The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub (2024)

We all know the benefits of reading, but when it comes to choosing your next book to read, it can be hard to sort through the millions of titles.

A way that we tell the difference between the many books is by looking at a book’s genre.

This article is a reference list of the different genres and types of books, with a few examples of each.

What is a book genre?

What You'll Learn

The different genres of books are basically the categories or sub-categories that a book is a part of.

It is incredibly handy to understand the genres that you like to read, as it can help you decide on the next book to read.

Why do we have book genres?

Imagine going to a library, and every single book was just organized alphabetically; it would be an absolute mess and almost impossible to navigate.

As people, we naturally tend to put things in categories to make them easier to understand.

That is where a book’s genre comes in. It makes writings more comfortable to categorize. When you go to a book store, the books are usually organized by type to make it easier for shoppers.

How do you know the genre of a book?

Well, if you’re at a library or book store (online or brick-and-mortar), then all the books should be organized by category. That makes it easy to browse books you’re likely to want to read.

Otherwise, when you’re reading the book, start to look for the following

  • Main character
  • Where the book is set
  • Certain plot points

Can a book have multiple genres?

Books can certainly have multiple genres. For example, a book about wizards (let’s call him… Harry), may also be a teen coming of age drama.

The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub (1)

The Two Types of Books – Fiction and Nonfiction

Pretty much every book you read will come under the title of fiction or nonfiction.

What is a fiction book?

Basically, a fiction book is one where elements are made up or created by the author.

These stories can be set in real places or real times, but if the plot or characters are made up, then the story is fiction.

What is a nonfiction book?

A nonfiction book is based on real events and facts.

There’s plenty of different sub-genres of nonfiction. These range from biographies of celebrities, to the dictionary.

How do I tell if a book is a fiction or nonfiction?

You should be able to tell from the storyline if a book is a fiction or nonfiction. However, if you want to be sure, there is a little hack in finding out.

If you look at the back of the title page, there will be a ‘call number’.

If that number is 813.54, then the book is fiction.

Anything else (not 813) is classified as a nonfiction

How many different book genres are there?

Once you break down a book from the two types (fiction and nonfiction), there are almost endless genres of books.

On Amazon’s book marketplace, there can be up to five sub-categories that a book will go under.

If we listed every Amazon category, we’d be here all day.

So, instead, we’ll look at the more well-known genres of books and not deep dive too far into the rabbit hole of sub-categories.

I find that readers of particular genres can be incredibly loyal to that genre of book.

Genres of fiction books

The following are a list of genres and sub-genres for fiction books.

The Classics

When a book has stood the test of time and is still relevant and thought-provoking.

In my opinion, a book isn’t one of the ‘classics’ until the author has died (yep, I know it sounds harsh!).

The Great Gatsby is an example of one of the classics.

Literary Fiction

Literary Fiction is often indirect in their theme and includes some kind of analysis on what it means to be human.

George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic example of literary fiction.

General Fiction

These books are easily appealing stories in a contemporary setting.

They’re more approachable than Literary Fiction and contain none of the genre-specific ingredients that the other categories rely on.

Historical Fiction

Books where the plot is set at least thirty years before the time the author writes the book.

Historical fiction is also broken up into different time frames and sub-categories.

For example, religious, historical fiction, and World War 2 historical fiction are both sub-genres.


Book where the main character or characters fall in love.

This category has so many different sub-categories, some of which include:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Historical Romance
  • Paranormal Romance:
  • Erotica
  • Romance Series


Elements create fear for both the main character and the reader.

  • Monster
  • Psychological
  • Gore

Mystery or Suspense

A book where the story includes the main characters working out why something has happened or will happen in the future.

Again, there’s a whole lot of sub-genres for mystery or suspense.

  • Detective: Think like sherlock homes
  • Small town mystery: Did you ever notice some small towns in literature have a suspiciously high amount of murder?
  • Police mysteries
  • Psychological Thriller


Fantasy books are set in an entirely fictional world, or a natural world with magical elements (like Harry Potter).

I’m not going to go through the hundreds of sub-categories for fantasy, but there are a bunch.

Action and adventure

A book where the protagonist goes on some sort of journey.

  • Adventure: Where the main character sets out to a range of different places and locations
  • Military/Espionage: Usually government and military based.
  • Western: Think old school cowboy movies.Docby Mary Doria Russell is an excellent example of a Western.

The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub (2)

Science Fiction

Books usually set in the future or in another world or planet.

I know I’ve said it about a few fiction genres, but Sci-Fi has more subcategories than any other type.

Three popular sub-genres of Science Fiction

  • Space Opera
  • Dystopian world
  • Steampunk

Genres of nonfiction books

Nonfiction books use factual events and stories.


Books that look at past events.

Some history books are usually heavily researched and cover either a specific country or time.

Historical nonfiction can be written as a narrative or as an educational text.

Biography or Autobiography

A biography or autobiography is the story of a particular person’s life.

Some of the different types of life stories include:

  • Autobiography: When the author discusses their life story
  • Memoir: Like an autobiography, but only about a particular theme or time from the author’s life
  • Biography: A life story when the author researches or interviews a subject to tell their life story

You can also find collections of letters or diaries that fit in this genre.


Writing where the author (called a ‘poet’) gives emphasis to rhythm and style.

Poetry is usually written in verse.


Books that talk about or collect art. This can be visual art like paintings, or physical arts like theatre.

Some art books also discuss the history of the particular art.


Music books include books that talk about the history of music, music theory, or songbooks.


Books meant to make the reader laugh. Usually written in short, easy-to-read short chunks.


Books that explore a particular faith.

These religious texts can include history, books about the practice, or holy books.


Books or stories about ancient religions that are not actively practiced anymore.


An academic view of knowledge and existence.

Many philosophy books are incredibly old, with some dating back to ancient times.

Alternative Belief

These are books that look at the non-mainstream belief systems that many people have.

These include psychic powers, astrology, and fortune-telling.

Health and Wellness

These books talk about all the possible ways you can get or stay healthy.

Some of these books include highing specific medical issues, advice on nutrition, alternative medicine, sex, meditation, mental wellness.


Science books talk about physical sciences like mathematics, technology, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, and more.

Social Science

Social Science books look at social relationships and relationships. This includes anthropology, sociology, political science, and law books.


Books that examine mental and emotional functions and well-being.


Self Help books give techniques and tactics for you to pursue self-improvement.

These self-help books include leadership, motivation, habit creation, productivity, mindset, and more.

Educational Texts

Books that look at and are involved in the education system. This includes:

  • Textbooks
  • Education books
  • Books on teachers
  • Pedagogy
  • Lesson plans


Necessary and objective information, like dictionaries, encyclopedias, book abstracts and study guides, and books of quotations.


Business books are all around the creation and management of a company.

These books can also cover career progression.

These business books include topics of the following

  • Small business management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Personal Finance
  • Career Specific: Like books for real estate agents
  • Investing
  • Economics


Books that relate to the ways that humans communicate, including foreign languages.

  • TV/Cinema
  • Rhetoric
  • Foreign Language

Home, Garden, and DIY

Books about the house, the garden, and how to maintain a beautiful garden.

This also covers books on agriculture and farming.

Pet Care

Books about looking after pets and other animals.


These books cover hobbies that are mostly done for enjoyment.

Such topics include crafts, fashion, and clothing, outdoor activities like fishing and other sports.

Cook Books

Recipes and the history of food. These cooking books can also be in a narrative form, where the author gives context to the importance of the recipe.

Some food books also reference starting a restaurant or food truck.


True Crime books tell the stories and histories of particular crimes. Most of these are written as a matter-of-fact account, with some being written as a narrative.

Final Thoughts

As you can seem, there are hundreds of different genres of books. This guide will help you next time you’re in the book store or library.

You should also check out..

  • Four Bestselling Books That Will Help You Become Successful
  • The Four Best Books on Becoming a Big Sister
  • Are Kindle books cheaper than print books?

The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub (6) Hey, I’m Erik… a Swedish university student, marketing professional, and life-long learner. Here at BookSummaryClub I summarize my favorite non-fiction books into easily digested posts. Hope you like what you’re reading!

The Different Genres of Books (With Descriptions) | BookSummaryClub (2024)


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