What Is a Novel? Definition and Characteristics

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  • M.F.A, Dramatic Writing, Arizona State University
  • B.A., English Literature, Arizona State University
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A novel is a narrative work of prose fiction that tells a story about specific human experiences over a considerable length.

Prose style and length, as well as fictional or semi-fictional subject matter, are the most clearly defining characteristics of a novel. Unlike works of epic poetry, it tells its story using prose rather than verse ; unlike short stories , it tells a lengthy narrative rather than a brief selection. There are, however, other characteristic elements that set the novel apart as a particular literary form.

Key Takeaways: What Is A Novel?

  • A novel is a work of prose fiction that tells a narrative over an extended length.
  • Novels date as far back as 1010's Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu; European novels first appeared in the early seventeenth century.
  • Novels overtook epic poetry and chivalric romances as the most popular mode of storytelling, with an emphasis on the personal reading experience.
  • Today, novels come in a wide array of subgenres

Definition of a Novel

For the most part, novels are dedicated to narrating individual experiences of characters , creating a closer, more complex portrait of these characters and the world they live in. Inner feelings and thoughts, as well as complex, even conflicting ideas or values are typically explored in novels, more so than in preceding forms of literature. It’s not just the stories themselves that are more personal, but the experience of reading them as well. Where epic poetry and similar forms of storytelling were designed to be publicly read or consumed as an audience, novels are geared more towards an individual reader.

The following traits must be present for a work to be considered a novel:

  • Written in prose, as opposed to verse . Narrators may have different degrees of knowledge or different points of view ( first person versus third person and so on). While stylized novels such as epistolary novels do exist, the key distinction here is between prose and verse.
  • Of considerable length/word count. There is no specific word count that automatically makes a work a novel, but in general, a short novel would be considered a novella, and even shorter than that would be short fiction.
  • Fictional content. Semi-fictionalized novels (such as historical works inspired by true events or persons) exist, but a work of pure non-fiction would not be classified as a novel.
  • Individualism, both on the page and for the intended audience.

In the everyday vernacular, the novel has come to be associated most closely with fiction , as opposed to nonfiction. For the most part, that association stands: not all fiction is novels, but all novels are fiction. A non-fiction prose work that is of the same length as a novel could fall into several other categories, such as historiography, biography, and so on.

Although a novel is typically a work of fiction, many novels do weave in real human history. This can range from full-fledged novels of historical fiction, which focus on a specific era in history or depict semi-fictional narrative about real historical persons, to works of fiction that simply exist in the “real” world and carry that baggage and implications. There also are early modern works of historical nonfiction that were embellished with unconfirmed traditions or made-up speeches for dramatic effect. Despite this, for most purposes we can assume that, when we’re talking about novels, we’re talking about works of narrative fiction.

Types of Novels

Novels come in all styles imaginable, with every author bringing their own unique voice to the table. There are a handful of major subgenres that tend to make up a large share of the market, although there are many other genres (and mash-ups of genres) out there. A few of the major types of novels you might need to know about:

Mystery novels

Mystery novels revolve around a crime that must be solved, often a murder but not always. The traditional format will have a detective—either professional or amateur—as the protagonist, surrounded by a group of characters who help solve the crime or are suspects. Over the course of the story, the detective will sift through clues, including false leads and red herrings, to solve the case. Some of the best-known novels of all time fall into the mystery genre, including the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, and Agatha Christie’s novels. Christie’s And Then There Were None is the world’s best-selling mystery novel.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

One of the more popular genres of novels is science fiction and fantasy, which both deal with speculative world building. The lines between the two are often blurred, but in general, science fiction tends to imagine a world that’s different because of technology, while fantasy imagines a world with magic. Early science fiction included the works of Jules Verne and continued on through George Orwell’s seminal classics such as 1984 ; contemporary science fiction is a highly popular genre. Some of the best-known novels in Western literature are fantasy novels, including the Lord of the Rings series, The Chronicles of Narnia , and Harry Potter ; they owe their debt to European epic literature.

Horror/thriller novels

Thriller novels are occasionally combined with other genres, most often with mystery or science fiction. The defining characteristic is that these novels are often designed to induce a sense of fear, suspense, or psychological horror in the reader. Early versions of this genre included The Count of Monte Cristo (a revenge thriller) and Heart of Darkness (a psychological/horror thriller). More contemporary examples might be the novels of Stephen King.

Romance novels of the present day have some things in common with “romances” of the past: the idea of romantic love as an end goal, the occasional scandal, intense emotions at the center of it all. Today’s romances, however, are more specifically focused on telling a story of a romantic and/or sexual love between characters. They often follow highly specific structures and are all but required to have an optimistic or “happy” resolution. Romance is currently the most popular novel genre in the United States.

Historical Fiction

Just like its name suggests, historical fiction is simply a fictional story that takes place at some real, past time in human history. Some instances of historical fiction involve fictional (or semi-fictional) stories about actual historical figures, while others insert wholly original characters into real-life events. Iconic works of historical fiction include Ivanhoe , A Tale of Two Cities , Gone with the Wind , and The Hunchback of Notre Dame .

Realist Fiction

Realist fiction is, quite simply, fiction that eschews heightened genre or style to attempt to tell a story that “could” take place in the world as we know it. The focus is on representing things truthfully, without romanticization or artistic flourishes. Some of the best-known realist authors include Mark Twain , John Steinbeck , Honoré de Balzac, Anton Chekov, and George Eliot.

Novel Structure and Elements

A novel can be structured in a myriad of ways. Most commonly, novels will be structured chronologically, with story segments divided into chapters. However, this is not the only structural option for authors.

Dividing Up the Story

Chapters tend to revolve around some small portion of the novel that is unified by a character, theme, or piece of plot. In larger novels, chapters may be grouped together into even larger sections, perhaps grouped by time period or an overarching portion of the story. The division into smaller "chunks" of story is one of the defining elements of a novel; a story that's short enough to not need such divisions is likely not lengthy enough to qualify as a full-lengthy novel.

Timelines and Points of View

Authors may choose to structure novels in a variety of different ways. Instead of telling a story chronologically , for instance, the story may toggle between different time periods in order to maintain suspense or make a thematic point. Novels may also switch between the perspectives of multiple characters, rather than focusing on a single character as the sole protagonist. A novel may be told in the first person (narrated by a character) or in the third person (narrated by an outside "voice" with varying degrees of knowledge).

Three-Act Structure

Regardless of the time frame, a novel’s plot will often follow what is known as the three-act structure. The opening chapters will be concerned with acquainting readers with the main cast of characters and the world of the story, before a specific incident, typically referred to as the “inciting incident,” shakes up the status quo and launches the “real” story. From that point, the story (now in “Act 2”) will enter a series of complications as the protagonist pursues some goal, encountering obstacles and smaller goals along the way. At the midpoint of the story, there will often be some major shift that raises the stakes, all leading up to the emotional and narrative climax towards the end of the novel. “Act 3” concerns itself with this finale and the fallout .

  • Burgess, Anthony. "Novel." Encyclopaedia Britannica , https://www.britannica.com/art/novel .
  • Doody, Margaret Anne.  The True Story of the Novel . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.
  • Kuiper, Kathleen, ed. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature . Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1995.
  • Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel . University of California Press, 2001.
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a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.

(formerly) novella (def. 1) .

Origin of novel

Other words from novel.

  • nov·el·like, adjective

Words Nearby novel

  • Nova Scotia salmon
  • novated lease
  • Novaya Zemlya
  • novel coronavirus
  • novelettish

Other definitions for novel (2 of 3)

of a new and unusual kind; different from anything seen or known before: a novel idea.

not previously detected or reported: the emergence of novel strains of the virus.

synonym study For novel

Other definitions for novel (3 of 3).

Roman Law .

an imperial enactment subsequent and supplementary to an imperial compilation and codification of authoritative legal materials.

Usually Novels , imperial enactments subsequent to the promulgation of Justinian's Code and supplementary to it: one of the four divisions of the Corpus Juris Civilis.

Civil Law . an amendment to a statute.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use novel in a sentence

When the novel coronavirus shut down schools in March, school and youth athletics were also supposed to be shuttered.

It may be some time before we determine how the novel coronavirus will be influenced by the changing seasons.

Since the novel coronavirus was first detected in December, it has spread around the world and flourished in all kinds of climates.

Until we find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, your customers will likely engage with you through online channels.

It’s a novel way of doing the monthly report, which dictates more trust in the relationship and tools as well.

Submission is less a novel of ideas than a political book, and of the most subversive kind.

Houellebecq on Thursday announced that he is suspending promotion of the novel .

He was not originally so uninhibited, however, as can now be seen in his “lost” novel , Skylight.

His books include Render unto Rome and a novel about Louisiana politics, Last of the Red Hot Poppas.

None of these writers set out to write an “immigrant novel ,” or to make political statements.

But the novel disappeared under the clothes with amazing celerity as the voice of her sister-in-law demanded admission.

Once on my legs I found that nervousness left me, words came freely and I even enjoyed the novel experience.

You will not read the book with the rapidity with which some young ladies are said to devour the latest novel .

I tried to forget the grotesque exhibition I had stumbled upon, in the novel and interesting scene about me.

I have a mild grievance against that talented lady, Miss Marjorie Bowen, for labelling her latest novel "a romantic fantasy."

British Dictionary definitions for novel (1 of 3)

/ ( ˈnɒv ə l ) /

an extended work in prose, either fictitious or partly so, dealing with character, action, thought, etc, esp in the form of a story

the novel the literary genre represented by novels

(usually plural) obsolete a short story or novella, as one of those in the Decameron of Boccaccio

British Dictionary definitions for novel (2 of 3)

of a kind not seen before; fresh; new; original : a novel suggestion

British Dictionary definitions for novel (3 of 3)

Roman law a new decree or an amendment to an existing statute : See also Novels

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for novel

A long, fictional narration in prose. Great Expectations and Huckleberry Finn are novels, as are War and Peace and Lord of the Flies .

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

What is Novel? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Novel definition.

A novel (NAH-vull) is a narrative work of fiction published in book form. Novels are longer than short stories and novellas, with the greater length allowing authors to expand upon the same basic components of all fictional literature—character, conflict , plot , and setting , to name a few.

Novels have a long, rich history, shaped by formal standards, experimentation, and cultural and social influences. Authors use novels to tell detailed stories about the human condition, presented through any number of genres and styles .

The word novel comes from the Italian and Latin novella , meaning “a new story.”

The History of Novels

Ancient Greek, Roman, and Sanskrit narrative works were the earliest forebears of modern novels. These include the Alexander Romances, which fictionalize the life and adventures of Alexander the Great; Aethiopica , an epic romance by Heliodorus of Emesa; The Golden Ass by Augustine of Hippo, chronicling a magician’s journey after he turns himself into a donkey; and Vasavadatta by Subandhu, a Sanskrit love story.

The first written novels tended to be dramatic sagas with valiant characters and noble quests, themes that would continue to be popular into the 20th century. These early novels varied greatly in length, with some consisting of multiple volumes and thousands of pages.

Novels in the Middle Ages

Literary historians generally recognize Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji as the first modern novel, written in 1010. It’s the story of a Japanese emperor and his relationship with a lower-class concubine. Though the original manuscript, consisting of numerous sheets of paper glued together in book-like format, is lost, subsequent generations wrote and passed down the story. Twentieth-century poets and authors have attempted to translate the confusing text, with mixed results.

Chivalric romantic adventures were the novels of choice during the Middle Ages. Authors wrote them in either verse or prose , but by the mid-15th century, prose largely replaced verse as the preferred writing technique in popular novels. Until this time, there wasn’t much distinction between history and fiction; novels blended components of both.

The birth of modern printing techniques in the 16th and 17th centuries resulted in a new market of accessible literature that was both entertaining and informative. As a result, novels evolved into almost exclusively fictional stories to meet this upsurge in demand.

Novels in the Modern Period

Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes’s 1605 work The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha , frequently shortened to Don Quixote , is the first major Western novel. The popularity of Don Quixote and subsequent novels paved the way for the Romantic literary era that began in the latter half of the 18th century. Romantic literature challenged the ideas of both the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Age by focusing on novels entrenched in emotion, the natural world, idealism, and the subjective experiences of commoners. Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, James Fenimore Cooper, and Mary Shelley all emerged as superstars of the Romantic era.

Naturalism was, in many ways, a rebellion against romanticism. Naturalism replaced romanticism in the popular literary imagination by the end of the 19th century. Naturalistic novels favored stories that examined the reasons for the human condition and why characters acted and behaved the way they did. Landmark novels of this era included The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, McTeague by Frank Norris, and Les Rougon-Macquart by Émile Zola.

Novels in the Present

Many popular novels of the 19th and 20th centuries started out as serializations in newspapers and other periodicals, especially during the Victorian era. Several Charles Dickens novels, including The Pickwick Papers , Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo , and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin began this way, before publishers eventually released them in single volumes.

In the 20th century, many themes of naturalism remained, but novelists began to create more stream-of-consciousness stories that highlighted the inner monologues of their central characters. Modernist literature, including the works of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf, experimented with traditional form and language.

The Great Depression, two World Wars, and the civil rights movement impacted the American novel in dramatic ways, giving the world stories of war and the fallout of war (Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms , Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front ); abject poverty and opulent wealth (John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath , F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby ); the Black American experience (Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man , Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God ); and countercultural revolution (Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest , Jack Kerouac’s On the Road ).

Changing sexual attitudes in the early and mid-20th century allowed authors to explore sexuality in previously unheard-of depth (Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer , Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus ). By the 1970s, second-wave feminism introduced a new type of novel that centered women as authors of their own fates, not as romantic objects or supporting players existing only in relation to men (Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook , Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying ).

Throughout the 20th century, the popularity of the novel grew to such an extent that publishers pushed books more firmly into individual genres and subgenres for better classification and marketing. This resulted in every genre having breakout stars who set specific standards for the works in their category. At the same time, there is literary fiction, often considered more serious because of its greater emphasis on meaning than genre fiction’s entertainment value. However, authors can blur the line between genre and literary fiction; see Stephen King’s novels, Lessing’s space fiction novels, and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, to mention just a few. Both genre and literary fiction have legions of devoted fans.

Serialized novels fell out of favor as the 20th century unfolded. Today, novels are almost always published in single volumes. The average wordcount for contemporary adult fiction is 70,000 to 120,000 words, which is approximately 230 to 400 pages.

The Many Types of Novels

Literary Novels

Literary novels are a broad category of books often regarded as having more intellectual merit than genre fiction. These novels are not as bound to formula, and authors feel greater freedom to experiment with style ; examine the psychology and motivations of their characters; and make commentary on larger social conditions or issues. Literary novels possess a certain amount of intellectualism and depth. Their language is rich, their descriptions detailed, and their characters unique and memorable. Examples of popular literary novels include The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Genre Novels

In contrast to literary fiction, authors of genre novels tend to follow more of a basic plot formula, and they paint their characters with broader strokes and less nuance and complexity. Stories in this vein accentuate plot over character. The accepted norms of genre fiction allow a reader to pick up a certain kind of novel and, in general, know what to expect from it. However, the boundaries of genre fiction are considerably malleable, and you could just as easily classify many genre works as lofty as any literary novel. Also, many genre novels fall under more than one genre. Below are several major genres/subgenres of the contemporary novel.

Bildungsroman/Coming of Age

A bildungsroman is a coming-of-age novel that highlights a period of profound emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual growth for a young protagonist. Depending on the nature and depth of the story and the author’s goals, a bildungsroman can skew toward a young readership or an adult one. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain are two notable bildungsroman novels.

Children and Young Adult

More of a catchall term than a genre, children and young adult novels center on young protagonists having formative experiences. Plots deal with issues and challenges of special interest to young readers, such as friendship, bullying, prejudice, school and academic life, gender roles and norms, changing bodies, and sexuality.

Classic children and young adult novels include Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. More recently, some young people’s literature has had a crossover appeal to adult audiences, with the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins garnering legions of fans both young and old.

Death and romance are major plot points in gothic novels. The supernatural, family curses, stock characters like Byronic heroes and innocent maidens, and moody settings like castles or monasteries usually figure prominently in the storylines. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux are two beloved gothic novels.

Historical novels take place in the past, where plots typically involve a specific historical event or era. The novel may or may not include fictionalized versions of real people. Authors of historical fiction often conduct in-depth research of the times about which they write to provide readers with a vivid reimagining of what life was like. Popular historical novels include The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, and Roots by Alex Haley.

Authors of horror novels write plots and characters intended to scare or disgust the reader. The stories frequently incorporate elements of the supernatural and/or psychological components designed to startle the reader and get them to question what they know about the characters. The Shining by Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and Dracula by Bram Stoker are perennial favorites of this genre.

Mysteries tell stories of crimes and the attempts to solve them. There are multiple types of mystery novels, such as noir, police procedurals, professional and amateur detective fiction, legal thrillers, and cozy mysteries. Examples include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

Picaresque novels feature the adventures of impish, lowborn but likeable heroes who barrel through a variety of different encounters, living by their wits in corrupt or oppressive societies. Picaresque novels reached their peak of popularity in Europe from the 16th to 19th centuries, but authors still occasionally write them today. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling , by Henry Fielding is a classic picaresque, while A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a more recent one.

Roman à Clef

A roman à clef is an autobiographical novel, which fictionalizes real people and events. An author of a roman à clef has the freedom to write about controversial or deeply personal, secretive topics without technically exposing anyone or anything—or exposing themselves to charges of libel. They can also imagine different scenarios and resolutions for real-life situations. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Devil Wear Prada by Lauren Weisberger are both roman à clefs.

Romance novels are love stories. The main plot usually features the dramatic courtship of two characters as they discover their feelings and attempt to be together. An antagonist frustrates these attempts but rarely wins, which means romance novels almost always end in a happily-ever-after.

Contemporary romance, historical romance, inspirational romance, and LGBTQ romance are just a few of the subgenres on the market. Examples of romance novels include A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

A satirical novel humorously criticizes someone or something. The author will typically employ exaggerated plots and characters to underscore a specific fallibility or corruption. Common targets include public figures, laws and government policies, and social norms. Satires can possess considerable power by using humor to comment on societal or human flaws. Animal Farm by George Orwell and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller are masterworks of the genre.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Science fiction novels deal with emerging or new technologies, space exploration, futurism, and other speculative elements. Similarly, fantasy novels integrate elements that defy known scientific laws, with magic and folklore often playing a major role in the worlds and characters created by the author. Science fantasy novels are a subgenre that combine these two forms. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and The War of the Worlds are prime examples of science fiction, while The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin are enduring fantasy classics.

The Great American Novel

A uniquely American phenomenon is what novelist John William DeForest called the “Great American Novel.” The definition of this term is open to some interpretation, but, in general, it refers to a novel that captures the spirit and experience of life in the United States and the essence of the national character. Since DeForest coined the term in 1868, many novels have claimed this title, though there’s no single organization or institution that bestows such a designation. Books cited as a Great American Novel include Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Novels’ Different Styles and Formats

Authors can write novels using any number of techniques. A straightforward narrative that utilizes a conventional plot is just one approach. Others include:

An epistolary novel tells its story through fictional letters, newspaper and magazine clippings, diary entries, emails, and other documents. The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos are examples of epistolary novels.


An experimental novel plays with traditional form, plot, character, and/or voice . The author might invent techniques or words that present their story in innovative ways. Such works are sometimes challenging and exhilarating for readers, and they inspire looking at the novel as an ever-evolving art form. Popular experimental novels include Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson and Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

Modernism as a distinct literary form flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Modernist fiction challenged conventional ideas of structure and linear storytelling and is a precursor to today’s experimental fiction. Individualism, symbolism , absurdity, and wild experimentation were common in modernist novels. Ulysses by James Joyce and Nightwood by Djuna Barnes are quintessential modernist novels.


Philosophical novels are, more than anything, novels of ideas. They put forth moral, theoretical, and/or metaphysical ideas, assertions, and speculations. They’re not necessarily academic works; they still include plots and characters, but these exist as symbols of a larger philosophical theme. Examples of philosophical novels include The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and Under the Net by Iris Murdoch.


Sentimental novels tug at the heartstrings. Authors design these novels to appeal to readers’ sympathy and compassion. As its own literary form, sentimental novels—like The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson—abounded during the 18th century. Stella Dallas by Olive Higgins Prouty and Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart are more recent novels written in this style.

Novels written in verse are rare in today’s literary landscape, but they have their roots as far back as The Iliad and The Odyssey . The narratives blend fiction and poetry by telling a fictional tale through traditional verses of rhythms and stanzas . Two contemporary verse novels are Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow.

The Function of Novels

Compared to short stories and novellas, novels give authors the opportunity to create more detailed plots, characters, and worlds. An author can delve more fully into the trajectory of the story and the evolution of the characters, presenting struggles, conflicts , and, ultimately, resolutions. For readers, novels also entertain and educate. They can be an escape and a leisure activity, one that engages the mind in a way that other forms of entertainment cannot. They are instructive as well, informing readers about society, history, morality, and/or aspects of the human condition, depending on the novel.

Novels have never been entirely without controversy. They give authors an outlet to create imaginative stories, but they can also function as commentaries on the societies that publish them. Governments, schools, and other authority figures and institutions might see such novels as subversive and even dangerous. This has led many countries, including the United States, to ban novels deemed offensive. Novels banned by authorities at one point or another include The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, and Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin.

Notable Novelists

  • Bildungsroman/Coming of Age: Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Children and Young Adult: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie
  • Epistolary: Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
  • Experimental: Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
  • Gothic: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; The Modern Prometheus
  • The Great American Novel: Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Historical: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
  • Horror: Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby
  • Literary: Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Modernist: Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
  • Mystery: Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
  • Philosophical: Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
  • Picaresque: William Makepeace Thackeray, The Luck of Barry Lyndon
  • Roman à Clef: Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge
  • Romance: Nora Roberts, Northern Lights
  • Satire: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy: Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower
  • Sentimental: Maria Susanna Cummins, The Lamplighter
  • Verse: Allan Wolf, The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

Examples in Literature

1. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Don Quixote is a satire of the chivalric romances popular during Cervantes’s time. Middle-aged Don Quixote of 16th-century La Mancha, Spain, spends his life reading these epic tales. They inspire him to revive what he sees as the lost concept of chivalry, so he picks up a sword and shield and becomes a knight. His goal is to defend the defenseless and eliminate evil. His partner in this endeavor is a poor farmer named Sancho Panza. They ride through Spain on their horses, searching for adventure, and Don Quixote falls in love with a peasant named Dulcinea. Don Quixote and Sancho embark upon multiple quests to restore lost honor to the nation. Ultimately, Don Quixote returns home, denounces his knighthood, and dies of fever, bringing an end to chivalry.

2. Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is a classic Romantic -era novel that also contains some satirical elements that wittily criticize the social decorum of the time. In 1790s England, Henry Dashwood’s death leaves his wife and three daughters nearly destitute. The older daughters, Elinor and Marianne, realize their only hope for saving the family is to find suitable husbands.

Sensible Elinor falls for Edward Ferrars, while romantic Marianne feels torn between dashing John Willoughby and sturdy Colonel Brandon. After recovering from a fever, Marianne realizes Colonel Brandon is the steady force she desires, not the impetuous Willoughby, and after some initial confusion, Elinor learns that Edward is in love with her. The young women marry their suitors, and the two couples live as neighbors.

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a novel that examines the American Dream, class inequality, and themes of love and loss. Nick Carraway arrives on Long Island in the spring of 1922, moving into a cottage next to a sprawling estate owned by elusive millionaire Jay Gatsby. Known for hosting lavish parties that he never attends, Gatsby is an almost mythic figure in the community. Nick learns that Gatsby is passionately in love with Daisy, the wife of Nick’s old college friend Tom, who has a mistress named Myrtle.

Nick wrangles an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, and the two become friends. Through Nick, Gatsby arranges a meeting with Daisy, beginning an intense affair. One night, Gatsby and Daisy are driving home and accidently run into and kill Myrtle. Daisy was the one driving, but Gatsby takes the blame, and Myrtle’s husband kills him. The entire experience leaves Nick cold toward New York life, feeling that he, Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom never fit in with this world.

4. Toni Morrison, Beloved

Beloved is an historical novel that delves into the lasting psychological effects of slavery. Sethe, a formerly enslaved woman, lives with her daughter Denver in 1870s Cincinnati. Paul D, a man enslaved with Sethe on the Sweet Home plantation, arrives at their door, and not long after, a mysterious young woman—only identifying herself as Beloved—arrives as well. Sethe eventually believes that Beloved is the incarnation of her youngest daughter, who she killed to prevent her capture and sale into slavery.

Sethe grows obsessed with Beloved, losing her job, pushing away Paul D, and alienating Denver in the process. Denver reaches out to the local Black community and gets a job working for a white family. When Denver’s employer comes to pick her up for her first day of work, Sethe, by this time delirious and delusional, thinks he’s a slavecatcher coming yet again to take Beloved. She attempts to attack him but is held back by the townspeople, an act that seemingly sets Beloved free, and the mysterious young woman disappears in a cloud of butterflies. Denver supports the family, and Paul D returns to Sethe and reminds her of her worth.

Further Resources on Novels

Jane Friedman answers the question, What is a literary novel?

The Guardian has a list of their picks for the 100 best novels written in English .

Literary Hub offers insights into the Great American Novel .

Writer’s Digest shares the 10 rules of writing a novel .

Writing coach Vivian Reis coaches beginners through the writing of a novel .

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novel book meaning

Novel vs. Book: When To Use Each Word

  • Book Vs. Novel
  • Similar Words

⚡ Quick summary

A novel is a type of book . Generally, a book is considered to be a novel if it is long, is written in prose, and is a work of fiction. A novel typically tells a narrative story about events that happen to characters in a particular setting. 

During your life, you have likely read quite a few books and novels. However, you might not know exactly why one thing might be only called a book whereas something else is called both a book and a novel.

In this article, we’ll help you read up on the different meanings of the words book and novel , explain what criteria are typically used to decide if something is a novel, and provide other words that we use to refer to different types of books. 

book vs. novel

While all novels are books, not all books are novels. A novel is a type of book just as a banana is a type of fruit. Generally, a book is considered to be a novel if it is long, is written in prose , and is a work of fiction . Typically, novels tell a narrative story about a person or group within a setting . While the exact page count will vary, a novel usually must be at least around 50,000 words, and many novels are much longer than this. Sometimes, books will identify themselves as novels on the cover or in the title. 

Because novels must be fictional, works of nonfiction are never considered to be novels. Nonfiction books are often simply referred to as books, identified by a more specific category, like a memoir or a dictionary, or are referred to by descriptive adjectives, like a history book or a coloring book. Novels are also distinct from poems , which are written in verse rather than prose.   

Because novels are always fictional, it’s important to distinguish them from other types of books. Most nonfiction books, such as memoirs or reference books, place an importance on providing true, accurate information. For this reason, it is crucial that these books are not erroneously categorized as novels, since that would imply that they are actually works of fiction and the information they contain is either wrong or invented. 

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Examples of book and novel used in a sentence

Let’s turn the page and read some example sentences that show how we typically use the words book and novel .

  • The Bible is one of history’s most influential books. 
  • The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. 
  • I found an interesting book about astronomy at the library. 
  • She has written many poems, novels, and short stories about robots. 
  • This book is about the writing process that Stephen King uses when writing his horror novels. 

Similar words

Books can be categorized in a variety of ways. In general, the word nonfiction refers to books that include true information or recount events that actually happened. By contrast, books that are referred to as fiction, such as novels, include made-up events or tell stories about imagined characters. 

Sometimes, books are further categorized based on length. The terms novel , novella , and short story are some examples of categories applied based on how long a fiction book is. 

Many reference books or informative books are categorized based on what information is in the book. Words like dictionary , memoir , autobiography , atlas , almanac , journal , and manual refer to books that contain specific types of information.

Books, like other forms of art, are also often assigned to different genres depending on certain qualities, such as themes or setting. Some examples of book genres include romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery, thriller, and historical fiction. 

Done reading a book and need to analyze it for school? Here's how to write a book review.

Ways To Say

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Home » Blog » Novel vs Book – What’s the Difference?

Novel vs Book – What’s the Difference?

novel book meaning


More often than not, the terms ‘Novel’ and ‘Book’ are used interchangeably by most people, and their true meanings are eluded in the process. Many do not usually consider the semantics of these words. Semantics involves the literal and connotative meaning of terms in a language. There is a need to establish the meaning of both of these words before trying to differentiate them. Hence, the topic Novel vs Book.

Now that we have realized our critical mistake of using these two interchangeably, a couple of questions pop up; ‘What are the differences between a novel and a book?’, ‘How does one identify a novel from a book?’, and, of course, ‘How does one pick the right word?’

In this post, Novel vs. Book will be presented in a different form to point out their differences. Then, the ways of picking the right one for usage will be highlighted. We will begin with the glaring discrepancies and then talk about the subtle ones as well. Knowledge of the differences will enable us to answer subsequent questions.

What is a Book?

A book is a term used in referring to any written or printed work of literature on a particular subject matter. In other words, it is a compendium of written words made available to define the basic concepts of a field in focus. For instance, a written work on the subject studied by students is a typical example of a book, say World War I and II in History.

Books are written with the aim of expanding the knowledge of the readers on a specific subject. They could be works of fiction, non-fiction, or even a combination of both. Fantasy is literature that describes and tells narratives themed on imaginary scenes and characters. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is a category containing educational, theoretical, and factual research. All books are products of non-fiction except for novels.

Those who are credited for writing such works as books are known as authors. They can be called writers as well.

These authors necessarily discuss the rudiments of the subject in focus, dissect and explain the principles involving the rudiments and enhance the knowledge of the reader, either actively or passively. They present information in various forms including text, image, graphs, and charts to enhance theoretical and practical learning.

The term book can also mean an e-book especially in the modern era where digital publishing is highly sought after. This comes with the introduction of different formats to make documents portable and easily accessible anywhere such as PDF and EPUB. Amazon wouldn’t be a household name if they were not part of this stride.

A book can also be used to refer to a collection of bound blank sheets for writing. A typical example is an exercise book –one of those materials for writing in schools and formal learning situations. However, this definition is irrelevant and out of the context when discussing the differences between a novel and a book especially when both are written or printed documents.

What is a Novel?

A novel is an established fictional work written to captivate and entertain a reader with a handful of common or poetic mechanisms. The purpose of writing a novel is to tell a complete story in any way the novelist deems fit. You’re probably asking ‘What in the world is a novelist?’ or instead, who?

A novelist, as the name implies, is one that writes novels. It is safe to refer to novelists as writers too. Instead of focusing on a particular subject matter, novelists tell fictional stories from the beginning to the end in not less than forty thousand (40,000) words.

Novels come in different genres such as science fiction (or sci-fi), crime, fantasy, romance, teen drama, melodrama, etc. Novelists tell stories in different ways to highlight some problems in the society – either to expose the readers’ understanding of them or create some patterns of thought charging one to profer solutions or stand by the ones already proffered. They successfully pinpoint these problems through the actions and shortcomings of their characters.

A typical novel usually contains up to sixty thousand (60, 000) words. Examples of novels include James Joyce’s Ulysses , Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s Petals of Blood and Homer’s Odyssey .

You’re probably thinking ‘s I have read many books don’t have that many words, so novels are bigger than books.’ Put that thought on hold and consider the differences below.

Novel vs. Book –The Comparisons

We have established the fact that books and novels are both written and printed materials of information (educative, creative, and entertaining) made to serve various purposes. However, it is crucial to note that all published novels are books, but not all books are not novels.

novel book meaning

Did you find that confusing?

Here are more practical explanations with examples:

• When it comes to content, the pages of a typical book can contain non-fiction or fiction, but in a novel, it is all fiction. Since books can be fictional or otherwise, we can draw this salient conclusion; ‘A novel is a fictional book detailing a story –describing its characters, their wants and actions, the obstacles in their way and whether or not they achieve their aims.’ In some cases, novels can be made up of non-fictional writings. This is true in the case of autobiographies.

An autobiography is a real-life story of a particular person, written by him/her to narrate life experiences. You probably have heard or seen the term ‘memoir’. It is the same as an autobiography. Examples of successful autobiographies include Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Dreams From my Father by Barrack Obama.

Sometimes, elements of fiction are used in autobiographies to create the desired thrill. Such autobiographical works with fictional elements are known as autobiography novels.

• Books also differ from novels in terms of their purpose. For example, The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a novel and a book, but The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a book.

If you have read both, you’ll notice the former tells a story (or stories), and the latter is a text on the subject matter, Power. The former’s purpose is solely entertainment and expression of the writers view while the latter’s mission is to introduce and explain the principles of power.

• While a book is written on a specific subject without a fixed count for the minimum amount of words to be used, a novel is a book of a story or stories (in the case of the collection of short stories) written in not less than forty thousand words. Any book of stories short of that amount of words is not a novel.

• Books can be anything ranging from poetry to field-specific journals, from stories to workbooks, etc. Novels only contain stories and nothing more. Therefore, novels can be called a subset of books.

• In recent novels, chances are you will find glibs written by other writers, editors or publishers to yell the intricacies of the writing. But then, glibs can’t be found in books other than novels or other creative works. Imagine seeing something like this in the first or last page of a book on Linear Algebra ‘Bob came almost fully made. His knowledge of algebra screams itself throughout the book’. I’m assuming the author is Bob Rowlands. It isn’t realistic and necessary to have such a comment on that kind of book. When you find such in books of stories, it is very much welcome. It subtly recommends the novel to potential readers.

• Going back in time, we will discover that the Novel vs Book comparison will bend in favor of ‘Book’ in terms of age or period of existence. This is because books have been in existence from the beginning. Ancient scrolls that make up the Bible, Torah, Qur’an and even the Bhagavad Gita are tagged as books.

Novels, as forms of books, only began emerging from the 9th century with works like Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji (1010), Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais, and Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller which were both published in the 16th century. The invention of printing press technology in Europe gave rise to the celebrated modern era first novelist Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote .

With these facts, we can safely conclude that books have been in existence for a very long time, but novels are newer, and they are forms of books.

• Novels differ from other books in terms of structure. In novels, the writer employs the use of structural features of compelling storytelling like character formation and development, story plot, setting, and theme. Novels invoke some emotional response in the psyche of the reader while books on some subject matter do nothing of the sort. Asides the expository approach to aid learning, books that aren’t novels are void of emotions. Poetry collections, however, are exceptions of this.

• Books are mostly sources of information, but novels are sources of entertainment. It is doubtful if anyone reads a textbook to discover thrills in fantasy or sci-fi worlds.

Novel vs. Book –the Similarities

Apart from being different in context, novels and books also have some characteristic features in common. This is not surprising since novels are a subset of books –that is, all novels can be found in the book category.

The features particular to both novels and books are outlined below.

• A medium of delivery: Both novels and books are printed or written on bound paper materials. Recently, with the steady pace at which self-publishing is growing, both novels and books can also be sourced digitally. This still doesn’t change the fact that they have the same channels of delivering their contents.

• Content: Books and novels are similar in the way they present their materials. If you are observant, you’ll find that books and novels are segmented into parts and chapters to aid assimilation and for easy reference.

• Information: The primary purpose of reading any material is to garner information. This information could be educative and entertaining at the same time or one of the two. Books are sought after for the knowledge they contain. Novels mainly serve for entertainment. However, both are sources of information.

How to Pick the Right Term in Usage

We now know the obvious differences between a novel and a book, and we have probably decided partly on when to use which name. Since ‘novel’ and ‘book,’ as we have seen, have different literal interpretations, interchanging one for the other will be a grammatical blunder –a grave offense against the great pillars of the language. But continuing in your mistakes after being exposed to the nuances these two terms boast is nothing but a show of ignorance.

To make it easier for reference, I’ll give the acceptable forms of using the two words. We will highlight different scenarios and see why it should be ‘novel’ instead of ‘book’ in some places and vice versa.

• Any piece of written work on a subject matter, say Cell in Biology or The 48 Laws of Power, is always a book and never a novel. Therefore, it will be wrong to say; ‘I have read The 48 Laws of Power. It is an intriguing novel.’

Remember: All published novels are books, but not all books are novels. With that, you can boldly call a novel a book and get away with it. This is one medium that allows for interchanging the two words. However, in situations where clarity is presumably necessary, it is best to point out which book you are referring to. Again, a book containing stories is a novel. And not just that, it has to include at least 40,000 words.

If you’re looking for a place to write your novel or book, we’ve created Squibler , an online writing tool. It helps you outline your novel or book while organizing your notes.

novel book meaning

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Novel Definition

A Novel is a long narrative work of fiction with some realism . It is often in prose form and is published as a single book. The word ‘novel’ has been derived from the Italian word ‘ novella ’ which means “new”. Similar to a short story , a novel has some features like a representation of characters , dialogues , setting , plot , climax , conflict , and resolution . However, it does not require all the elements to be a good novel.

Types of Novel

There are many types of novels. They include mysteries , thrillers , suspense , detective, science fiction , romantic, historical, realist or even postmodern.

Examples of Novels from Literature

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell was written in 1945 and published in England. It allegorizes the story of the Communist Revolution in Russia through the characters of pigs and satirizes its degradation into the same totalitarian regime. The story revolves around animals where pigs are the cleverer than others. They bring a revolution, expelling their old master, Mr. Jones. However, after a couple of years, the pig leaders Snowball and Napoleon develop friction. Snowball flees to save his life, and the situation turns a full circle where Napoleon and his cohorts again take a dictatorial turn to run the administration of the farm through propaganda and other strategies. This is a short form of a novel with animals as its characters.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is a tour de force of Hemingway which won Noble Prize for Literature for him. A model of the realistic novel, the Old Man and the Sea presents the story of an old man who is too fragile to fish alone in the Gulf Stream near the Cuban capital of Havana. However, he hooks a truly huge marlin which tests his mettle for almost three days. Although he kills the marlin by the end, he loses it to sharks. His extreme fight and endurance win him accolades from the readers.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

This is one of the best comings of the age novels, which takes the reader on a journey to see the life of a poor young boy, Pip. In the novel, Pip’s transformation from a poor orphan into a gentleman living in London goes through various challenges. His mistakes teach him valuable lessons as he realizes what his benefactors and Joe did for him. Parallelly, he falls in love with prideful Estelle and does his best to win her affection. By the end of the novel, Estelle is a widow and humbled, and Pip asks her to marry him, which she accepts. Without a doubt, “The Great Expectations ” is one of the best English novels which tells the main characters personal growth and development.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Although written in the 19 th century, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of the best science fictions. The story of a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein obsessed with the idea of creating life. He creates ‘the Creature’ and is repulsed by his own experiment. The Creature brings havoc in Victor Frankenstein’s life after he fails to give him a partner. Both Victor and the creature meet with a tragic end. The story teaches a lesson that we must never intervene with nature.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is one of the best novels of the last century, which explores the role of fate and chance in an individual’s life. Tess belongs to a poor family, but her father discovers that their family perhaps descendants of D’Urbervilles, a noble family, after meeting Parson Tringham. Taking pride in his ancient lineage, he spends whatever they have and forces his young daughter to work on a farm where she is raped. Later, another young man, Angel Clare, marries her but after this disclosure, he leaves her. By the end of the novel, Angel returns and accepts her, but Tess is hanged for murdering her former rapist, Alec.

Novel Meaning and Function

A novel presents a whole picture as compared to a short story which displays only one aspect of life, or one side of the story. It also shows a vast panorama to its readers to see the story through an age in which it is presented such as The Tale of Two Cities has been written during the times when France and England were going through a lot of changes. Similarly, a novel also presents a conflict and its resolution. For every writer, a novel is a strong tool to present the philosophical, historical, social, cultural and moral perspectives .

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Novel Versus Book: What’s the Difference?

novel book meaning

by Holly Riddle

You, a novelist, say you’re writing a novel. Your friend says they’re writing a book. However, you’re not both necessarily writing the same thing. While the two terms can sometimes be used interchangeably in literature, there are some key differences between what constitutes a book and what constitutes a novel.

Have you ever heard the phrase “all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon?” Or, if you’re not a whiskey fan, think of it this way: all Golden Retrievers are dogs, but not all dogs are Golden Retrievers. The same concept applies to novels and books. All novels are books, but not all books are novels.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What’s the difference between book and novel?

A novel is a specific type of book — one that tells a continuous narrative story with a beginning, middle, and end. To be a true novel, the story must always be fictional. A book can be a novel, but it can also refer to other types of bound and printed material like biographies, history books, cookbooks, and instruction manuals.

We’ll take a deeper look at each one below.

What’s a book, really ?

A book is anything that’s written or printed (digitally or traditionally) and bound into one singular volume.

The word “book” refers to any written or printed work, a collection of pages bound together to create some sort of reading material. A book can be any length, any subject, any form.

A book can fill many purposes. You might read nonfiction books to gain knowledge about a particular subject matter. Other readers might want to browse short stories or poetry. You both reach for books.

So long as it’s made up of printed pages bound together, you’ve got a book. (This said, in the modern era, a book doesn’t have to be a physical object. Thanks to digital publishing, a book can also be an e-book, so keep that in mind; for the purposes of this article, we’re considering all written material or written work as books, even if they’re published digitally.)

A book can be a novel, but it can also be so much more. A book might be a…

Poetry collection

Short story collection

Travel guide book

Exercise book

History book

The list goes on and on and on. Some books don’t even have any printed words. Sometimes, a book is just a notebook or sketchbook with blank pages, which proves there’s no need for a book to have a specific subject or content for it to be a book.

What is a novel?

novel book meaning

Unlike the term “book,” which is a broad and sweeping term that applies to all sorts of printed material, “novel” is a term that applies to one very specific type of book.

A novel is a fictional narrative that tells a story and has a specific word count. A typical novel is usually at least fifty thousand words long. Anything shorter is considered a novella, before you get even shorter, to a novelette, before you get even shorter, at which point you may have a short story.

As a side note, the term “literature” refers to all fictional works , not just those considered novels—but a novel is always a fictional book, designed to elicit an emotional response and of a certain length.

Types of novels

Novels can be further divided down into different genres, including…

Science fiction

Children’s fiction

Literary fiction

Women’s fiction

But all of these genres share key things in common. They all relate fictional accounts and all meet the word-length requirements for being both a book and novel.

Checklist. Header: “A novel must be…” Checklist: 1. Fictional 2. At least 50,000 words 3. Driven by narrative

Novel vs. book examples

To further drive these definitions home, let’s look at some examples of books and published novels, and decide what category they fall into: novels or a book of another category.

Examples of published novels

All the novels on this list are fiction, even if they deal with some true events.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This example of a fan-favorite novel tells the story of a time-traveling nurse who’s swept away in a tantalizing romance and the political intrigue of 1700s Scotland and England.

Because this is a fictional tale with fictional elements (unless you want to believe time travel is real and we really have an account of main character Claire’s journey backward through time), this fiction book is categorized as a novel.

Babel by R. F. Kuang

This compelling book quickly gained a following for its smart takes on colonialism and racism, but despite its historic and real setting (Oxford University), and despite the footnotes scattered throughout the book that make it feel curiously like a textbook, this is a novel, as it relates the magical story of a handful of students in their own world.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

This book incorporates a cast of very real historical figures, instead of imaginary characters, and follows very real historic events—and, yet, it’s still fiction, still lengthy, and thus a novel. Many historical fiction books include real events and real people, but, at the end of the day, if there’s even an iota of fictional elements within a book, the entire book is considered fiction.

Examples of nonfiction books

These books are reading resources that deal with a specific subject.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book has magic, if you believe the title, and it has a story… so is it a novel? Not quite. This non fiction book is, instead of a novel, a memoir with autobiographical elements which follows the author’s journey through mourning following the death of her husband. While the relatable and award-winning tale is easy to follow, with a comfortable narrative structure, it’s all true and non-fiction, so not a novel.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

While this book is certainly used by quite a large number of novelists, it wouldn’t be considered a novel. Instead, this self-help guide to tapping into your creativity on a deeper level is, in fact, just a book (even if a particular type of book). It’s not a novel.

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

This book is fictional, all the way through. It’s, as a whole, long enough to be a novel… and yet it’s not a novel. Why? Because it’s a collection of short fictional stories instead. A novel will focus on one (or a handful) of stories that are explored from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. In contrast, with a short story collection, each story can stand on its own, without relying on the others.

History books, exercise books, and other reading resources fall into the “book” category.

A story doesn’t make a novel. Sometimes, memoirs and or an “autobiographical novel” tell a story, but it’s still non fiction—and, thus, just a book.

Novel vs. book: Does the difference really matter?

While you might not think that the difference between book and novel really matters (and, in some instances, like when you’re just chatting with your writer friends, it won’t), if you write books and are pursuing traditional publishing deals, it can be a smart idea to have a handle on these terms and what they do and don’t mean. Knowing the industry’s terminology will put you that much further ahead of the pack in a crowded landscape filled with writers vying for those coveted book deals.

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  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference Between Novel and Book

Last updated on December 19, 2019 by Surbhi S

novel vs book

On the other hand, reading novels is a kind of recreational activity which helps a person to forget his/her tensions and sorrows for a while and get absorbed in the story.

Books are perceived as the source of authentic and verified information, whereas a novel is a good source of entertainment. People often juxtapose them, but there are subtle differences between the two which we are going to discuss here.

Content: Novel Vs Book

Comparison chart, definition of novel.

The novel is a type of a lengthy narrative fictional book with some realism, presented in prose style, which exhibits personal human experiences by way of a continuous chain of events concerning various characters in a particular setting.

A novel tells a story that has a complex and diverse narration. It contains a plot, setting, different themes and round characters in the story of a novel. Here, the word “round character” means the main characters of the story, who faces difficult situations, undergoes a transformation and with whom the readers can easily relate to.

A novel is written in such a way that amuses or amazes the readers and keeps them engaged in the story. It also reveals the social, political, economic and other facts and truths of a place and time period, with exactness.

The novelist as a narrator or one of the characters of the story narrates the chain of events that takes place, with clarity, in which the story evolves. It helps the reader to visualize and connect themselves with the overall setting and plot. Hence, the novel invokes an emotional response in the reader

Definition of Book

A book is basically a physical object, comprising a set of typed, printed or illustrated pages that are fastened together along one side, and protected with a paperback on both the ends. These are nothing but a source of information and education, which are meant to enlighten, enrich and enhance the knowledge of the readers.

Books are the greatest source of information. It records, analyses, summarizes and arranges the subject-related data in a proper format so that the readers can easily understand it. It may also contain examples, case studies, experiments, tips and tricks, etc. for clear and better interpretation of the topic.

The cover page of the book contains the basic details of the book’s publication such as title, author, publisher, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), etc. Thereafter, in the initial pages, you may find copyright page, acknowledgement, foreword, preface, table of contents which followed by the main body of the book. In the end, you may find glossary and bibliography.

Books are available in different languages, in fact, the translated versions of many books are also available. Nowadays, books are also available in pdf format and in the form of ebooks.

Key Differences Between Novel and Book

The difference between novel and book is discussed in the points given below:

  • Book refers to the published account containing information specific to the subject, printed on a set of pages which are held together between paperback. Conversely, a novel is a well-written fictional work, written in order to fascinate and entertain the readers with a story.
  • While a novel is nothing but a type of book, a book is a work of literature, which includes novels, comic books, textbooks, journals, workbooks, and many other types of books. Hence, it won’t be wrong to say all novels are books but vice versa is not true.
  • The writer of a novel is called novelist, whereas the writer of a book is known as the author.
  • Novels are known for invoking a cognitive response in the reader. It is written by the novelist in such a way which requires incessant reading, in order to get thoroughly absorbed in the story. On the other side, intermittent reading is required in the case of books.
  • The novel covers a story which has various characters (lead and supporting), plot, dialogue, setting, theme and conflict that reflects the real-world situations. In contrast, the book may contain different literary works prose, poetry, story, fairy tales, novels, etc. and subject-specific information.
  • Novels are meant to captivate, relax and entertain the readers. As against, books are intended to introduce, educate and inform the readers about the subject.
  • When it comes to word count, a novel should not be less than forty thousand words. However, there is no specific word count in case of a book.

To sum up the entire discussion, we can say that books are always on a specific subject, written with the aim of spreading education or informing the readers. On the contrary, Novels discusses a story, its characters and every now and then with the readers.

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Cambridge Dictionary

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Meaning of book in English

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book noun ( TEXT )

  • We're reading a different book this week .
  • In the last two years the book has only sold 200 copies .
  • She published a book of poems and followed it up with a novel .
  • I have to return my library books on the sixth of July .
  • He's the author of several hugely successful children's books.
  • creative writing
  • intertextual
  • intertextuality
  • intertextually
  • self-portrait
  • versification

You can also find related words, phrases, and synonyms in the topics:

book noun ( IN COVER )

  • age bracket
  • agglomerate
  • agglomeration
  • Aladdin's cave
  • permutation
  • starter kit

book noun ( MONEY RECORD )

  • a/the bookmaker's phrase
  • anti-gambling
  • co-favorite
  • scratch ticket
  • scratcher ticket
  • slot machine
  • smart money
  • spread betting
  • stake something on something
  • stakeholder

book verb ( ARRANGE )

  • I've booked the car into the garage .
  • I've booked a table at the restaurant for nine o'clock.
  • He booked a double room .
  • We booked the vacation on a whim .
  • It's a good thing that we booked our tickets early.
  • advance booking
  • book in/book into somewhere
  • double-book
  • reservation
  • ride-hailing

book verb ( MAKE A RECORD )

  • apprehension
  • house arrest
  • pick someone/something up
  • police action
  • post-arrest
  • probable cause

Phrasal verbs

Book | intermediate english, book noun [c] ( text ), book verb ( accuse ), book | business english, examples of book, collocations with book.

These are words often used in combination with book .

Click on a collocation to see more examples of it.

Translations of book

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your mental health or your ability to think and remember clearly

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novel book meaning

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Novel vs. Book – What’s the Difference?

Novel vs. book. what’s the difference the writer and the reader hold immense significance in the creation, evolution, and sustenance of the literary world. the wordsmith writes the book, and the reader finishes it. the writer is consumed by the passion of the craft flowing within, and the reader is captivated by the words printed on paper..

Contrary to what most believe, reading is not a passive habit but rather, it’s an action-packed adventure that allows us to experience a broad range of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Every time we pick up a book to read or shop at our favorite bookstores, we’re mostly already prepared about what kind of book we’re looking for, whether it’s a novel or non-fiction, or poetry, comics, etc. Though we don’t focus much on the standards and regulations around book classifications, there’s always a specific kind that pulls us to it.

But what really is the difference between novel and book? Is it a type difference or a structural difference? Are novels and books the same? As a reader, these trivialities and complexities don’t matter much in the quest to find a good read. But as a writer, unraveling the novel vs. book debate will help you tremendously.

So, novel vs. book, what is the difference and how can you use this information to harness and hone your craft? Keep reading to find out.

Decoding the Difference Between Novel and Book

The terms novel and book are used so frequently and interchangeably that many of us consider them synonyms. But as we explore literary classifications and guidelines, we realize that the two terms are strikingly different. The novel vs. book debate demands us to turn our attention towards the semantics to understand the distinctive factors.

What is a novel?

A novel is strictly a work of fiction that presents a lengthy and highly detailed story, taking you on a long journey of growth, discovery, and a rewarding conclusion. The writer can combine various narrational and prose styles to captivate the reader and create an enchanting world for the characters to thrive. Novels are a powerful form of storytelling, and writers can choose their literary calling from a broad array of genres and subgenres.

Some popular novel genres include romance, historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, crime, thriller, horror, and more. Novelists are encouraged to expand their horizons and open themselves up for a wide array of creative dimensions. Head over to LivingWriter, a vibrant community for wordsmiths, to explore more genres and find your literary calling.

Novels are written with the aim of telling a complete story, which could be entirely fictional or inspired by real events. Wordsmiths who pen down novels are called novelists, and this name stems from their craft of storytelling. In order to classify a book as a novel, it must contain at least 40,000 words of fiction.

Many novelists use their stories to shed light on deep-rooted societal issues to help readers connect with the struggles of the downtrodden. Novels like Les Miserables, How to Kill a Mockingbird, and Gone with the Wind, take their readers into a world filled with tumultuous changes and events, allowing them to connect with the struggles of a particular period. For instance, To Kill a Mockingbird narrates the struggle of African Americans against racism and the impact of racism on the legal justice system. Likewise, Gone with the Wind beautifully pens down the experience of southerners during the American Civil War through the life and times of a charming southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara.

Novelists use their storytelling craft to tell powerful stories depicting historical narratives, societal evils, emotional and mental struggles, and cultural experiences. Some novels allow readers to experience the problems of the underprivileged, while others pen down stories of hope, heroism, and history.

What is a Book?

A book is classified as any written or printed literary work on any given subject or topic. It can be thought of as a collection of texts that offer insight and information on a specific field or subject matter. For instance, students study books added to their course materials to understand the basic concepts of subjects like science, history, and geography.

Likewise, texts carrying historical facts and narratives detailing the events of wars, treaties, and alliances are also termed books. Unlike novels, the term book encompasses a broad array of genres, niches, and literary classifications. So, why are books written?

Books are written to expand upon the information available on a subject matter, making the topic more comprehensive with newer revelations and discoveries. Unlike novels, books include both fiction and nonfiction and texts that combine both writing styles. Books can take readers on an adventurous journey to a faraway, magical land or offer educational insight with a research-driven case study.

It’s crucial to note that aside from novels, all books are classified under nonfiction. Wordsmiths who pen down books on any given subject are called authors and writers. These writers pen down lengthy volumes to analyze and discuss the topic at hand, decoding its fundamentals and shedding light on its principle mechanisms.

The author’s purpose is to educate and inform its reader in the most comprehensive and digestible manner. Many writers working with factual research and educational content like to enhance the reading experience by adding imagery, graphs, charts, and other visuals. Books written and designed for practical and theoretical learning help students expand their cognitive horizons by introducing new concepts.

Interestingly, a collection of tightly-bonded blank sheets to be used as writing materials is also termed a book. Remember the workbooks and exercise books we used to practice our letters and concepts back in school? We brought up this example to emphasize that there are numerous definitions and classifications of the term book.

But when we examine a book in the context of the novel vs. book debate, differentiating between fiction and nonfiction literary works is what matters the most. If you need help understanding the structure and guidelines for nonfiction texts, head over to LivingWriter to browse through incredible resources.

The Comparison: Novel Vs. Book

So far, we’ve learned that both novels and books are printed texts written with the purpose of educating, entertaining, and captivating their audience. So, what’s the difference between novel and book?

Remember, all novels are books, but not all books can be classified as novels. There are various differentiating factors, and we’re going to break them down for you to make it simpler.

The content of a novel makes it strikingly different from a typical book. A novel is strictly written in fiction or fictitious narratives inspired by actual events. But a book can contain all kinds of written and printed material, including fiction, nonfiction, empirical research, and more.

The content of a novel revolves around a fictional story, with the author deciding every thought, emotion, and action of the characters. Autobiographies are different in this regard, as they are based on the actual life and events of a person’s life. Memoirs and autobiographies, like Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, are not classified as fiction as they are based on real-life stories.

Intention & Purpose

Writing a book, be it a novel or nonfiction treatise, is by no means a purposeless endeavor. The author must find purpose to muster an unwavering intention to begin and successfully complete writing a book. Novelists and nonfiction writers are driven by a powerful sense of purpose.

Some intend to tell a story worth-regaling to an audience that will relate to the struggles or emotions depicted in the tale. Others write intending to contribute their research findings on a subject matter, expanding the knowledge of their readers.

Every writer has a purpose, and the purpose of the book makes it what it is, a novel, memoir, treatise, or educational resource.

The word count is another crucial factor that differentiates a typical book from a novel. A book can be written within any word limit, as the writer does not have to adhere to the minimum word count standards. A novel, on the other hand, must contain at least 40,000 words to be classified as a novel.

Have you ever wondered why a collection of short stories isn’t called a novel but rather a book? For instance, the Safety of Objects by A. M. Homes is a collection of fictional short stories. But it is called a book rather than a novel as it does not meet the word count standard. A novel must contain at least 40,000 words depicting the same story rather than breaking the word limit into multiple stories.

Recommendations & Promotions

Have you ever wondered why the cover pages of novels contain numerous promotional taglines and glibs? For instance, why does the cover carry the phrase ‘New York Times’ bestseller’ and quotations from different magazines and book reviews? The publisher is entrusted with the marketing and promotion of the novel, who will design an appealing cover page to capture readers.

Novels contain glibs and phrases praising the author’s work and encouraging readers to buy and read the story. Interestingly, our textbooks and resources on history, economics, and algebra do not carry such phrases and glibs. The lack of promotional materials and recommendations makes novels different from books because not all books need promotion.

Structure & Plots

Novels have a strikingly different structure from books and academic resources. Novelists must lead their readers through a chronological sequence of events, spanning various periods, ages and locations. Naturally, the novelist will have to play around with multiple structural components while developing characters, introducing plot twists and climaxes, and drawing conclusions.

The structure of a novel is designed to make the plot responsive and evoke certain emotions in the reader. In contrast, nonfiction books do not dwell on emotions. Poetry can be an exception in this case, but most books provide information without a thrilling sequence of events.

Final Thoughts

It’s interesting to note that while the term novel is a somewhat recent construct, traced back to the 9th century, books have been around since the beginning of time. The earliest scriptures, including the Bible, Quran, Torah, and Bhagavad Gita, are classified as books. The term book is all-encompassing and infinite, but a novel comes with standard regulations and structures.

If you want to discover your true literary calling and direct your creativity towards a format you love, head over to LivingWriter now! Exposing yourself to creative resources and materials will help you find the most suitable format for your creative endeavors. Learning about the structure and standards of fiction and nonfiction is crucial to discovering the best medium for your intended purpose. 

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Parts of a Book: Quire, Colophon, and More

book parts quire

A quire was originally a small medieval book or pamphlet, especially one constructed of a set of four sheets of paper folded in two, forming eight leaves. The quire grew in time, and it came to be a collection of 24 (sometimes 25) folded or unfolded sheets, which makes a ream of 480 sheets of paper 20 quires, and a quire one twentieth of a ream. ( Ream in this sense is from Arabic rizma , which literally means "bundle"; the verb ream with the slangy sense of "reprimand" may come from a Middle English word meaning "to open up," but that's an educated guess so don't ream us out if it turns out not to be true.) Quire is ultimately from Latin quaterni , meaning "set of four," and entered Middle English via Anglo-French.

For those who might be contemplating the similar pronunciation of quire and the "singing" choir , quire is actually an archaic variant of the word. Choir is also derived from Anglo-French: it is from queor , a French formation derived from Medieval Latin chorus , referring to a company of singers in church or the area in which they sing. Quire was often used in English as a variant of choir up to the close of the 17th century.


A colophon , whose name is from a Greek word meaning "summit" or "finishing touch," is traditionally an inscription placed at the end of a book or manuscript, usually with facts that relate to its production. These details might include the name of the printer and the date and place of printing. Colophons are found in some manuscripts and books made as long ago as the 6th century AD. In Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, a colophon was often added to provide facts such as the author's name and the date and place of the completion of the work, as well as an expression of thanks to those who assisted in its production.

Eventually, the colophon was included on the blank page opposite the title page where it consists of usually a one-sentence statement as to where the book was printed and by whom. It also can be a simple identifying mark, emblem, or device that is used by a printer or a publisher on the title page, cover, spine, or jacket. Whatever the case, they remain a neat feature to discover when perusing books in a used book store.

book parts spine

Spine goes back to the 15th century, and it is derived from Latin spina , which can mean "thorn" or "backbone" (which are also two of the original meanings of spine in English). The word was first applied to the back of a book to which the pages are attached—or the part that shows as the book ordinarily stands on a shelf that is often lettered with the title and the author's and publisher's name—in the early 20th century. Along with back , the spine of a book might be also called the backbone , backstrip , or shelfback .

The title on the backbone, being functional as well as decorative, is of paramount importance. — R. R. Donnelley and Sons Company, All the King's Horses , 1954 These backstrips, which were usually without bands, contained at the top the title of the books and at the foot the motto, spes mea deus. — Meiric K. Dutton, Historical Sketch of Bookbinding , 1926 This volume breaks all the patterns: the cover is paper-covered boards with a cloth shelfback, and the dust jacket echoed the cover. — Kari A. Ronning, Studies in the Novel , 22 Sept. 2013

book parts ex libris

In Latin, ex libris means, literally, "from the books," and, in the past, the phrase was placed before the owner's name on a bookplate . In the late 19th-century, the phrase came to refer to the bookplate itself, which is a label that identifies the owner of the book, is usually engraved or printed, has a distinctive design (for instance, the owner's coat of arms ), and is pasted to the inside front cover of a book.

In Latin, liber meant "book." That word gave English the word library in the 14th century. To remember the meaning of ex libris , you might think of it as meaning "from the library of (that person who lent you the book)."

book parts gutter

The area where the inside margins of adjoining pages of a book meet is called the gutter . For obvious reasons, the gutter must always be wide enough to permit the innermost text to be read easily when the book is bound. 

In Middle English, the word gutter referred to any watercourse, in general, before specifying a brook and then a type of trough to catch and carry off rainwater on a street or from a rooftop—and, later, one that carries a misthrown bowling ball.

The word coursed into English via Anglo-French gutere or guter , derived from gute , meaning "drop" as well as " gout ." The disease known as gout , which causes painful swelling of the joints especially in the toes, gets its name from the antiquated notion that the disease was caused by drops of diseased humors . Actually, it is caused by the deposit of uric-acid salts, which are normally excreted in urine, in joints.

book parts page

A page was a youth in medieval Europe who served an apprenticeship in the duties of chivalry in the family of a man of rank. He began as an assistant to a squire in the hope of becoming a squire himself and then advancing to a knight.

As a page, Wart had learned to lay the tables with three cloths and a carpet, and to bring meat from the kitchen, and to serve Sir Ector or his guests on bended knee. — T. H. White, The Sword in the Stone , 1938

Like the youthful, but lexically older, page , the bookish page is a derivative from French, but it ultimately goes back to Latin pagina , which is akin to the Latin verb pangere , meaning "to fix" or "to fasten." The connection comes from strips of papyrus being "fastened" together to form a writing surface. The English word paper also has a connection: it, too, enters English via French and is from Latin, and its Latin origin is papyrus .

The verb page in senses denoting service as an attendant or messenger is older than the verb referring to the numbering of the pages of a book or turning pages, as in "paging through a magazine." " Page boys " were being "paged," or being called upon, by the early 20th century, and by the 1930s, people were being "paged" via radio or intercom. The predecessor of the pager as a device used to signal someone via beeps, vibrations, or flashes about an incoming message enters English about mid-1900s. Fast-forwarding, talk about a computer "page" began in the 1970s, and " home pages " and " web pages " in the 1990s.

book parts folio

In printing, a sheet of paper folded in half is called a folio . The name is from Latin folium , meaning " leaf ." The term folio can also refer to a book of large size. The collected works of William Shakespeare, for example, were first published in a folio edition in 1623. Eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in quartos (books about half the size of a modern magazine) before that publication. The quartos are seen as defective editions of the Bard's work, marred by badly garbled or missing text. In printing, a quarto refers to a sheet of paper folded in fours or the book itself composed of bound quarto signatures. ( Signatures are printer's sheets folded to form one unit of a book; a book is a collection of signatures that are bound together.)

Folio can also refer to a page number, and the numbers may be prominent or unobtrusive—in other words, they could be placed prominently at the top, the center, or the outside margin of the page, or they could be unobtrusively placed at the bottom or the gutter margin. A more common sense of folio refers to a case or folder for loose papers. 

Another "leafy" page in publishing is flyleaf , which refers to one of the free endpapers of a book. An endpaper is a folded sheet pasted against the inside front cover, but sometimes the back, and forms the first or last free page of a book with the other half.

book parts volume

When you want to rock out to your favorite tune, you reach for the volume knob or button, but when you want to find out how sound travels through the air to your ears, you might reach for a volume of an encyclopedia (at least, in pre-internet days). So, what's the connection between those senses of the word volume ?

Volume comes from the Latin noun volumen (meaning "roll"), which, in turn, derives from the Latin verb volvere ("to roll"). The Roman volumen was essentially a book rolled up on a short staff. The reader held the roll in one hand and, once he or she had read a column, rolled it onto another cylinder with the other hand.  

The French borrowed the word from Latin, changing it to volume , and in the 14th century, the English acquired the word from the French. At first, volume simply meant "book," but by the 16th century, it had also come to refer to a book that is a part of a series of books. From there, the word was extended to the generalized sense meaning "the quantity, amount, or mass of anything," and in the 18th century, volume acquired the meaning "strength or intensity of sound."

book parts bibliography


Bibliography commonly refers to the alphabetized listing of books, magazines, articles, etc., that are mentioned in a text. Additionally, it can refer to a listing that is more detailed, or "descriptive," about the references, or it can refer to a critical or analytical study of books as tangible objects themselves.

A descriptive bibliography may take the form of detailed information about a particular author's body of works or about works on a given subject. Critical bibliography, on the other hand, involves meticulous descriptions of the physical features of books, including the paper, binding, printing, typography, and production processes that are used to help establish such facts about a book as its date of publication and its authenticity.

Bibliography dates to the 17th century, and it likely developed from New Latin  bibliographia , itself derived from the Greek word for "the copying of books," a combination of biblio- ("book") and -graphein ("to write").

book parts appendix

Supplementary matter that forms a cohesive whole is often found in an appendix . A book may have a single appendix or more (which, in such cases, will usually be headed "Appendix A," "Appendix B," etc.). The appendix may consist entirely of the author's prose, or it might consist of a table, list, document, or something else.

The word appendix is from Latin appendere , meaning "to be attached," and goes back to the 16th century. In English, it refers to things connected or joined to something larger or more important, like the back matter of a book added to the main text. The tube that is located at the bottom of a balloon to inflate it is also called an appendix. Both plural forms of the word, appendixes and appendices , are standard in technical and nontechnical contexts.

The anatomical appendix, the narrow tube at the beginning of the large intestine, is technically referred to as the " vermiform appendix " (in Latin, vermis means "worm"). The vermiform appendix is not essential and can be removed if it becomes inflamed. A book's appendix is also not essential to a book's main text, but it gives additional support to the writer's claims.

book parts chapter

In Middle English, chapter was often spelled chapitre . That spelling is taken directly from an Anglo-French word that is based on Late Latin capitulum —ultimately from caput , meaning "head," and itself meaning "division of a book," which is the common meaning of chapter in English. 

The phrase " chapter and verse " in reference to providing exact information or details about something goes back to the early 17th century and, rather unsurprisingly, comes from the tradition of citing exact biblical passages by their chapter as well as their verse number.

Chapter was also used in Middle English for a meeting of clergy members, which was frequently opened with the reading of a chapter from the Scriptures. This sense of chapter eventually evolved into today's sense referring to the body of a local branch of an organization, as in "chapters of the American Red Cross" or "chapters of the fraternity."

book parts epigraph

Epigraph refers to a short quotation from another source placed at the beginning of an article, chapter, book, etc., that alludes to what's to come in your reading. Its attribution is generally set by itself on the line below the quotation. Alternatively (if print space is a concern), it is run in on the last line of the quotation. When set on its own line, it is generally preceded by an em dash or, less frequently, it is enclosed in parentheses.

Here are a couple examples of famous epigraphs: 

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay / To mould me Man? Did I solicit thee / From darkness to promote me? — John Milton, Paradise Lost (in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ) Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. — Charles Lamb, "The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple" (in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird ) 

The word epigraph is derived from Greek epigraphein , meaning "to write on" or "to inscribe," and was written into the English lexicon in the 17th century, originally as a word for an inscription engraved on buildings, tombs, statues, or other objects, such as coins (as in "In God We Trust," which is an epigraph on U.S. coins).

book parts skiver

Skiver is an early 19th-century word that refers to a thin, soft leather made of sheepskin that is tanned in sumac and dyed. In the past, it was used for hat linings, pocketbooks, and bookbindings. Its name is probably derived from Scandinavian skive , a verb meaning "to cut off (as leather or rubber) in thin layers or pieces." 

Readers might be familiar with skivvies as a word for "underwear," or maybe even skivvy , an early 20th-century term for a female domestic servant in British English. They are unrelated.

book parts preface foreword introduction


An author's prefatory remarks that explain the object and scope of what follows are usually titled "Preface," which is appropriate since the word preface comes from Latin praefari , meaning "to say beforehand." For works of literature, prefaces can sometimes be extended essays, such as those of Henry James and George Bernard Shaw. The preface often closes with acknowledgements of those who assisted in the writing, and it is usually signed (and the date and place of writing sometimes follow the typeset signature).

When a person other than the author writes an introductory essay, it is normally titled " Foreword " (which denotes words said before something else and is presumably from a translation of German Vorwort ); the author's preface, if any, then follows it.

Another type of prefatory matter is the " Introduction ." The introduction contains information that is essential to the main text and that may be paginated in Arabic numerals. In reference works, such as a dictionary, a section of explanatory notes concerning content and format might be included in the front matter.

book parts vellum

Vellum is from Middle English velym , borrowed from Anglo-French velim , which itself is related to an adjective meaning "of a calf" and a noun meaning "calf." The word is also related to veal .

Vellum , in printing, refers to the skins of calf, kid, or lamb prepared as parchment for writing on or for binding books. The term is also used as a synonym of parchment . The production of parchment facilitated the success of the codex , an early type of manuscript consisting of a collection of pages stitched together along one side that replaced earlier rolls of papyrus and wax tablets.

In modern usage, the terms vellum and parchment are sometimes applied to a type of cream-colored paper of high quality that is made chiefly from wood pulp and rags and having a special finish; they also refer to vegetable parchment , which we now call simply parchment paper and use in cooking. Additionally, they refer to translucent paper made for tracing purposes.

book parts addendum

Addendum refers to something that is added; specifically, it refers to a section of a book added to the main or original text that might include explanation, comment, or supplementary material. It comes from a Latin word of the same meaning, and it is often used in its Latin plural form addenda (as opposed to addendums ) when it is applied to a supplement of a book.

In mathematics, the related addend , which is a shortening of addendum , refers to a number or quantity to be added to a preceding one or to a sum already accumulated. 4 and 9, for example, are addends in 4+9 = 13.

book parts index

Index refers to a usually alphabetical list that includes all or nearly all items (such as authors, subjects, or keywords) that are considered pertinent and are discussed or mentioned in a book, catalog, etc., or an electronic database. An index gives with each item the location of its mention in the work, and it is located at the end of the work. The word, as well as this sense, goes back to the 16th century, and it is from the Latin verb indicare , meaning "to point out" or "to indicate," which explains why the forefinger is also called the " index finger " and, in economics, we have such terms as the " consumer price index " and " retail price index ," both of which indicate changes of prices over a given period of time. 

In the "book" sense of the word, the plural indexes is preferred, but the Latin plural form indices is also acceptable.


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Posted on Dec 29, 2020

The Ultimate List of Book Genres: 35 Popular Genres, Explained

Authors need to have a firm grasp on all the different genres of books in order to find the perfect home for their own. The tropes and expectations of a book’s genre will inform its content and style during the writing process, as well as fundamentals such as word count . But it’s also central to the marketing of a book , determining its target audience, and those all-important Amazon categories . Get your genre wrong, and you could be waving goodbye to book sales and hello to unsatisfied reader reviews!

How many book genres are there?

Though we’re only covering 35 of the most popular in this post, there are around 50 genres in total — the exact number depends on who you ask. If you take subgenres into account, over on Reedsy Discovery we have 107 different categories, while Amazon has over 16,000! 

That can be a lot to take in. So if you'd like some personalized guidance, we recommend taking this 1-minute quiz that will point you towards your genre (and subgenre). 

Which genre (or subgenre) am I writing?

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For an overview of all of the genres, that's what the rest of this post is for. There’s bound to be a genre that’s the perfect fit for your book — all you have to do is find it!

Fiction genres

“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.” — Khaled Hosseini

This book genre is characterized by elements of magic or the supernatural and is often inspired by mythology or folklore. In high fantasy — one that’s set in an entirely fictional world — these magical elements are at the forefront of the plot, as in Trudi Canavan’s  Black Magician trilogy. In low fantasy or magical realism, however, magic is subtly woven into an otherwise familiar, real-world setting. You can delve into  fantasy’s many subgenres to get to know your Arcanepunk from your Flintlock, and find your book’s home!

Pro tip for writing fantasy : To make your world feel real and functional, make sure it’s grounded in rules — an internal rationale, so to speak, encompassing everything from the workings of your society to your magic system.

Science Fiction

Book genres | Science Fiction Covers

A popular genre of science fiction, dystopian novels offer a bleak and frightening vision of the future. Authors writing dystopias imagine a grim society, often in the aftermath of a disaster, facing things like oppressive governments, Black Mirror -esque technology, and environmental ruin. From widely popular series like The Hunger Games to critically-acclaimed classics like Nineteen Eighty-four , the enduring appeal of dystopian fiction lies in our burning desire to know where mankind is headed — and our perverse enjoyment of dark stories, so long as they aren’t actually happening to us. 

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Action & Adventure

If you’re writing adventure, then chances are your book follows the structure of the Hero’s Journey . Your protagonist has a very important goal to achieve, but they’re really going to have to go through the wringer first! You throw up obstacle after obstacle, putting your hero in downright dangerous situations but eventually, they triumph and return home transformed. The action and adventure genre also complements a huge range of others, which means it has its fingers in everything from fantasy novels like The Hobbit to classic romance like J ane Eyre .

Also called detective fiction, this book genre is characterized by a gripping plot that revolves around a mystery — but hopefully, you’ve cracked that clue! The setting, characters, and tone of your book will determine precisely which category it falls under: cozy mystery , hardboiled, or something in between. But at the core of any mystery is a crime that must be solved by the protagonist. To get a sense of the clever trail of clues that’s so vital to this genre, check out Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie — the grande dame of mystery fiction.

Pro tip for writing a mystery : When planning your novel, consult the Fichtean curve , a narrative structure that emphasizes mini-crises, ratcheting up the tension to keep readers anxious to reach the climax.

What unites the books in this genre is not theme, plot, or setting, but the feeling they inspire in the reader: your pulse quickens, and your skin prickles as you turn the page with bated breath. Of course, this feeling of dread only comes about if the author creates the right atmosphere — an essential feature dependent on the subgenre. Gothic horror, for example, sends a shiver down your spine with spooky settings and paranormal elements, while gross-out horror shocks the reader with hacked-up flesh and buckets of blood. The master of horror fiction in all its guises? Stephen King , of course.

Pro tip for writing horror : Make the stakes plain and straightforward — survival, the death of a loved one, etc. — and clearly establish them for the reader, so they are in no doubt about the character’s motivation.

Thriller & Suspense

A horror story can also be called a thriller, if it employs psychological fear to build suspense . But not all thrillers are horror stories . So what are they? While this book genre encompasses many of the same elements as mystery, in a thriller the protagonist is usually acting to save their own life, rather than to solve the crime. Thrillers typically include cliffhangers, deception, high emotional stakes, and plenty of action — keeping the reader on the edge of their seat until the book’s climax. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is a masterclass in the dark, mysterious thriller. 

Pro tip for writing a thriller : Avoid anything that bogs down the pacing. If you notice that a scene is getting tied up in everyday details, or doesn’t add enough excitement to the plot, rewrite it or cut it altogether!

Historical Fiction

This book genre encompasses fictional stories in a historical setting , carefully balancing creativity and facts. In most cases, the characters and events are imagined by the author and enriched with historically accurate details from a specific time period. Take The Help by Kathryn Stockett, for example — a fictional story set in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. But occasionally, as is the case with Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy, the author builds the main story around real historical figures and events. 

Like almost all of these genres, it's crucial that historical fiction works in exposition and historical detail subtly. Want to learn more about how to do this? Check out our free course on the golden writing rule, Show, Don't Tell.

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Romance is so frequently used as a subplot that it can sometimes be tricky to know whether or not you’re writing in this genre . The key thing to remember is that the romantic relationship must be the center point of the plot. (Other giveaways include a “happily ever after” ending and the warm fuzzies.) If your novel has a romantic relationship at its heart and is perfectly at home in another genre, it probably falls into one of romance’s many subgenres , including but not limited to: young adult romance, paranormal romance, and historical romance.

Women’s Fiction

Women’s fiction is an umbrella term for books written to target a female audience, generally reflecting on the shared experience of being a woman or the growth of a female protagonist. Because of this rather broad definition, authors will quite often write a romance novel or mystery, for example, that could also be labeled women’s fiction. Despite the connotations of one alternative name for this genre (“chick-lit”), many critically acclaimed bestsellers, including Jaqueline Woodson’s Red at The Bone, fall under its purview. 

Book Genres | LGBT Covers

Contemporary Fiction

Book Genres | Contemporary Fiction

Literary Fiction

Like contemporary fiction, books considered literary fiction can’t be neatly filed under any other genre. What distinguishes this genre from contemporary fiction is that works of literary fiction are thought to have considerable artistic value. If your prose is meant to engage the reader in thought, if your narrative is character-driven and introspective, and if you provide personal or social commentary on a “serious” theme, then chances are you’re writing lit-fic. Modern classics by the likes of Virginia Woolf or Ali Smith would be labeled literary fiction.

Like we mentioned, lit-fic is heavy on character, and lighter on plot. If you're interested in writing a character-driven story, try out our profile template for developing well-rounded, fully realized ones.

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Magical Realism

You may remember us mentioning magical realism under the umbrella of fantasy — but considering its highbrow style and literary prestige, magical realism is often considered a genre in its own right. Its hallmarks include a real-world setting, a cast of run-of-the-mill characters (no vampires, fairies, or sorcerers), a fluid and non-linear timeline, and supernatural happenings — a baby born with feathered wings, or an egg hatching a ruby — left unexplained. Authors like Isabel Allende and Toni Morrison have used this literary style to grapple with serious social ills, from colonialism to fascism and slavery.  

Graphic Novel

Book Genres | Graphic Novel Layout

Short Story

Though they can belong to any of the other book genres on this list, short stories are frequently grouped together in their own genre because they’re, well, so much shorter than novels. Often the author will compile a collection linked together by a narrative thread or, more commonly, a shared theme. The stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, for example, follow a series of women in different occupations — from cleaning women to ER nurses — all struggling to survive.

Young Adult

Young adult fiction , or YA, targets readers aged 12-18 and reflects its readership by following teenage characters as they grapple with the unique challenges of adolescence. Most works of YA fiction can be labeled “ coming-of-age novels ”, in which the characters exit childhood and enter adulthood — a transition that results in a loss of innocence and a shifting sense of identity. Some of the biggest bestsellers in recent years have belonged to this genre, including The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and anything by John Green. 

Pro tip for writing young adult fiction : Though your teen character’s voice should be true to her life experience, you should never “dumb down” the language, story, or style choices in a YA novel.

The shiny new penny on this book genres list, new adult is like young adult aged-up: coming-of-age stories after the messiness of adolescence. Its college-age protagonists are walked through the gauntlet of becoming fully-fledged grownups, ditching the stress of the SATs and senior prom for college exams, career transitions, and more mature first times. Big names in New Adult , like Cora Carmack, tend to write steamy romances set in dorm rooms. But this genre isn’t all about collegiate love stories — your gritty urban fantasy or immersive historical fiction could find its home here, too. 

Books in this genre are written with readers under the age of twelve in mind. Of course, kids will do a lot of growing between the ages of zero and twelve, which is why children’s books range from baby board books all the way up to middle grade ‘epics’ of 50,000 words. Hopefully, if you’re writing children’s literature , you already know you are. But it’s crucial that you also know which age group you’re trying to target, as this will impact the themes, characters, and complexity of your book.

Nonfiction genres

This is a broad category encompassing a number of nonfiction subgenres . From memoirs and biographies to books to self-help and true crime books, there's a type of nonfiction for every kind of reader.

Memoir & Autobiography

Both memoirs and autobiographies provide a true account of the author’s life. They differ in that an autobiography provides a chronological account of your life’s events and accomplishments, whereas a memoir puts the emphasis on only the most defining, emotional moments. Generally, these moments are drawn together by a single theme — or a significant time, place, or relationship — to communicate a message you wish to share with readers. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is a popular example of a memoir .

Pro tip for writing a memoir : Treat yourself as an interview subject and ask yourself questions that will trigger those life-defining stories — the ups and downs, the events that shaped you, what you sacrificed, what you learned.

Like autobiographies, biographies provide readers with a person’s life story; but they’re written in the third person by someone other than the subject. Generally, the subject of a biography is (or was) well-known — somebody whose life can teach readers an interesting lesson worth learning. Biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies differ from the rest of the nonfiction on this list, in that they weave a narrative in almost the same way a novel does. A great biography , like Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton , isn’t a laundry list of events, but a life-giving tribute. 

Food & Drink

Food and drink is one of nonfiction’s hottest book genres, making it a crowded and highly competitive market. As a result, today’s cookbooks tend to cater to specific cuisines, dietary, and/or lifestyle needs. If you’re writing a cookbook , you might consider pairing recipes with nutritional information, short autobiographical narratives, or even workouts. Jo Wicks’s 30 Day Kickstart Plan and Less Fuss No Waste Kitchen by Lindsay Miles are excellent examples of modern cookbooks. 

Art & Photography

Genres of Books | Art & Photography Covers

Some of the bestselling books in nonfiction, self-help books encourage personal improvement and confidence. Whether the focus is on relationships, emotional well-being, or finances, if you’re writing a book that aims to uplift and empower the reader, then you’re probably writing self-help .

The books in this genre lay down the known facts about a historical era, event, or figure. And since this is nonfiction, all the facts have to be accurate (though that doesn’t mean there’s no room for inference or opinion). The goal of these books is to educate and inform the reader, so this genre does include all those textbooks you used in school. But many history books ditch the play-by-play format to chronicle the past in a way more akin to storytelling. One of our favorite history books is Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari. 

Travel memoirs and travelogues, like Jonathan Glancey’s The Journey Matters , take us all over the world, giving even the most devoted homebodies a tantalizing taste of adventure, wildlife, and the great outdoors. These pocket-sized books — featuring destination reviews, lists of where to eat and what to see, and tips for traveling on a budget — are without a doubt some of the most useful titles on the shelves.

Genres of Books | True Crime Covers

Laugh-out-loud memoirs by the funniest celebs, satirical essays from the likes of David Sedaris, or gag gifts like How to Adult — all the books in this rib-tickling genre are written with one thing in mind: making readers laugh! So if you’ve compiled a collection of all your favorite dad jokes or penned a cathartic brain-dump of your most cringe-worthy memories, then your book may also belong in the humor genre. 

An essay may sound like a boring assignment from your school years, but the books in this genre are among some of the most moving and inspirational works of literature there are. Many powerful voices — like James Baldwin and Roxane Gay — have used these short works to reflect on their own personal experiences and views, combining them into a collection that serves as an eye-opening social commentary on a particular theme or subject. 

Guide / How-to 

Genres of Books | How-to Book Covers

Religion & Spirituality

From histories of the Catholic Church to spiritual guidebooks and memoirs of the Eat, Pray, Love variety, this genre has a place for anything and everything related to the topics of religion and spirituality. 

Humanities & Social Sciences

Got something wise to say? Then your book might just belong among the books of this eclectic genre — as long as it discusses a topic related to (deep breath): philosophy, history, literature, language, art, religion, music, or the human condition. This might seem like a pretty wide net to fall into, but keep in mind that books in this genre are typically quite academic; if you’ve written more of a free-flowing spiritual guide, it probably belongs in the previous genre. 

Parenting & Families

Parents and families struggling with discipline, education, bonding, the care of a newborn baby, or a child with special needs, can turn to this well-stocked genre of books when they need to bring in the reinforcements. If you’ve written a memoir that’ll have families whole-heartedly nodding in agreement, or a guide brimming with advice for frazzled parents, then you can find a place for your book in the parenting and families section. 

Science & Technology

The job of science nonfiction is not to predict the future, but to make sense of the world we’re currently living in — which, quite honestly, can feel like science fiction to some of us! Readers of this genre range from complete beginners trying to understand the things around them to technophiles whose brains are whirring to keep up with the pace of change, so there’s bound to be a niche for your book, however advanced it is. 

As much as kids love fairytales and talking animals, they’re often just as happy to pick up a nonfiction book at storytime. Whether it’s an activity book to keep them busy, a powerful true story like Malala’s Magic Pencil , or a children’s encyclopedia to feed their brains, children’s nonfiction is all about making learning fun. And the wildly popular Horrible Histories series has proven that this genre can compete with wizards and superheroes at every age!

There you have it: 35 of the most popular genres of books. Hopefully, this list will help you get your foot in the right door. But if your book doesn’t slot neatly into any of these categories (though there are quite some more types of nonfiction to consider), don’t be afraid to declare it a hybrid, or to dig a little deeper into the subcategories that you’ll find in the shade of these umbrella genres.

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October 22, 2023

A large part of the work of writing is inarticulable. Writers who can explain what they’re doing while they are doing it, the ideological aspirations that govern their work in progress—these writers are alien to me. The process more familiar to me is witchier, an optimistic ignorance sustained on occasional gifts from the void. Donald Barthelme puts it this way:

The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention.

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Jennifer Packer/Sikkema Jenkins & Co/Corvi-Mora

Jennifer Packer: And Dreaming (2015)

Toni Morrison puts it another way:

Because I am open and available, the universe—the idea—comes to me…. It’s that being open—not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in.

I remember my encounters with writers who address that liminality, writers who are otherwise critical and generous, who are necessarily prone to the compulsion to describe, and who, when asked about their process, offer no answers and focus instead on the preverbal gloam of how it felt. In her essay “Uses of the Erotic” (1978), Audre Lorde acknowledges the magic rooted in the practice of being awake to pleasure and to one’s capacity for softness. She writes about the North Star of making things, making love, making art—the visceral knowledge of it feels good to me . This practice is rigorous, she argues, because it requires a dogged self-maintenance that defies the hardness we learn as self-protection. She is writing about armor and earnestness:

We have attempted to separate the spiritual and the erotic, thereby reducing the spiritual to a world of flattened affect, a world of the ascetic who aspires to feel nothing. But nothing is farther from the truth. For the ascetic position is one of the highest fear, the gravest immobility. The severe abstinence of the ascetic becomes the ruling obsession. And it is one not of self-discipline but of self-abnegation.

Lorde gave me better language for the primal bedrock of artmaking: permission to embrace abundance, instruction on how to be open and present enough to receive the signal and recognize when there is interference. My best teachers have made me alert to this intentionality, a way of meaning it without the immediate necessity of knowing what I mean, which for me comes much later, when the draft is finished and I haven’t touched it for a while. Meaning it is fealty to the feeling, to making yourself available to embarrassment and the untidiness of discovery. Meaning it is joy, rage, spite. Meaning it is dangerous, because it is disharmonious with the costume many of us, for good reason, have developed to survive.

Meaning it is a matter of being clear without eschewing beauty or style or the honest nonsense that, as in good sex writing, reflects the primal misfires of the brain. I look for the feelings, where they’re concentrated and where they’re obfuscated. My writing process is above all about pleasure seeking. I read with a similar objective—to be overwhelmed by the specificity of an author’s private dogma, to feel their pleasure, to experience the hang-ups and perversions that inevitably, and sometimes accidentally, make it to the page. I read because I am a voyeur, because the novel traffics in the stealthy invasion of privacy better than our best machines. I return to Lorde’s directive to recenter the intuitive, and I seek out writers who demonstrate libidinal intelligence and a commitment to unhiding themselves.

The novelist Garth Greenwell has described writing as a willingness to inhabit bewilderment, and art as “the realm in which we can give full rein to the ambiguity, uncertainty, and doubt that we often feel we have to suppress in other kinds of expression.” His novel Cleanness (2020) is a careful taxonomy of doubt. In a chapter called “Gospodar” an unnamed narrator, a teacher and American expat in Bulgaria, details his submission to a dominant man he meets online. We experience the encounter in first person, as the narrator revels in and sometimes merely tolerates an escalating catalog of debasement. His private thoughts are untidy, unencumbered by a clear verdict. As he is compelled to strip, kneel, and suck, pleasure and fear coalesce with his feelings of silliness, uncertainty, extreme embodiment and also with the extreme disembodiment of processing his own personal history and the logistics of translating English to Bulgarian while he is, amazingly, engaged in the business of being on a leash.

Everything is happening at once, and the scene is effective in part because it urges its reader to hold that multiplicity. “No one is a type inside themselves,” Melissa Febos writes in one of my favorite essays about sex writing, in her book Body Work (2022),

and no performance is bereft of the actor’s own private consciousness. However deeply suppressed, the true story of our experience always plays out simultaneously. Unless the writer of these sexual experiences aspires to pornography, this truer story is usually the one more worth telling.

What makes pornography pornography, Febos suggests, is its emotional deadness and inherent phoniness—its flat appeal to archetype. It’s an author’s right to aspire to pornography. Greenwell himself has said that his goal was to write a scene that was “one hundred percent pornographic and one hundred percent high art.” But his fiction is all about the feelings, about their diversity and natural volatility, and we are meant to hold that reality even when, in “Gospodar,” a violation upends the erotic contract and the narrator has to fight to escape.

Over the course of the chapter, Greenwell explores the alchemy between epiphany and the state of in-betweenness from which we draw thought, art, and carnal paradox. “Sex is communication,” the novelist Alexander Chee has written , referring to another passage in Cleanness , and the minutiae of communication—its failures, its subtext, its permeability to one’s cultural and psychological leanings—are integrated organically into this sex scene, in part because the narrator of Cleanness is constantly negotiating the problems of translation. The narrator arrives at his new master’s apartment:

It would have made me laugh in English, I think, the word he used for himself and that he insisted I use for him—not that he had to insist, of course, I would call him whatever he wanted. It was the word for master or lord, but in his language it had a resonance it would have lacked in my own.

In just these first few sentences we feel the contradiction in the narrator’s emotional response to the regulations of their roleplay, his amusement with this bit of sexual theater right alongside the impulse to submit completely to it, the power differential between the two men and its divine implications, the presence of two languages—English and Bulgarian—that remove the narrator from his immediate situation to think about what is meant, the danger and eroticism of misinterpreting those meanings, and the hitch of “I think” that recurs throughout the novel and recreates the staggered quality of thought, affirming the collision of the cognitive and carnal but also the narrator’s doubt, which can make a sex scene feel alive.

The narrator doesn’t know how he feels about his own need, or whose need is the priority. Good sex writing embraces the moral difficulty of not knowing, of a person’s sexual trial and error and the array of bad or unsexy sex that might come from it. Brontez Purnell, author of the excellent 100 Boyfriends (2021), writes about that frankness as a necessity: “I use sex as a vehicle to lure people in and then trap them with the very human aspects of what the other side of sex is—it can be funny, unflattering, a bummer, a vehicle for friendship.”

In real time, the narrator is discerning the contours of his desire. After he is put on a leash he feels indifferent, awake to its pageantry. Greenwell allows him to experience moments of coolness and even boredom, and the scene is no less taut. Pleasure feels both more credible and integrated into the stakes, as fickle on the page as it is in life. Some things feel good, and other things are completely unerotic—an ambivalence that Susan Sontag, citing the Marquis de Sade, once argued cannot be found in pornography, where distinctions are obliterated and “revulsions are absurdities.”

Allowing for sexual complexity is especially important when writing marginalized characters. “Those of us fucking in the margins are often policed by our own communities to represent our sex in an idealized way,” Febos writes:

There are so few representations of our sex out there that we who find any kind of spotlight must speak well for the whole community. The idealization and marketing of our marginalized sex experiences as wholesome and perfect is a great argument against the argument for our depravity. But it also erases so much of our humanity. Queerness does not have to be healthy to be human.

Greenwell also resists the trap of respectability. He names desire earnestly, both by refusing to abbreviate it with irony and by giving his characters anatomy. They have bodily functions and genitals, and no curtain is dropped to obscure their splendor and grotesquerie. Sexual trauma and intercommunity violence exist alongside pleasure, and room is made for where they all join.

For Saidiya Hartman, writing honestly about the erotic lives of Black women is a necessary way to acknowledge our capacity for and right to pleasure, a rebuttal to the matrices of misogynoir that oversex and desex us and make us more violable. Part of her project is to render a Black girl who is sexually free—in her words, to “think about sensory experience and inhabiting the body in a way that is not exhausted by the condition of vulnerability and abuse…so definitive in the lives of Black femmes.” 1

In Cleanness brutality is a neighbor to joy. As he is beginning to submit to his new master, the narrator says that “I found myself resorting again to habits I thought I had escaped, though that’s the wrong word for it, escaped, given the eagerness with which I returned to them.” Later he corrects with a different conviction:

I forced myself upon him with a violence greater than his own, wanting to please him, I suppose, but that isn’t true; I wanted to satisfy myself more than him, or rather to assuage that force or compulsion that drew me to him.

The halting cadences of thinking are felt in the repetition of words—maybe, almost, although, or—that leave the narrator room to revise. For example: “He took my hair in his hand and lifted me up onto my knees, not roughly, maybe just as a means of communication more efficient than speech.” Or: “He had said, don’t worry, and maybe it was just to ensure this understanding that he had taken me in hand.” Or: “He struck me five or six times in this way, or maybe seven or eight.” Later, as the encounter is going awry, those same words not only preface the internal digressions in which the narrator processes what’s happening and why or if he likes it, they also accelerate the action and telegraph that the narrator, hyperstudious, coiled deeply within his own consciousness, has become inarticulate flesh. He yearns to be released from the tyranny of his higher faculties, from the inclination of his mind to tunnel inward toward memory and analysis. He wants something: submission, pleasure, ego death. There are obstacles to getting those things but also new problems once he does.

“Gospodar” is a sex scene built around submission, ambiguity, the low hum of ceaseless self-interrogation that ambiguity creates, and an engagement with a knowing beyond your own faculties. For all intents and purposes it is an engagement with a kind of God, which comes with all of the normal pros and cons of zealotry and ferries you through languagelessness, humiliation, bodily transcendence, and the frayed boundary between pleasure and punishment. In Cleanness , languagelessness in particular is invoked to render the epiphanic and obliterative possibilities of sex. In this chapter, language is used to simulate processing, to establish and recalibrate power hierarchies between characters, to assert the concrete presence of the body, and to demonstrate how one’s linguistic faculties are blunted in the face of extremity. Greenwell’s syntactical choices are also, of course, in the service of beauty.

In her essay “Why We Get Off: Moving Towards a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure” (2015), Joan Morgan writes about the limits placed on eroticism by cultural silences. She cites the scholar Evelynn M. Hammonds, who argued, in Morgan’s words, “that black feminism’s long-standing focus on the politics of respectability, cultural dissemblance and similar discourses of resistance…succeeded in identifying Black women’s sexuality as a site of intersecting oppressions” but in the process “inadvertently reified black female sexuality as pathologized, alternately invisible and hypervisible.” To resist those pathologies requires a “politics of articulation” and a rigorous attention to the mind. “Black female interiority,” Morgan writes, “is the codicil” to those silences.

Greenwell’s depiction of a person who is at once thinking and fucking liberates the sexual narrative from the flat exteriority common to standard pornography. Sex is just one way to establish character across time and isolate its unique ingredients. The encounter creates an opportunity to experience the narrator’s erotic continuum. He isn’t alone in a room with a man but with all his lovers, who come up worse or better in comparison. When Gospodar calls the narrator “she” it is both the humiliating sexual demotion he intends it to be and an invocation of the narrator’s homophobic father, who would not let him show any sign of femininity.

We understand when the narrator is instructed to strip before he enters Gospodar’s apartment, exposed to the locals of Sofia and the possibility of their bigotry, that his sense of peril is concrete. We understand the necessity of separating oneself from the relentless intrusion of the mind. Greenwell ushers us explicitly through the narrator’s reacquaintance with his lizard brain. He is described as a “difficult dog” and a “startled horse” edging closer to the languageless object he longs to be:

I leaned my head into him, resting it on his palm as he spoke again in that tone of tenderness or solicitude, Tell me, kuchko , tell me what you want. And I did tell him, at first slowly and with the usual words, reciting the script that both does and does not express my desires; and then I spoke more quickly and more searchingly, drawn forward by the tone of his voice, what seemed like tenderness although it was not tenderness, until I found myself suddenly in some recess or depth where I had never been. There were things I could say in his language, because I spoke it poorly, without self-consciousness or shame, as if there were something in me unreachable in my own language, something I could reach only with that blunter instrument by which I too was made a blunter instrument, and I found myself at last at the end of my strange litany saying again and again I want to be nothing, I want to be nothing.

This scene operates as a thesis for the section and delineates the narrator’s motivation, but it also captures a friction inherent to sex: the body’s brutal materiality and the sublime, boundaryless terrain beyond it. It echoes, again, that preliminary stage of artmaking that requires you to sit down with your real body to write sentences while rigorously engaging with your own oblivion. There is more precise psychological language for this phenomenon: regression in the service of the ego, which refers to the momentary, at least partially controlled use of primitive, nonlogical, and drive-dominated modes of thinking.

In a 2020 interview, Greenwell described both the libidinal drive and artmaking as border-crossing impulses:

The desire to exceed the body is always, or so it seems to me, a desire to destroy or unmake the self, to empty out the body…maybe with the hope—as for the mystics—that something else will fill us…. A desire for cleanness is necessarily a destructive desire, a desire for unmaking that would return us to some original state before contamination. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than that desire.

He writes sensitively about the human conditions that can make one long to be conditionless, about the wish for pure exteriority that returns us to the problem of interiority. The desire to be nothing, to be an object, has the filthy resonance of the pornographic vocabulary we know, but it is also a product of the soul. It’s one-hundred-percent pornographic and one-hundred-percent high art.

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This essay is adapted from a craft talk given at NYU-Paris on January 10, 2023. 

Raven Leilani is a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree and the recipient of the 2020 Kirkus Prize, VCU Cabell Prize, NBCC John Leonard Prize, Dylan Thomas Prize, Clark Fiction Prize, and Center for Fiction first novel prize. Luster was her first novel. (October 2023)

The Magic of Iris Murdoch

Look—I know it’s corny to have a favorite writer, but I realized recently that in my case there’s just no denying it. And this month would have been Irish Murdoch’s 100th birthday.

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To celebrate the anniversary of Ralph Ellison’s birth, we present a selection of pieces by him and about his work from the Review ’s archives.

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An Honor For Tony Judt

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Joan Didion taught me that family is always part of the story, along with place.

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Quoted in Nona Willis Aronowitz, Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure, and an Unfinished Revolution (Plume, 2022).

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Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents―and What They Mean for America's Future

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Joe and Jill Biden hand out books and candy while hosting rainy trick-or-treating

The white house's halloween theme was “hallo-read" the event featured book giveaways and story readings by the first lady, by darlene superville | associated press • published october 31, 2023 • updated on october 31, 2023 at 10:56 am.

Gray skies and drizzle added a spooky element and books were as abundant as candy at Halloween eve trick-or-treating that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted at the White House.

Monday's “Hallo-READ!” event featured book giveaways and story readings by the first lady, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and authors.

Welcome to “Hallo-READ” at the White House!  From famous literary tales and ghost stories to the spooktacular thrill of reading — we hope families and children pick out their favorite Halloween book, grab a flashlight, and take a moment to enjoy story time together. pic.twitter.com/PJO0UEi8lH — Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) October 31, 2023

The first lady showed her spirit by sporting feline ears, a tail and a black nose. She said she dressed as her cat, Willow.

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“Go have fun and eat lots of candy,” she told a group of costumed children after she read “Ten Spooky Pumpkins," a counting book.

Jean-Pierre donned a halo and angel wings, saying she chose that over a devil costume.

After she finished reading, the president and first lady spent about 90 minutes welcoming children from local public schools and from military families, who were invited.

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What do blue candy buckets on Halloween mean, and why are they controversial?

As the costume-clad kids walked up along the driveway, Biden dropped M&M's or Hershey's Kisses in little boxes stamped with the presidential seal into their bags or buckets. The first lady handed out books.

Jill Biden, who is a lifelong teacher, came up with the “Hallow-READ!” theme and a decor featuring famous literary characters, ghoulish tales and ghost story time, the White House said. A military band played instrumental versions of “Thriller," “Monster Mash,” and other songs.

Some 8,000 guests were expected, the White House said.

Numerous federal government departments and agencies participated, many with booths dotting the south grounds that were stocked with all types of chocolate candy and other sugary treats provided by the National Confectioners Association and its member companies. Scholastic donated the books.

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The Best Books, Films, Magazine Stories, and Audio for Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

If you are feeling out of your depth, start here..

The past few weeks have been difficult to process—or as the New York Times put it at the start of this week, “ War Has Smashed Assumptions About Israeli-Palestinian Conflict .” This is apparently as true for veteran analysts of the region as it is for those of us who are less well-versed in the past several decades (and centuries) of this history. As debates about whether we all have to opine about these topics individually raged on, here at Slate we found ourselves looking to one another for guidance on what to watch, listen to, and read to better understand the current conflict. (It turns out our sister publication, Foreign Policy, had this same idea— their recommendations are incredibly thorough and worth checking out too.)

Read on for recommendations from all corners of our staff.

My Promised Land , by Ari Shavit

Part family memoir, part history, this is an honest, poignant probing of Israel’s noble ideals and its dark roots as an occupying power.

A Peace to End All Peace , by David Fromkin

A classic diplomatic history about the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“ The Explosive, Inside Story of How John Kerry Built an Israel-Palestine Peace Plan—and Watched It Crumble ”

By Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon, the New Republic, July 20, 2014. A thoroughly reported, mainly on-the-record account of how Obama‘s secretary of state nearly negotiated a Middle East peace but failed because neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority wanted it.

Jerusalem , by Simon Sebag Montefiore

This book bills itself as a biography, and it helps to think of it that way—a broad portrait of a place that has been so central and significant to many peoples over the centuries.

People Love Dead Jews , by Dara Horn

A disturbing, illuminating exploration of how the revered Jewish past often reinforces antisemitic and dehumanizing narratives about Jews; it provides essential context for understanding the national mourning experienced by Jewish Israelis right now.

Palestine: A Socialist Introduction , edited by Sumaya Awad and Brian Bean

This collection of essays offers essential, and accessible, insights into the Palestinian diaspora and probes questions about the Palestinian people’s struggle as related to gender and Black American solidarity.

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine , by Rashid Khalidi

This definitive history draws from generations of the author’s own family’s archives to assert that this isn’t a modern, fair fight between two equal states: Instead, it’s a complex colonial war of continual dispossession of a homeland belonging to Palestinians.

Palestine , by Joe Sacco

A remarkable work of ’90s comics journalism—the author traveled to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the waning days of the first intifada and heard from numerous Palestinians about their brutal experiences under Israeli occupation.

The Punishment of Gaza , by Gideon Levy

A collection of Haaretz columns by a longtime Israeli journalist covers Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza, the first election of Hamas, the twilight of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s political career, the second Lebanon War, and the subsequent Gaza War.

“ The Hamas Attacks and Israeli Response: An Explainer ”

By Alex Kane, Mari Cohen, Jonathan Shamir, and Isaac Sher, Jewish Currents, Oct. 10, 2023. This extremely comprehensive explainer answers some foundational questions about what’s happened since Oct. 7, and outlines the stakes and questions that remain.

Peter Beinart on The Ezra Klein Show in 2018

A compelling, searching primer on the contradictory realities many American Jews on the left grapple with, a struggle that is coming to a head with the twinned tragedies in southern Israel and Gaza.

Ashkenaz , a film from Rachel Leah Jones

Essential viewing for people trying to understand the tangled nexus of race/ethnicity, religion, and power in Israel.

5 Broken Cameras , a documentary by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

An intimate depiction of one Palestinian family’s life in the West Bank as their village protests the Israeli occupation—as seen through the lens of the filmmaker’s five video cameras that are destroyed as he witnesses it all unfolding.

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  1. Difference Between Novel And Book

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  4. What Is a Novel? Definition and Characteristics

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  6. Novel Meaning

    novel book meaning


  1. Book meaning

  2. all writers are… #novel #writing #book #authortube

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  6. 14 Types of Novels


  1. Novel Definition & Meaning

    noun 1 : an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events 2 : the literary genre consisting of novels novelistic ˌnä-və-ˈli-stik adjective novelistically ˌnä-və-ˈli-sti-k (ə-)lē adverb Did you know?

  2. NOVEL

    medical specialized used to refer to a new strain (= type) of a virus that has not been seen before: The COVID-19 pathogen is a novel coronavirus. A novel virus in swine is closely related to the human hepatitis E virus. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases

  3. NOVEL

    medical specialized used to refer to a new strain (= type) of a virus that has not been seen before: The COVID-19 pathogen is a novel coronavirus. A novel virus in swine is closely related to the human hepatitis E virus. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases

  4. What Is a Novel? Definition and Characteristics

    Amanda Prahl Updated on May 02, 2019 A novel is a narrative work of prose fiction that tells a story about specific human experiences over a considerable length. Prose style and length, as well as fictional or semi-fictional subject matter, are the most clearly defining characteristics of a novel.

  5. Novel

    Defining the genre Madame de Pompadour spending her afternoon with a book (François Boucher, 1756) Paper as the essential carrier: Murasaki Shikibu writing her The Tale of Genji in the early 11th century, 17th-century depiction. A novel is a long, fictional narrative. The novel in the modern era usually makes use of a literary prose style.The development of the prose novel at this time was ...

  6. NOVEL Definition & Usage Examples

    1 [ nov- uhl ] show ipa See synonyms for novel on Thesaurus.com noun a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes. (formerly) novella (def. 1). Recommended videos Powered by AnyClip AnyClip Product Demo 2022 / Loaded 0%

  7. Novel in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Novel Definition. A novel (NAH-vull) is a narrative work of fiction published in book form. Novels are longer than short stories and novellas, with the greater length allowing authors to expand upon the same basic components of all fictional literature—character, conflict, plot, and setting, to name a few. Novels have a long, rich history, shaped by formal standards, experimentation, and ...

  8. Book

    The Latin word codex, meaning a book in the modern sense (bound and with separate leaves), originally meant 'block of wood'. History ... The novel is the most common form of fiction book. Novels are stories that typically feature a plot, setting, themes and characters. Stories and narrative are not restricted to any topic; ...

  9. Novel

    noun a printed and bound book that is an extended work of fiction "his bookcases were filled with nothing but novels " "he burned all the novels " see more adjective original and of a kind not seen before "the computer produced a completely novel proof of a well-known theorem" synonyms: fresh, new original

  10. Novel

    Novel, an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence involving a group of persons in a specific setting. Learn more about the elements, development, and types of novels in this article.

  11. Book Definition & Meaning

    ˈbu̇k Synonyms of book 1 a : a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory b : a set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together between a front and back cover an address book c : a long written or printed literary composition reading a good book reference books hardcover and paperback books d

  12. Novel vs. Book: When To Use Each Word

    Quick summary A novel is a type of book. Generally, a book is considered to be a novel if it is long, is written in prose, and is a work of fiction. A novel typically tells a narrative story about events that happen to characters in a particular setting. During your life, you have likely read quite a few books and novels.

  13. Novel vs Book

    Since books can be fictional or otherwise, we can draw this salient conclusion; 'A novel is a fictional book detailing a story -describing its characters, their wants and actions, the obstacles in their way and whether or not they achieve their aims.'. In some cases, novels can be made up of non-fictional writings.

  14. Novel

    Novel Definition. A Novel is a long narrative work of fiction with some realism. It is often in prose form and is published as a single book. The word 'novel' has been derived from the Italian word ' novella ' which means "new". Similar to a short story, a novel has some features like a representation of characters, dialogues ...

  15. BOOK

    a written text that can be published in printed or electronic form: Have you read any good books recently? He has a new book out (= published). She wrote a book on car maintenance. hudiemm/E+/GettyImages A1 [ C ] a set of pages that have been fastened together inside a cover to be read or written in: a hardback / paperback book

  16. Novel Versus Book: What's the Difference?

    A novel is a specific type of book — one that tells a continuous narrative story with a beginning, middle, and end. To be a true novel, the story must always be fictional. A book can be a novel, but it can also refer to other types of bound and printed material like biographies, history books, cookbooks, and instruction manuals.

  17. Difference Between Book and Novel (with Comparison Chart)

    The novel is a type of a lengthy narrative fictional book with some realism, presented in prose style, which exhibits personal human experiences by way of a continuous chain of events concerning various characters in a particular setting. A novel tells a story that has a complex and diverse narration.

  18. Literary fiction

    Definition. Literary fiction may involve a concern with social commentary, political criticism, or reflection on the human condition. [9] This contrasts with genre fiction where plot is the central concern. [10] It may have a slower pace than popular fiction. [11] As Terrence Rafferty notes, "literary fiction, by its nature, allows itself to ...

  19. BOOK

    book meaning: 1. a written text that can be published in printed or electronic form: 2. a set of pages that have…. Learn more.

  20. Novel vs. Book

    The word count is another crucial factor that differentiates a typical book from a novel. A book can be written within any word limit, as the writer does not have to adhere to the minimum word count standards. A novel, on the other hand, must contain at least 40,000 words to be classified as a novel.

  21. NOVEL Synonyms: 101 Similar and Opposite Words

    Definition of novel 1 as in narrative Synonyms & Similar Words Relevance narrative fiction anecdote yarn tale story fabrication fantasy invention phantasy fable fairy tale figment lie misrepresentation falsehood untruth prevarication fib falsity whopper mendacity make-believe Antonyms & Near Antonyms fact reality materiality actuality realness 2

  22. Parts of a Book: Quire, Colophon, and More

    A colophon, whose name is from a Greek word meaning "summit" or "finishing touch," is traditionally an inscription placed at the end of a book or manuscript, usually with facts that relate to its production.These details might include the name of the printer and the date and place of printing. Colophons are found in some manuscripts and books made as long ago as the 6th century AD.

  23. The Ultimate List of Book Genres: 35 Popular Genres

    Which genre (or subgenre) am I writing? Find out which genre your book belongs to. It only takes a minute! Start quiz For an overview of all of the genres, that's what the rest of this post is for. There's bound to be a genre that's the perfect fit for your book — all you have to do is find it! Fiction genres

  24. Meaning It

    Meaning it is joy, rage, spite. Meaning it is dangerous, because it is disharmonious with the costume many of us, for good reason, have developed to survive. Meaning it is a matter of being clear without eschewing beauty or style or the honest nonsense that, as in good sex writing, reflects the primal misfires of the brain.

  25. Amazon.com: Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z

    A groundbreaking, revelatory portrait of the six generations that currently live in the United States and how they connect, conflict, and compete with one another—from the acclaimed author of Generation Me and iGen. The United States is currently home to six generations of people:-the Silents, born 1925-1945-Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964-Gen X, born 1965-1979-Millennials, born 1980 ...

  26. Joe and Jill Biden hand out books and candy while hosting rainy trick

    Take a look. Gray skies and drizzle added a spooky element and books were as abundant as candy at Halloween eve trick-or-treating that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted at the ...

  27. Reading list for the Israel-Hamas war: the best books, films, magazine

    The Best Books, Films, Magazine Stories, and Audio for Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict ... This book bills itself as a biography, and it helps to think of it that way—a broad ...