There are two main types of books – fiction and non-fiction.
However, there are many subtypes, or ‘genres,’ in both categories.
This article will look at fiction and nonfiction genres, briefly explaining each and some examples of relevant books.
Types of books
There are many different types of books available for everyone of all ages. You can choose the genres falling under fiction and nonfiction works.
‘Fiction’ refers to stories that are not real. They are:
- Created by the author with a plot, setting, and characters developed from the imagination.
- Entirely imagined or loosely based on real events. Real people may inspire a story, but the author, as the creator, does not have to stick to the facts.
- Use literary devices to tell a story for entertainment and allegorical education. These devices include plot, characters, setting, and points of view.
Nonfiction is based on facts. It is not created from the imagination but researched and reported.
- Objective point of view. Unlike fiction books, non-fiction uses facts to tell a story rather than characters’ emotions or imagined events.
- History, biographies, essays, and journalism are common nonfiction genres.
- Truth is key. Fiction can incorporate facts, but nonfiction allows no room for false information.
Fiction book genres
There are other genres under fiction works.
Classics are works of fiction deemed by the general public and book critics to have contributed significantly to literature.
Like other fiction genres, classics feature subgenres. The term classic typically refers to old books that have had a lasting impact but do not imply a particular theme.
Famous examples of classic literature include:
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. Action and adventure
Action and adventure books are exciting, plot-heavy, fictional narratives that take readers on a journey. Such books often feature multiple settings and strong character development, with heroes, antagonists, and life-altering challenges.
Action and adventure books cover many themes and styles. They often blend other genres, including thrillers and mystery, romance, crime, and comedy. Popular books in the genre include:
Fantasy is one of the most popular genres in fiction. One reason behind its popularity is the immense number of subgenres that exist within it.
Fantasy includes epic fantasy, high fantasy, science fiction fantasy, medieval, magical realism, and fairy tales, to name a few.
Fantasy stories immerse readers in a new, unknown world. The author carefully crafts a detailed setting (world-building), develops strong characters, and writes a plot that couldn’t possibly take place in the world as we know it.
Knights, dragons, magic, sorcery, and underdog vs. authority are common to fantasy themes. The unrealistic elements of fantasy stories often represent real people, forces, and concepts we deal with in our lives, conveyed through the author’s imaginative talent.
Popular fantasy books include:
- Harry Potter (series) – J.K Rowling
- Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
- The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Crime is one of the most popular fiction genres. Crime stories offer us compelling insight into the minds of those who break the rules and the internal and external consequences of doing so.
There is an element of catharsis in reading crime fiction. We, as the reader, get to safely enter a world of danger, crime, injustice, and even terror and learn about the inherent human qualities that make these fictional tales not exclusive to the imagination.
Popular titles in the genre include:
- Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
- The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
- The Godfather – Mario Puzo
5. Historical fiction
Historical fiction takes place in the real past.
Characters and events are fictional. Though they may be based on actual events, the setting is real.
Historical fiction books offer the modern reader insight into the customs, traditions, attitudes, perspectives, lifestyles, and struggles of those who came before us.
Popular historical fiction titles include:
- Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
- All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
- Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
Horror fiction serves to strike fear or terror in the reader.
We read horror stories to frighten ourselves and experience the thrill, suspense, and raw fear that the characters undergo for our entertainment.
Horror is still a broad genre, but some authors have made names for themselves as experts in the genre. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice are big names in the genre, and their works have set a standard for other writers.
Famous examples of horror fiction include:
- The Shining – Stephen King
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
- Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
Sci-fi is an incredibly literary genre and is often coupled with fantasy themes. Sci-fi fantasy is a fantasy subgenre, but the genre also exists in its own right.
Sci-fi stories often portray worlds of advanced technologies, far-away galaxies, or other-worldly characters. In sci-fi literature, artificial intelligence, dystopian futures, and immortality are common themes.
Popular science fiction books include:
Satirical fiction highlights follies, misconceptions, and societal double standards to provoke a reader into seeing through behaviors and illusions.
A satire might mimic a real-life political power or social class through allegory and metaphor, allowing the author to express their views and concerns about the topic safely and implicitly.
Satire is a comedy, and comedy is no easy feat to write. It requires an in-depth and transcendent understanding of a topic or circumstance, supported by wit.
Between the lines exists a more profound message, a nudge from the author to the reader to open their minds and question concepts and standards they take for granted.
Famous works of satire in the literature include:
Non-fiction book genres
Fiction covers many genres, more than those listed above. Genres often blend and make it hard to define a book by just one.
Unlike fiction books, non-fiction does not cover many genres. There is still variety in the overall genre, but most non-fiction books fall under one of the following subgenres:
- Life story (biography, memoir)
- Self-help books
1. Life story
The life story genre includes biographies, personal essays, and memoirs. Biographies typically cover the lives of famous people from birth to the present or death.
In most bookstores, you’ll find a biography of a household name, such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, or Tiger Woods.
Memoirs do not cover an entire life but instead focus on a period in one’s life themed with life lessons or eye-opening experiences.
Famous non-fiction biographies and memoirs include:
- Alan Turing: The Enigma – Andrew Hodges
- Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo – Hayden Herrera
- Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
Self-help is an increasingly popular genre in modern literature. Other terms used to define the genre include personal growth and personal development.
These books offer readers insight into their behaviors and habits and highlight how one can take control over much of one’s life by practicing self-awareness and making healthy choices.
Some self-help books focus on social and business success, such as Dale Carnegie’s renowned How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Some self-help books support readers with exercises and workbooks to help them break old or form new habits, such as Alan Carr’s How to Quit Smoking.
Other self-help books focus on psychoeducation and cultivating mindful awareness in the reader, such as Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.
Other popular self-help books include:
- Atomic Habits – James Clear
- Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
- The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
An essay is a piece of text that aims to make a point. They are popular in academic circumstances, but many essays are published and read by the public.
Famous essayists include Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Susan Sontag.
Essays often feature social, political, or economic commentary. Their purpose is to make a point, so essay writers don’t need to focus on cold hard facts.
Anecdotes, hyperbole, and metaphor are all valuable tools essay writers use to highlight or emphasize a point.
Famous essays include:
- Self-Reliance – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau
- Against Interpretation – Susan Sontag
Literary journalism is fact-based, period-focused reporting on real-life events.
Unlike life stories and essays, literary journalism does not look at the writer’s personal feelings or perspectives. Instead, it takes an objective and well-researched view of the topic.
Popular examples of literary journalism include:
5. Instructional/Educational Guides
Instructional or education guides and how-to’s can also fall under the self-help genre.
However, unlike the typical self-help book, guides and how-to’s focus less on personal development and more on attaining a particular skill, such as maintaining a vehicle, starting a business, or writing a book.
No matter what subjects or themes you’re interested in, there’s always a great book to read on the topic. Fiction and nonfiction books alike open our eyes to the world around us.
Even literary fiction in an alternate universe carries undertones and messages applicable to life as we know it.
Other genres and types of the book include:
- Children’s books (early reader, middle grade, YA)
- Low content books – Cookbooks, art books, workbooks
- Mystery novels
- Romance novels
- Comic/graphic novel
- Collections of short stories
What’s your favorite book genre? Are you looking for a new genre to discover?
The genres and subgenres above cover a lot of potential new reads for you, but the list above is not exhaustive.
Even subgenres have their subgenres, like children’s books for early readers, children’s books for middle-grade students, or crime mystery books and psychological thrillers.
Some readers are loyal to their favorite genre and are hesitant to try something new.
Hopefully, by reading this article, you’ve discovered a sense of curiosity about a genre you previously dismissed. Give a new genre a try and expand your knowledge and imagination.