A Guide to Popular Book Genres and Subgenres for Writing

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When aspiring writers enter into the great world of storytelling, they must make sure that they know what they are writing, and so it’s important for every beginner to be aware of all the prominent and different types of book genres to help them tell better stories.

What is Genre in Literature?

Genre is the term used to describe and organize a work of literature following a specific style, tone, composition, content, or form. 

When becoming an author, the person must accumulate good knowledge of different book genres to help them create a better story plot.

Types of Genres for writing

Though there are many book genres, around 50, In this article we are covering the 12 most popular and prominent book genres which are also the pioneer of most subgenres. All twelve genres belong to the fiction genres.

Fiction Genres-

1. Literary fiction

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Literary fiction books and novels are odd ones of the book genres.

Rather bound under a specific genre, this work of fiction is considered a literary work with artistic value and literary merit.

A work of literary fiction often includes social commentary (showing issues in society), political criticism (criticism concerning politics, policies, types of government), or reflection on humanity (the human conditions, their emotions, conflict, mortality, aspirations, etc.)

In literary fiction, the story plot is not the central concern but the character. Often the story narrative of literary fiction novels is character-driven and introspective in nature, putting out the author’s own thoughts and feelings in writing. 

Pro Writing tips- If you are a beginner in writing, then starting with literary fiction is a great way to start as you will be not bound to follow a specific genre while writing and can write freehand. 


Popular Literary Fiction Novels-

To the Light Houseby Virginia Woolf

The Dutch Houseby Ann Patchett

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

2. Mystery

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One of the most popular genres, mystery fiction is also called detective fiction. The story plot of mystery genre books revolves around a huge mystery that needs to be solved by the protagonist

Crime, clues, suspects, victims, evidence, problem, witnesses, murder and detectives are the basic elements of mystery fiction.

These mysterious stories start with the main character or a detective following the clues to solve a crime and end with finding the culprit, revealing the whole conspiracy, solving the crime, or reaching a satisfying answer.

Readers love reading mystery fiction, as it allows them to play the part of a detective and to participate in solving the mystery with the help of clues plotted in the story.

Popular Sub-Genres of Mystery Fiction-

  • Detective fiction- This subgenre of mystery and crime fiction follows the plot of a detective investigating a crime or solving a murder mystery case.
  • Cozy mystery- The plot of cozy mystery novels stays away from violence, suspense, or mature intimate writing and the detective of the story often solves the case with their intellect rather than following typical police procedures.
  • Police procedural- A member of the police team often presented as the protagonist or a detective solves the case following a typical police procedural.

Related: 7 Best Crime and Detective Novels (Police Procedural)

Pro writing tips- Read the works of legendary mystery fiction writer Agatha Christie to develop a sense of weaving a mystery plot.


Popular Mystery Fiction Novels-

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Hound of the Baskerville by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

And Then There Were Non by Agatha Christie

Gone Girlby Gillian Flynn

3. Horror 

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Horror novels and stories are meant to scare, disgust and terrify its reader.

The main purpose of Horror fiction is to create a strong imaginative fear in its reader’s mind which can frighten and terrify them while they are in their comfort zone reading and enjoying the spooky feeling of fear and death just by turning the pages of a book.

Ghosts are the most popular figures of fear used in horror fiction, but the genre is not only limited to it. Monsters, zombies, aliens, spirits, witches, vampires, werewolves, killers, etc., can also be used to create a spooky and horrifying horror story plot. 

Popular Sub-Genres of Horror Fiction-

  • Gothic- Gothic fiction covers horror, death and sometimes romance.
  • Paranormal- Paranormal fiction covers ghost stories and horror elements that can’t be explained by science.
  • Dark Fantasy- This subgenre contains a blend of fantasy and horror following a dark tone.
  • Supernatural- Supernatural fiction generally showcases supernatural beings like witches, demons, vampires, ghosts, devils, angels, etc., and contradicts the natural laws of the real world.
  • Sci-fi Horror- This subgenre contains a blend of horror and science fiction.
  • Psychological- Psychological horror exploits the mental, emotional and psychological states of the readers to deliver a terrifying and frightening story.
  • Horrific humans– This subgenre uses psycho humans and serial killers as an element of fear and horror.

Pro writing tips– Read the works of the popularly known king of horror fiction, Stephen King to develop the art and style of horror writing.

Related:101 Horror Story Ideas


Popular Horror Novels-

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The Shiningby Stephen King

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

At the Mountains of Madnessby H.P Lovecraft

4. Science fiction

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Science fiction is generally addressed as a genre of speculative fiction, where the story plot follows futuristic ideas, scientific concepts, space explorations & adventures, extraterritorial existence, time travel, cosmic possibilities, etc.

Readers shower their huge love on the sci-fi stories as all the imaginary elements which don’t exist in the real world but yet appeal to everyone to accept it as a future possibility. 

From books to movies, the sci-fi genre is counted among the most popular and successful genres in terms of providing seer entertainment value to its audience of every age group. 

Sci-fi stories are not just limited to books, movies or tv series, but it helps humankind to explore all the possibilities of human aspiration and urges and inspire the professionals in science and technology to look for potential possibilities of new innovations and discoveries.

Two Science fiction categories-

Hard science fictionHard science fiction novels are based on scientific facts, realistic and plausible themes or concepts following the laws of science.

Soft science fiction- Novels of soft science fiction are based on social science like psychology, and sociology containing not scientifically accurate or plausible science.

Popular Sub-Genres of Science Fiction-

  • Cyberpunk- Cyberpunk is the subgenre of science fiction that showcases a dystopian futuristic world along with advanced technology.
  • Space operaSpace opera follows the stories set mainly in outer space showcasing space warfare, space conflicts, space adventures, romance and interplanetary battles.
  • Steampunk– This retro-futuristic subgenre, steampunk showcases the technology blending steam-powered machinery.
  • Science fantasy– Novels of sci-fi fantasy contain mythology and folklore along with magical elements.

Popular Science Fiction Novels-

Dune by Frank Herbert

War of the worldby H.G Wells

Nineteen Eighty-Fourby George Orwell

A Game of Thronesby George R. R Martin

American Godsby Neil Gaiman

5. Romance

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Romance fiction explores one of the prominent human feelings which is love and the genre’s central plot revolves around a love story, often presenting the romantic relationship between two people.

Romance novels take their readers on a soothing romantic journey but also explore human’s genuine experiences while being in a relationship like conflict, troubles, issues and problems which comes in the way of two love birds but the stories often end with a comforting and at an emotional point.  

Popular Sub-Genres of Romance

  • Young adult- YA romance novels follow the plot of a romantic relationship between two young people in love.
  • Historical romance- The romantic plot of historical romance takes place in the setting located in the past often prior to 1945 at any time.
  • Contemporary romance- Contemporary romance plot take place in the contemporary time period of the time of writing and showcases a romantic story, reflecting the mores of their time.
  • Romantic suspense- The plot of this subgenre contains a blend of romance with mystery or suspense.
  • Erotic romance- Erotic romance novels showcase a developing romantic relationship between the characters through s*xual interactions. This subgenre contains bold languages, s*x acts and scenes with the central theme focusing on sex.
  • Paranormal romance- This subgenre focuses on a romantic story blending with the genres of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy and horror). Paranormal romance novels showcase a romantic love plot and include elements beyond scientific explanation.

Popular Romance Novels-

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Gone with the windby Margaret Mitchell

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

“The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

6. Fantasy 

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Fantasy fiction is the genre that showcases imaginary magical worlds containing elements of magic and supernatural stuff. The stories of this genre are often inspired by mythology and folklore.

Fantasy fiction is also regarded as one of the best genres in allowing the writers to take their writing creativity to limitless boundaries where the writer’s imagination can bring anything into the story and no real-world logic is required in creating anything as we do in science fiction and some other genres.

Fantasy fiction is also speculative like science fiction and often contains characters like wizards, witches, trolls, fairies, elves, angels, dragons, magical realism, etc.

Popular Sub-Genres of Fantasy Fiction

  • Epic or Hard fantasy- Novels of the epic or hard fantasy are set in a fictional world with their own sets of rules and physical laws showcasing a single hero-driven plot with an epic story.
  • Low fantasy- The story of low fantasy is set in the real world with some magical elements and events included.
  • Dark fantasy- This subgenre contains a blend of fantasy and horror following a dark story tone.
  • Sword and sorcery- The story plot follows a sword-wielding hero or character engaging himself in great adventures along with elements of magic and witchcraft.
  • Magical realism- Magical realism crosses over low fantasy. The plot follows a location setting in the real world with magical elements including showcasing ordinary people comfortable with an extraordinary life.

Popular Fantasy Novels-

The Lord of the Ringsby J.R.R Tolkien

Harry Potter by J. K Rowling

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe by C.S Lewis

A wizard of Earthsea by Ursula k. Le Guin

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

7. Dystopian

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Dystopian fiction novels are based on the subject of an imagined future world where a dehumanizing, frightening & anarchist society prevails after going through an environmental disaster or a world war and humans struggle with anarchy, oppression, brutality, survival, etc.

In dystopian fiction the world is often presented under lawlessness (under no governmental control), or under the control of a single oppressive and hypocritical government, or some highly technologically advanced force.

The dystopian genre is also speculative fiction like science fiction & fantasy and can be used as a subgenre for them like dystopian science fiction or dystopian fantasy fiction. 


Popular Dystopian Novels-

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury

The Handmaid’s Taleby Margaret Atwood

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

1984by George Orwell

8. Action & Adventure

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Novels of action-adventure fiction follow extreme excitement, danger, and an arduous goal that needed to be achieved by the protagonist of the story. 

In this genre, the often brave and risk-taker hero struggles a lot in achieving the important goal as he/she is been put into a series of challenges, endless obstacles, difficult situations and even physical feats.

The plot of action and adventures novels also contains a difficult and adventurous journey that the main character needed to complete successfully to reach an important destination  

The action and adventure genre is not only limited to itself as it often crosses over with fantasy fiction.


Popular Action & Adventure Novels-

“The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas

“Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson

“Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne

“Hart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

“The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

9. Thriller & Suspense

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Thriller & suspense fiction follows a suspenseful plot showcasing a mysterious, intense and dark story filled with plot twists, danger, cliffhangers, red herrings, etc.

Novels of this genre often depict a story where all the events and circumstances taking place in the story is in complete control of the villain of the story and the primary work of the protagonist is to save his own life. 

Thrillers are best known for their strong climax-building series of events that keeps the readers on the edge of their seats, intensely submerged into the thrilling story.

A well-delivered thriller doesn’t let its reader lose interest in the story until the suspense is revealed.  

Popular Sub-Genres of Thriller Fiction-

Psychological thriller

Mystery thriller

Crime thriller-

Spy thriller-

Action thriller-

Sci-fi thriller-

These subgenres don’t need any further explanation as these subgenres’ name along speaks their definition.


Popular Thriller & Suspense Novels-

”The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

”Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

”The Guest List” by Lucy Foley

”The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

”The Woman in the Window” by A. J Finn

10. Historical Fiction

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Historical fiction genre showcases a fictional story that takes place in the past and follows a specific moment of that period. 

Using real or imaginary location settings, true facts, popular events and problems of a specific historical time, the author weaves a fictional story going with the flow with every element, delivering a story plot that is both historical and fictional.

Popular Sub-Genres of Historical fiction

  • Historical mystery- Novels of historical mysteries are set in the historical past time period following a central plot of mystery or crime.
  • Children’s historical fiction- This subgenre generally depicts the story plot of children’s transition from the contemporary world to a past time. You can read its official definition here
  • Historical romance- Also a subgenre of romance, historical romance takes place in the setting located in the past often prior to 1945 at any time
  • Alternative history- This subgenre follows the theme of ”what if”, taking an important event from history and changing it to bring different outcomes different from the historical records.
  • Historical fantasy- Novels of historical fantasy blends fantasy with history, presenting a plot set in a specific historical period by adding elements of fantasy like magic or mythical creature.

Popular Historical Fiction Novels-

”A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

“Lavinia” by Ursula K Le. Guin

”The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett

”The Winter King” by Bernard Cornwell

”Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier

11. Young Adult

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Popularly known as YA, Young adult fiction focuses on readers from 12 to 18 age and is particularly written for this age group. 

The central plot of YA fiction follows the experiences of adolescent protagonists going through his/her transition from childhood to adulthood.


Popular Young Adult Fiction Novels-

”The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

”The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D Salinger

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

12. Children’s fiction

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Children’s books are written for kids under age twelve and primarily come with pictures and illustrations as well. These easy-to-read children’s picture books are written for growing children and often contain fairy tales, fables, and light happy ending tales which may contain some moral message for children to learn. 

Popular children’s literature-

  • Fairy tales- Also known as wonder tales, magic tales or fairy stories, fairy tales are primarily written for children showcasing a magical world containing fairies and many supernatural characters
  • Fables- Fables present talking animals often teaching moral lessons. These are also written for children.

Popular Children’s Literature Fiction-

”Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

”The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats

”Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love

Neel Rana

About the Author- Neel Rana is a YA short story author, flash fiction writer, literary enthusiast and the founder of Pandora Post. Neel holds a degree in BA Honours in English Literature and has been writing since 2017. Neel’s magnum opus YA short storybook, “The Drunken Ghost” has been well received by the readers.