you’ll always have access to the thinking of someone who’ll make an extraordinary impact on your situation right now .

So, what kind of book lists are there? How do you best organize your reading goals while still leaving room for spontaneity and new insights? Where should you start?

In this meta post, a big list of book lists, if you will, we’ll cover the most important kinds of book lists and where to find them. We’ll show you when and how to use these often painstakingly curated tools. Also, if you’re looking for a specific book list you don’t know the name of, chances are, this page will be a good place to start as well.

As usual, we’ve organized the information on this page into various categories. For each kind of book list, we’ll briefly explain what they’re about, when and why you might want to rely on them, and link to the most relevant ones in that section.

You can use the clickable table of contents below to jump to any book list category. If you want to jump to the book lists on Four Minute Books that we made specifically for you, you can jump to the ones by topic or by author .

Let’s see how you can use book lists to always learn the right thing at the right time and discover 80+ great book lists along the way!

Table of Contents

Book Lists by Popularity

The best-selling books of all time, the highest-rated books of all time, bestseller lists, rating lists, recommendation lists, book lists by year & time, book lists by year, book lists by decade, book lists by century, book lists by category & genre, book lists by topic, book lists by author, book lists by target reader group, book lists by & for yourself.

The most popular book lists are those which rank books by their, well, popularity. Humans are social animals. We want to read what others read. There are two primary metrics popularity lists use to rank books:

  • Number of sales
  • Number of high ratings (either by the general public or in the form of endorsements from specific people)

Here are some of the most relevant lists in each of those categories.

If you’re looking for some of the best-selling books in history, these are good places to start. Most lists exclude religious books like the Bible or the Quran, and most of the books are in the fiction category.

  • Wikipedia’s List of Best-Selling Books . This also includes a list of the bestselling book series of all time.
  • Top 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time by All Top Everything . This list includes religious books.
  • The 30 Best-Selling Novels of All Time by Best Life . This list is fiction only.
  • When it comes to nonfiction, I couldn’t find a single list of all-time best-selling titles. We’re working on it. In the meantime, your best bet is to look at the blue-highlighted books on Wikipedia’s list .

There’s a difference between books that sell a lot of copies and books that an unusually large share of readers rates very highly. Of course, unlike sales numbers, book ratings are subjective. But if a 10,000-copy-seller has a straight 5-star rating, whereas a 100,000-copy-seller only gets 3 stars, there’s probably something to be said about both of them — one has a wider impact, the other a deeper one.

Here are some of the book lists curating all-time classics and audience favorites.

  • The Greatest Books of All Time . This is an excellent project by Shane Sherman. He built an algorithm to scour over 130 “best books” lists and then aggregate the data. Available for both fiction and nonfiction.
  • Penguin’s 100 Must-Read Classics, As Chosen by Readers . Penguin Books has been in the publishing business since 1935. They’re an authority on world-class literature, and so are their readers.
  • Reader’s Digest’s 100 Best Books of All Time . Where Penguin publishes books, RD recommends them. Founded more than 100 years ago, this general-interest magazine is a trusted source when it comes to book recommendations.
  • The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time . Robert McCrum is a longtime writer and senior editor. Here, he tried to pick history’s 100 best novels. He also updated the original list from 2003 in 2015 .
  • The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books . The Guardian staff also picked their favorite nonfiction titles.
  • 100 Books to Read Before You Die . Joel Patrick cross-referenced eight “best books” lists. This the result.
  • The “Best Books Ever” on Goodreads . Over 230,000 people voted on the books in this list. These are Goodreads members’ 100 all-time favorites.

The longer the time frame you look at, the harder it is to get accurate data. On a monthly and weekly basis, however, book sales are now well-documented. Many people use bestseller lists as a reference for what to read next. The three most commonly cited lists are the New York Times Best Seller List, the Wall Street Journal Bestseller List, and the USA Today Best-Seller List. There are many others around the world, but these three might be the most famous, especially in the US.

Here are those three lists as well as some others that tell you which books are keeping readers glued to their pages right now.

  • The New York Times Best Seller List . By default, the list is sorted based on weekly sales and separates fiction and nonfiction. They also have some monthly lists, for example for business books or mass market paperbacks .
  • The Wall Street Journal Bestseller List . This list is also compiled on a weekly basis. You might need a WSJ subscription to see it.
  • The USA Today Best-Seller List . Conveniently, this list can be filtered and sorted directly on the page. It is also ranked by most weekly sales.
  • Publishers Weekly Bestseller Lists . This 150-year-old trade news organization for publishers, librarians, and anyone working with books also compiles various bestseller lists. Might require a subscription to see in-depth data.
  • Amazon Best Sellers . Amazon constantly updates its bestseller lists based on each book’s sales rank on their platform. You can also filter by various subcategories or see which books sell well specifically on Kindle .

Unlike sales data, book ratings and reviews are usually collected on an ongoing, cumulative basis. It makes sense: It doesn’t really matter whether someone liked (or disliked) a book yesterday or seven years ago. Their opinion is their opinion, and unless they change it, it doesn’t need updating.

While there are millions of lists out there where people share their favorite books, from individual TikTok posts to Twitter threads to blog posts, only a few places manage to collect and aggregate ratings and review data in statistically relevant quantities. Here they are:

  • Goodreads . This is easily the #1 place on the internet to see what other people think about certain books. Search for any book, look at the number of ratings and average score, read some reviews, then decide for yourself. It is also owned by…
  • Amazon . The largest retailer in the world is also the largest bookseller . No wonder, perhaps: After all, initially, Amazon sold only books! As such, plenty of people leave reviews on the site, and so usually, you can get a good feel for what people think about a certain book. Plus, since Amazon’s catalog is so big, you’ll find most books on there.
  • LibraryThing . At only around three million users vs. Goodreads’ 90 million, this site doesn’t have as much data, but it does provide a good overview of most titles, especially fiction.
  • NetGalley . This site also allows users to rate and review books, giving 1 to 5 stars. It’s also a good place to get advance copies of new books in exchange for leaving an honest review afterwards.

Book recommendations are as old as books themselves. Chances are, most book sales happen because someone told someone else, “Hey, this is a great book!” While there have always been “Books Recommended By X” lists — where “X” could be an author, expert, or celebrity of any kind — it is a relatively recent trend to aggregate such recommendations. Thanks to code and artificial intelligence, we can now extract who recommends which book in real-time from Twitter, for example. 

Here are several sites that either qualify as an authority recommending books or recommendation aggregator.

  • Most Recommended Books . This is a side project by two developers, and I believe they’re pulling data from Twitter. The result is impressive: Over 1,000 book lists covering some 600+ experts’ recommendations. 
  • Good Books . This site was built by Jordan Hughes in 2020 and sold to an unknown buyer in 2021. I don’t know how many updates it will get in the future, but it holds over 9,500+ book recommendations “from the most successful and interesting people in the world.”
  • What Should I Read Next? Some recommendation systems rely on people, others on algorithms. This is one of them. Just type in a book you like, and get similar recommendations!
  • Five Books . This site compiles countless experts’ top five book recommendations in various categories. Each list is manually crafted, but then they also aggregate those lists on topic pages. Great resource that I find myself on again and again.
  • Whichbook . Want to get book recommendations based on how you feel right now? How about picking the book’s backdrop setting on a world map? This is a very unique project, and I highly recommend you check it out.

Every year, several million books are published . Estimates range from one to four million, with about half of those books being self-published. Therefore, another common way to organize books is by year or time frame. Usually, this is paired with sales data or ratings. Again: popularity is popular.

Here are some book lists organized by year, decade, or century. You can find a lot more if you search for “best books of 1971,” “bestselling books of the 1950s,” and so on, on Google.

  • Wikipedia’s Annual Lists of New York Times Nonfiction Bestsellers . For every year going back until 1991, Wikipedia tracks which book took the #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list in any given week. After that, the data becomes spotty, but it does go back all the way until 1931, the year the list was first published. They also compile this data for fiction books , and in that category, it is 100% complete, which is astonishing.
  • Booklist Queen’s List of 2022 Nonfiction New York Times Bestsellers . Rachael is a book reading machine. She reads around 200 books each year. She also compiles all books that make the NYT bestseller list in any given year, if only for a week and in the last spot. Her lists are easy to skim and nice to look at. She also compiles them for fiction , but the oldest list I can find is for 2020.
  • Publishers Weekly Lists of Bestselling Novels for Each Year . While the process for inclusion on PW’s bestseller lists is not public and somewhat unclear (they never included the Harry Potter books, for example), they do have data on the ten bestselling novels of each year going all the way back until 1895. Stunning!
  • The Goodreads Choice Awards . Every year, Goodreads picks 20 books in various categories based on the data it has collected on them so far. Then, all users get to vote on their favorites in each category in two rounds. The awards have been held since 2011. A good way to find out what people enjoyed reading each year!
  • Literary Hub’s The Ultimate Best Books of 2022 List . When it comes to individual “best books of the year” lists, there are way too many to even begin to count, let alone list out here. Thankfully, Lithub’s Emily Temple painstakingly goes through many of them each year. In 2022, she went through 35 “best of” lists to compile a great meta list of which books were mentioned on the most lists. The result is a collection of 84 books out of 887 who seem to resonate with us more than the rest. You can find meta lists on Lithub going back to 2017 .
  • Goodreads’ Best Books of the Decade Lists . Starting from the year 1800, Goodreads has a list for each decade with the books published in it. Members vote on which books they like best, and that data, combined with a bunch of other factors, like average rating and total number of ratings, is then used to rank the books. Solid!
  • Literary Hub’s The Books That Defined the Decades Lists . Going back to 1900, Lithub picked a mix of ten fiction and nonfiction books for each decade that made an especially large impact on society.
  • The Greatest Book’s Custom-Filtered Lists . If you pick your category and click on “Custom” under “Filter” in the left-hand sidebar of Shane Sherman’s amazing project, you’ll be able to generate custom fiction or nonfiction book lists for basically any decade, starting from the year 1 AD. Naturally, not a lot of nonfiction was written between 1,000 and 1,010 AD (at least nothing we still remember or even know about), but it’s fun to play around with this tool and see what you can find.
  • The Guardian’s 100 Best Books of the 21st Century . While it’s arguably a bit foolish to try and curate the 100 best books of a century that hasn’t even passed one third of the way, one can always try. It’d be cool to see this list continue to update and keep snapshots of each iteration so we can compare how it evolved over time.
  • Goodreads’ Best Books of the Century Lists . Besides having users vote on books by decade, Goodreads also curates century-based lists — going all the way back to the 4th century AD. Pretty cool!
  • Modern Library’s Top 100 of the 20th Century . In 1998, Modern Library, then-parent-company of publisher Random House, asked its editorial board to pick the top 100 novels out of 400 titles they had published between 1900 and 1998. The list is biased towards the company’s own catalog, but good. A year later, they did the same for nonfiction . After the New York Times shared the lists, they also held reader polls, and around 200,000 voters picked their fiction and nonfiction favorites.
  • Literary Hub’s Biggest Nonfiction Bestsellers of the Last 100 Years . This is one of the few lists offering bestseller data on nonfiction titles published as early as 1918. It’s sorted by year but provides a good overview of the 20th century as a whole. Lithub even included a book for each year that we’re more likely to actually remember than what happened to be popular at the time. A really cool source of new reads.

Like most of the book lists we’ve covered so far, many curation attempts separate between the two main categories of books: fiction and nonfiction. That said, each of these categories then splits into several types and genres. Let’s look at what they are and see some sample book lists for each one of them!

Nonfiction deals with the real world. It is an attempt to accurately represent or explain a person or group of people, topic, or historical event using facts, analysis, and deduction. There are 4 subtypes of nonfiction :

  • Expository nonfiction tries to explain and inform, covering a specific topic. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, for example, attempts to cover all of human history up to the 21st century.
  • Narrative nonfiction aims to retell a true story, a person’s biography, for example, or what happened in a certain place or at a historically significant event. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, for example, covers the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her fraudulent company Theranos.
  • Persuasive nonfiction makes a case for one side of an issue. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek, for example, argues that socialism just doesn’t work, and that we shouldn’t pursue it as a solution for managing our countries and societies.
  • Descriptive nonfiction , meanwhile, focuses on evoking your five senses to make a point, provide an accurate picture, or help you both understand and feel what a certain experience is (or was) like. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, for example, stresses not the tips and tactics of organizing trips well but the feelings and impressions that seeing many different places will convey to us.

When it comes to nonfiction, most book lists don’t differentiate between these four types. It is more common to filter by topic (see below) than by how the author tries to deliver the message. That said, here are some of the rare lists in these nonfiction categories:

  • Goodreads’ Expository Non Fiction Books . While this term is commonly used for children’s picture and read-aloud books, it also applies to classics like A Short History of Nearly Everything , Freakonomics , or Drive .
  • Booklist Queen’s 40 Narrative Nonfiction Books That Read Like Novels . These are some great, riveting reads that don’t just make for powerful stories but actually happened.
  • While I couldn’t find any list of particularly good persuasive nonfiction books , and a lot of people seem to confuse this type with books about persuasion, some good ones to start with are The World Without Us ,  Empty Planet , Socialism , Capitalism and Freedom , Fascism , In Defense of Food , and How to Be an Antiracist .
  • Descriptive nonfiction books are also most common for children, aimed at helping them understand what certain experiences and aspects of life are supposed to feel like. While lists here are scarce too, many books for adults focus heavily on emotions and sensory impressions as well, such as How to Be Alone , Walden , and Our Wild Calling .

Since fiction does not rely on facts, its sub-groupings rely less on how a book presents its contents and more on what those contents are about. Rather than into various types or topics, fiction breaks down into genres, and the writing world generally agrees that there are 9 major ones :

  • Horror is anything gory, graphically violent, or otherwise psychologically terrifying. Most of Stephen King’s books fall under this genre.
  • Mystery or Crime usually involves a case or puzzle of some kind to be solved. It might be supernatural or an ordinary crime, but the suspense of wanting to find out what happened is what keeps us going. The Sherlock Holmes books are a good example.
  • Romance covers any plot whose protagonist(s) find, lose, or rediscover love, usually with and for one another. Rachel Hollis’ Party Girl , for example.
  • Science-Fiction imagines the expanding possibilities of science, usually into the future. Whether progress goes right or wrong is another matter. In 1984 , for example, it didn’t go so well…
  • Thrillers are books mainly concerned with suspense. They try to keep you on the edge of your seat as much as possible. Often, they involve a murder, complicated relationship, or creepy mystery, but they don’t have to for you to keep turning page after page. Dan Brown’s books, like The Da Vinci Code , fall into this category.
  • Westerns , like their movie counterparts, center around the events and people of “ the Wild West ,” the period of America’s expansion from a batch of colonies into a conglomerate of states from around 1600 to 1900. True Grit is a famous example that has been adapted into several movie versions.
  • Historical novels blend fact and fiction to varying degrees. Steven Pressfield, otherwise known for The War of Art , also wrote several books fictionalizing historical battles in ancient Greece, such as Gates of Fire , for example.
  • Young adult fiction stars and is aimed at teenagers, though plenty of adults read books like the Twilight series or The Hunger Games . The action can be set in the real world or combined with fantasy elements.
  • Fantasy includes anything magical, be it wizards, vampires, ghosts, time travel, mythical swords, dragons, or other fantastic creatures and elements. Two words: Harry Potter . Need I say more?

As opposed to nonfiction’s subtypes, people love to make genre-based book lists. Here’s one for each of the above types of fiction books:

  • Reader’s Digest’s 56 Best Horror Books of All Time . Spoiler alert: Stephen King shows up a lot.
  • 25 of the Best Murder Mystery Books by Book Riot . If you’re craving a good whodunit , these ones are for you.
  • The 30 Best Romance Novels of 2022 That’ll Give You All the Feels by Cosmpolitan . This genre keeps ever-expanding, and there’s always a new love story to discover. These are the best titles published in 2022.
  • Wired’s 29 of the Best Science Fiction Books Everyone Should Read . For everyone who wishes they could take a trip to the stars or the future, this list will have a good read.
  • Penguin Random House’s List of the Best Thrillers of All Time . From new to old, these page-turners will send chills down your spine.
  • Art of Manliness List of 21 Western Novels Every Man Should Read . Not just for men, of course. Cowgirls welcome too!
  • Pan Macmillan’s 50 of the Best Historical Fiction Books of All Time . From Ken Follet to Emma Donoghue and from 14th century China to 1960s America, these novels will take you down historic paths — and beyond.
  • Time’s List of The 100 Best YA Books of All Time . From Percy Jackson to The Catcher in the Rye , these books will leave an impression on you whether you’re still a teenager or not.
  • TCK Publishing’s 18 Best Fantasy Book Series to Binge On . What’s better than 18 books? 18 book series . These provide material to get lost in for months. Happy fantasizing!

As mentioned above, in nonfiction, it is most common to sort book lists by topic. From self-help to biography to history, you can find book lists on almost any topic, though some are much more exhaustive than others.

If you were looking only for books about the history of coffee, for example, you’d probably find only a handful overall , and maybe only one or two good ones (Michael Pollan’s Caffeine comes to mind). Books about food history in general , however, are already more common, and books about food itself are abundant, especially if you include cookbooks. Therefore, when curating book lists, it makes sense to choose topics that are high-level enough to offer a good number of books yet meaningful enough to make sense for readers and book-seekers.

At Four Minute Books, we group our book summaries into 44 categories . We also manually curate book lists on at least the most in-demand topics. Here are all the ones we’ve made for you so far:

  • The 60 Best Business Books of All Time (Will Forever Change How You Think About Organizations)
  • The 20 Best Entrepreneurship Books to Start, Grow & Run a Successful Business
  • The 14 Best Finance Books of All Time
  • The 21 Best Habit Books of All Time to Change Any Behavior
  • The 33 Best Happiness Books of All Time That Everyone Should Read
  • The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)
  • The 7 Best Inspirational Books That Will Light Your Inner Fire
  • The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time to Help You Become a Truly Inspiring Person
  • The 31 Best Motivational Books Ever Written
  • The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of
  • The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker
  • The 34 Best Psychology Books That Will Make You Smarter and Happier
  • The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal
  • The 33 Best Self-Help Books of All Time to Read at Any Age
  • The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships
  • The 30 Most Life-Changing Books That Will Shift Your Perspective & Stay With You Forever

In The Catcher in the Rye , protagonist Holden Caulfield says that “what really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours.” I think this has happened to most of us at some point, and when it does, we want more of the same. That’s why another useful kind of book list is the one organized by author.

Who is this person, and why do they cover the topics they cover? What other books have they written? How many are there? And what’s the best order to read them in? Author book lists answer questions like those.

At Four Minute Books, we also compile author book lists. Take Peter Thiel , for example. Has he written any other books besides Zero to One ? Are there any books about him? What about the ones he recommends? We gathered all that information for you in one neat post . Here’s a full list of all author book lists we’ve created so far:

  • All Brené Brown Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Jordan Peterson Books: All Titles in Order of Publication + The 5 Top Books He Recommends
  • All Malcolm Gladwell Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Michael Pollan Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Peter Thiel Books: A Comprehensive List of Books By, About & Recommended by Peter Thiel
  • All Rachel Hollis Books: The Full List of Non-Fiction, Fiction & Cookbooks, Sorted by Popularity & the Best Reading Order
  • All Ray Dalio Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Robert Greene Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Ryan Holiday Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Simon Sinek Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Tim Ferriss Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Walter Isaacson Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)

Yet another way to organize books is to sort them not by what they are about but by who they are for . At Four Minute Books, we like to combine target reader groups with topics. On our list of the best self-help books , for example, we mention some of the best self-help books for women , and some of the best ones for men .

That said, you can find many more such lists on the web. Here are a few of the best and most popular ones to give you some ideas what else you can search for:

  • 15 Top Books for Men to Read by MensGroup . If you want to be a man of culture, these classics are some great picks!
  • Woman’s Day’s 50 Inspirational Books All Women Should Read in Their Lifetime . For more inspiration, confidence, and empowering female stories, this list is a good start.
  • PureWow’s The 25 Best Books to Read in Your 20s . Age groups are popular too. You can also find lists of the best books to read in your 30s , 40s , and so on.
  • Our list of The 20 Best Books for Entrepreneurs . If you’re trying to accomplish a certain goal or become a certain someone, often, you’re not alone. There are plenty of book lists out there for people who want to become chefs , writers , or consultants , and a lot more!
  • The Gentle Nursery’s 23 Best Books for New Parents . Is your family expanding? Perhaps some books about becoming a mom or dad are in order!
  • BuzzFeed’s 23 Books You Should Read Even If You Aren’t Into Reading . Yes. There are even book lists for people who don’t particularly like books. Amazing, isn’t it?

Finally, there are the book lists you create by and for yourself. While there are plenty of book trackers out there, from Bookshelf to Bookly to StoryGraph , Goodreads remains the platform of choice for almost 100 million people.

As soon as you sign up and make a free account, you’ll see three default lists (the links go to the lists for my own account):

  • Want to Read
  • Currently Reading

You can also create your own lists, of course. I keep one just for books that I want to read whenever I feel I need some extra inspiration, for example.

Goodreads also has plenty of pre-made lists  which you can like or vote on, and then they’ll be saved to your profile for easy reference. Pretty neat!

Goodreads isn’t exactly the newest or best-looking tool to track your reading (though they are rolling out a new interface), but it gets the job done and is better than manual tracking or a spreadsheet, if you ask me.

Phew. That was…a lot of lists! What do you think? Did we do a good job? Or is there some kind of book list you think is missing? Let us know on Twitter , and we’ll be glad to update this post.

Like I said in the beginning, the right book at the right time can make all the difference — and with the right book list at hand, you’ll always have access to that most timely, relevant of reads.

Last Updated on January 19, 2023

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  12. Book Genres: Discover 36+ Fiction and Nonfiction Categories

    There are several types of dystopian fiction, from sci-fi dystopia to dystopic satire. Some examples of dystopian works include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. These books offer readers a glimpse into what life might be like under adverse conditions.

  13. 22 Different Types of Books (Genres and Non-Fiction Options)

    Some of the most famous fantasy books include the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling, "Lord of the Rings" by J.R. Tolkien, "The Dark Tower" series by Stephen King, "The Folk of the Faraway Tree" by Enid Blyton, and "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis. Check Price.

  14. What Are The Different Types of Books?

    1. Adventure stories. Adventure novels whisk readers off to faraway lands. Unlike fantasy novels, they tend to stay in the real world (although there's often a lot of crossover between these genres). Children's novels often fall into the adventure category, since they're designed to spark imaginations.

  15. Genres

    Genres on Goodreads. Art, Biography, Business, Chick-lit, Children's, Christian, Classics, Comics, Contemporary, Cookbooks, Crime, Ebooks, Fantasy, Ficti...

  16. Choosing Amazon Book Categories: The Essential Guide

    1. Build a (sensible) list of categories. To build a list of relevant categories, you first need to know your book's genre. If you're unsure, take a look at our ultimate list of book genres — where you'll find a detailed breakdown of the different types of nonfiction and fiction, as well as a two-minute quiz that'll point you towards ...

  17. List of Book Genres: 36+ Popular Genres for Writing

    Essentially, genre fiction describes novels of a specific genre. This is in contrast to literary and contemporary fiction, where there aren't any clear audience expectations. Well-known genre fiction categories include romance, crime fiction, fantasy, horror, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, and suspense.

  18. Nonfiction: 24 Genres and Types of Fact-Based Books

    Many readers think of nonfiction as a genre in itself. But take a look through your local bookstore and you'll see dozens of sections devoted to fact-based books, while fiction titles are sorted into just a few broadly defined genres like 'Fantasy/Sci-Fi' and 'General Fiction'!. To give nonfiction books the recognition they deserve and help authors choose the right category for their ...

  19. Browse Books by Subject and Genres

    Docudrama. Documentary. Dolls & Stuffed Animals. Drama. Drama - General. Education. Electronic Toys. Family & Classic Games. Conveniently browse books by subjects and genre at Find and discover books in your favorite genre with Barnes & Noble.

  20. List of All Categories in the Kindle Store

    Book1Rank and Book100Rank are the Best Sellers Rank of the #1 and #100 book in the category as at the time I snapshotted it. This will change, of course, but it's a crude proxy measure of how many books the category is selling. Rank Trend tells you whether the Best Seller Rank of the #1 book has gone up or down since last month.

  21. Types of Books: Genres in Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

    Most fiction writers use folklores, theologies, mythologies as inspiration. You will find elements of epic fantasies, fairy tales, gods and demons, fables, gothic fiction, and so on. Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark Tower, etc are some of the much-loved fantasy books. Reading Suggestions: The Alchemist, Harry Potter.

  22. Best Sellers

    The New York Times Best Sellers are up-to-date and authoritative lists of the most popular books in the United States, based on sales in the past week, including fiction, non-fiction, paperbacks ...

  23. Book List: The 80+ Best Book Lists to Find Your Next Great Read

    Most lists exclude religious books like the Bible or the Quran, and most of the books are in the fiction category. Wikipedia's List of Best-Selling Books. This also includes a list of the bestselling book series of all time. Top 10 Best-Selling Books of All Time by All Top Everything. This list includes religious books.

  24. Earth Month Reading List 2024

    Earth Month Reading List 2024. April 1, 2024 | Biography, Current Affairs, Environmental Studies, History, Science, Technology. First observed on April 22nd, 1970, Earth Day mobilizes support for environmental protection across the globe. Earth Month emerged in 1990, reconizing the global impact of Earth Day.