The Ultimate List of Book Genres: 24 Popular Genres, Explained

The word genre refers to a particular type or category, and when it comes to books, it refers to a kind or category of books. There are several factors which determine the category into which a book falls. These include the target audience, the period the book covers, the reader’s emotional experience, the book’s setting and the book’s medium.

As a reader and as a writer, it is vital to be aware of the various book genres, but especially if you are a writer. As a writer, you need to know the genre because that will enable you to understand who your target audience is, how long your book is going to be, what kind of research you need to do, whether there are any genre-specific rules/trends you need to follow and so on.

There are several book genres, but some are very popular.

Here we list some well-known genres of books in both the fiction and nonfiction categories.

1. Fantasy

Fantasy is one of the most popular genres. It is all about magic, the world of make-believe where you can let your imagination go wild; this includes Young Adult Fantasy, Adult Fantasy and Epic Fantasy.

Books belonging to this genre are about a world which does not exist, and your reader knows it. Therefore you can exaggerate your characterisation and depiction. The situations are unreal and only exist in the imagination, but you cannot go overboard. It cannot be a cock and bull story that readers cannot digest; it should be what you would want to read.

Let your imagination run, make up characters, and make up stories. Be bold, creative and imaginative but don’t go over the top. You can’t write for the sake of writing and end up dishing out rubbish.

2. Adventure

A book in this genre is generally based on a trip, a journey, an adventure or a quest. The adventure would include the physical journey and the emotional ups and downs a person goes through. A bit of creativity and imagination could make the book interesting.

3. Romance

Romance is another popular genre which has many takers. Books belonging to this genre are about love and romance, and you can never go wrong with them. Though such books have romance and relationships as the main plot, there could also be subplots. Several times romance is a subplot in books belonging to other genres. Romance books have one specific goal: to make the reader fall in love with the characters just as much as the characters fall in love with each other.

Also Read: 20 Best Colleen Hoover Books

4. Contemporary

This book genre is all about books about the current period, with most novels revolving around common issues in a character’s life. Since these books are about the contemporary world, readers can easily relate to them. But most of the time, this genre is lumped in with others like Contemporary Fantasy or Contemporary Romance. The terms convey that this book is based in current times though it might also cover other genres.

5. Dystopian

This relatively new genre has gained popularity in the last 5 to 10 years. Though the genre itself is not old, the term is relatively new. It’s a genre that talks about the destruction of the current government or society and its aftermath. This genre gives the author much freedom to develop their ideas and views in any way they want.

This genre can also be used as a secondary genre like the contemporary genre, so you could have a Dystopian Fantasy or a Dystopian Science Fiction.

6. Mystery

Mystery is another trendy genre, both among authors and readers. The plot, in this case, is focused on solving a mystery based on the book’s main character. And it is the main character that is instrumental in solving the mystery. Other kinds of books may also have mysteries within them, but what makes a book a mystery book is the fact that the mystery is the main plot and point of the book.

7. Horror

A horror book is characterised by the fact that the main plot revolves around something scary. There is suspense and action, but the overall effect is scary, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The author gets to imagine scenarios which can be bone-chilling and gruesome. The reader, in this case, generally knows that there is a big evil present which is likely to haunt, destroy or even kill the victims. The climax is about the confrontation, which could lead to the escape or survival of the protagonist from the evil presence.

8. Thriller

A thriller is similar to a horror, but it is not meant to scare the reader. Instead, the plot is action-packed and full of suspense. It is about solving a mystery that involves a lot of danger and uncertainty. The reader will not be able to predict what happens next. Some parts could be scary, but they are never horrifying.

9. Paranormal

These books are all about paranormal activity like ghosts, clairvoyance, demons, vampires and the like. But unlike a fantasy, it doesn’t have magic like witches or fantasy-specific beings like unicorns, mermaids, etc. A paranormal book generally includes a current or real-life setting and is not often set in another world like fantasy can sometimes be.

However, you can have a Paranormal Fantasy if your book covers both these elements,

10. Historical Fiction

This genre is about a fictional story set in the past. Usually, such books are centred around known events or happenings that took place in the past. While writing such a book, the author must be very sure of the facts because the reader can verify them. At the same time to build a connection with the reader, the author must include some emotional and personal conflicts in the plot which the reader can relate to, as such conflicts are relevant in all periods.

Also Read: 21 Famous Historical Places in India

11. Scientific Fiction

Scientific fiction is another very popular genre. Books based on this talk about a futuristic society with advanced technology and occasionally out worldly beings. This is a genre that can add to another genre like you could have a Sci-Fi Fantasy, which would be about a futuristic world with advanced technology and some magic or fantasy element.

Despite being futuristic, these books also include the human element to appeal to readers living in the contemporary world.

12. Memoir

A memoir is a nonfiction book genre where the author tells the reader about the most defining moments in their lives that have led them to where they are and who they are today. A memoir is different from an autobiography in the sense that an autobiography is more of a timeline of the author’s life, events and accomplishments. In contrast, a memoir is more of a collection of the most significant moments, pulled together by a theme or message the author wishes to share with the readers.

13. Cookbook

Cookbooks are books that contain recipes and directions for making the dishes. Several cookbooks feature stories about why the dish was created and the inspiration behind it.

14. Art

There are many ways a book can qualify to be in the art genre but what is essential is that these books are focused on art and subjects related to it. This genre covers topics like art facts, art methods and art history.

15. Self-help

A book written to help someone in their personal life and lift them to make a positive change falls into the category of a self-help book. Books which are a part of this genre try to help others have a better life by empowering and guiding them. This genre can include other genres as well, like you could have a health self-help book or a relationship self-help book.

16. Personal Development

Books belonging to this genre address specific struggles relating to character and personal development and how to overcome these problems. This genre is growing rapidly as the world focuses on self-improvement.

17. Motivational

Books belonging to this genre are also becoming very popular nowadays. These books focus on empowering people to do whatever they are struggling with. Such books centre around problems that prevent people from accomplishing their goals and dreams and how they can overcome such issues. These books again can be combined with other genres like health, fitness, business and self-help.

Also Read: The 25 Most Inspirational Books

18. Health

Books falling under this genre feature anything and everything that is health-related. They cover various topics, from fitness to holistic healing to complex medical issues to in-depth coverage of different health conditions.

19. History

Any book that covers historical facts of any kind would fall under this category. Since this is a nonfiction category, the facts have to be accurate. Such the books could cover different events in history written in an entertaining manner in sharp contrast to factional textbooks.

20. Travel

This genre covers books like travel guides and in-depth reviews of travel destinations. Topics like travel -hacks or ways to travel cheaply or free of cost would also fall into this category.

Also Read: 6 Travel Bags That are Ideal for a Weekend Getaway

21. Humour

This genre includes books that revolve around a humorous endeavour, like a joke book. So if you need a good laugh, you must get hold of one of these books.

22. Families and Relationships

Books belonging to this genre are about building a strong familial foundation or improving your relationship. This genre includes books on family bonding or romantic relationships, or even fostering friendships.

23. Guide

Books falling in this genre are all about telling people how to do something specific. The core purpose is to guide people.

24. Children’s Books

These books are specifically targeted at children between the ages of 0-8 years. These could be picture books or just simple reads to encourage the young ones to read.

Also Read: Book Recommendations For Children By Children

This listing of different genres of books should be of help to readers and writers.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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