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The Major Fiction Genres

Updated on October 9, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Genres for books seem to be growing on a daily basis. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture. There are genres upon genres. Previously we discussed the two major genres: fiction and non-fiction. Today, let’s discuss the major fiction genres.

Mystery/Suspense

This is a very popular one. Mystery books can take up an entire bookstore if the store had every one written. They cover a wide range of styles. There is the cozy mystery which is the amateur detective solving local mysteries. There is the professional detectives that face life-harrowing situations. Some mysteries are just situations where people uncover truths by stumbling upon things.

The suspense part is added as a partner genre as most suspense are mystery as well. These are usually the ones that are not series and have you on the edge of your seat as you read it. It is the tracking of a serial killer with the reader having no idea it is the person.... It's suspense.

If this is a genre you'd be interested in reading, here are the top 10 based on Flavorwire.com:

- Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

- Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

- A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

- Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

- The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

- An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James

- The Complete Auguste Dupin Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Romance

This is the biggest genre in fiction. Millions of romance stories are published and bring in even more in money. This genre has a large following of both men and women. It covers mystery, paranormal, historical, and even science fiction and fantasy.

To be considered a romance novel, the plot has to center around the romance of two or more characters. While the story can contain mystery, adventure, or even be set in a science fiction world, it is considered a romance if everything about the story involves the romantic interests.

The following are considered the best romance novels of all time:

- The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldan

- The Bride by Julie Garwood

- The Windflower by Laura London

- The Lotus Palace series by Jeannie Lin

- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

- The Iron Seas series by Meljean Brooks

- Warrior's Woman by Johanna Lindsey

- The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

- Chesapeake Bay Saga by Nora Roberts

- Indigo by Beverly Jenkins


Science Fiction/Fantasy

This is a frustrating genre for me. They are nearly always paired yet many readers prefer one or the other and don't cross genre lines. They are kind of like first cousins who are seen together a lot.

Science fiction books are typically futuristic and often set in outerspace. This doesn't have to always be the case. Some can be in modern times but still focuses on more technologically advanced or the impossible such as multiple dimensions or time travel.

Fantasy is more along the line of wizards, ogres, and fairies. It is usually set in another world where magic is common. There is a subset of this genre where the fantasy world exists in our own. This genre can also overlap into paranormal which is a more recently created genre that encompasses many of the same characteristics.


Here are a few of what NPR considered to be the most popular in this mixed genre:

Science Fiction:

- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

- The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

- 1984 by George Orwell

- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

- Brave New World by Adolf Huxley

- Animal Farm by George Orwell

- Neuromancer by William Gibson

- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Graphic novel)

Fantasy:

- The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

- A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin - (Game of Thrones series)

- American Gods by Neil Gaiman

- The Princess Bride by William Goldman

- The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

- The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

- Watership Down by Richard Adams

- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

- The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

Horror

This ones seems very self-explanatory. These are stories that are meant to scare you and invoke terror or unease. I have read some that gave me a chill and others that gave me nightmares years after I read them. That is one reason I usually avoid this genre, but I know many who thirst for the fear they get. The following are considered the some of the best horror stories ever written:


- IT by Stephen King

- Piercing by Ryu Murakami

- The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

- Ghost Story by Peter Straub

- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

- Hell House by Richard Matheson

- Dracula by Bram Stoker

- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

- The Best of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft

- The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Historical Fiction

This is another that is relatively self-explanatory. This is a genre that is fiction but based on historical events, people, and time periods. Parts of it can be true or none of it. It is all about the place, time, and people. Here are some popular historical fiction books.

- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

- I, Claudius by Robert Graves

- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

- The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

- The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory

- Wolf Hall by HIlary Mantel

- Bring Up the Bodies by HIlary Mantel

- The Three Muskateers by Alexandre Dumas

- Silence by Shusaku Endo

- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Children's

These are books designed for those readers who are less than ten to twelve years old. The max age of these books can vary based on the maturity of the reader. When the child is older, the parent will have to decide when they can advance to older books that straddle the children/young adult genres.

Here are some of the most popular children's books:

- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

- Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

- Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

- Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

- Tuesday by David Wiesner

- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Young Adult

These books are designed for the reader who has left the children's section and are rushing forward into adulthood. The topics are more mature and at times tackle tough issues that many young adults face in the world today. This genre has always been around but has exploded in the last decade as more and more young adults are reading and expressing their enjoyment of tough books and dark material.

Here are some of the most popular YA books:

- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

- Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

- The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

- Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

- Holes by Louis Sachar

- The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

- The Giver by Lois Lowry

- Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Explore Fiction Genre

These are just the major genres. There are many more including Gothic, Western, and Women's Literature. Have fun exploring and possibly finding new genres to enjoy.

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