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The Umbrella Literature Genres

Updated on December 16, 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.

There are so many genres out there in the book world today. Just go into a bookstore and look at all the signs directing you to each one of them. I remember growing up and seeing only a handful with just a select few mini-genres.

Today there are more than you can shake a stick at. What we forget is that all literature can be broken down into two simple umbrella genres: fiction and non-fiction.


These are books that are not true. Okay, that sounds kind of harsh to such wonderful reads. They are fiction, though they can be based on true events and true people. They can use fact, and many generally do. You can learn a lot in a fiction book, but it is not something that you could use a reference book or a manual.

They can be used to study history, but they are not history or science. It is kind of like a dolphin is a porpoise, but a porpoise is not a dolphin. Never assume what you read in the fiction genre is absolute fact. It is a story woven to entertain. Fiction writers take liberty in order to support a creative plot or develop characters.

Fiction Sub-Genres

Within the fiction genre are many, many sub-genres. There are mysteries, science fiction, romance, thriller/suspense, horror, children’s, young adult, and more. These sub-genres likewise have sub-genres. You can see how confusing it can be, and many works cross genres which makes it harder to classify.

Romance is one of the most popular of the fiction genres. It brings in millions in sales with repeat authors hitting the bestsellers list. Under romance, there are dozens of sub-genres where readers can find the perfect romance for themselves.

Mysteries take the reader into a puzzle that might involve suspense and murder. There are cozy mysteries which are typically just regular people finding themselves in the midst of a mystery that usually involves a body. They aren't extremely graphic.

Horror is a very popular fiction sub-genre. It can mingle with other genres very well, but most of these books stand strong under the title of horror. They are meant to scare you senseless.

Fantasy takes you into worlds of magic while science fiction can take you into space or futuristic scenarios. Many other sub-genres exist and can be found easily at your neighborhood bookstore.


These are all the books that are not fiction. They are textbooks, manuals ,and periodicals, thought there are some periodicals that cater to the fiction side. There are also books on history, science, and topics such as cooking, crocheting, and more. These are instructional and educational books. Reference books, such as dictionaries, are also included in this genre.

There could be an argument that some of the books in the non-fiction genre are really fiction. That could be because someone has written an historical book on Queen Elizabeth, for example, that others believe is not based on fact. It would still be categorized as a non-fiction book unless the author says it was meant to be fiction disguised as non-fiction. Whether you agree with the information in the non-fiction book does not decide in which genre it goes into.

As you can see, the umbrella genres can be perfectly defined until you find one that hits that grey area and causes dissension in the literary world. Generally, it is very easy to divide books into one of these two categories. From there on it gets tricky and downright messy.

Non-Fiction Sub-Genres

There are just as many non-fiction genres as there are fiction. There are reference books that we go to for information. There are biographies and autobiographies that we like to read and discover more about a particular person. Sub-genres are considered to be the following:

Reference books are generally like encyclopedias and anything that is brief or in a list format. Looking up information in these book is a relatively quick task.

Biographies and autobiographies are quite numerous. These are stories about individual people. It is not about specific events in their lives. It is about the whole person's life.

After this, you can find history books, science books, and nearly anything else.


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