There’s a Genre for That?

Merriam Webster defines the word genre as a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. Since you’re reading a blog post written for the Mercer County Library System, chances are you’re a bibliophile. You have probably heard the term genre before, so why give you the definition? You know the basics. There’s mystery, sci-fi & fantasy, romance, suspense, and you could probably think of a few more if you tried. But did you know that there are around twenty-five different types? I didn’t know there were that many either! I tend to stay in the same three or four genres when I am picking things to read, though I do branch out sometimes. For the most part I read urban fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, and - just for some fun - I toss in the occasional romance. Since my personal reading preferences can be pretty narrow, I was surprised and a little bit delighted to find out there were so many different kinds of genre fiction out there.

Spoiler alert! The Library has something that fits into most, if not every, genre or subgenre that I’ve been able to find so far. That means that if there’s a topic that appeals to you, odds are we’ve got something to fit the bill.

Curious and want to know what some of these different genres are? Okay, here goes -

Fantasy combines magic, myth, and all things mystical to create new wonderful worlds and realities where anything is possible and the unbelievable can happen. Some of its more specific subgenres are:

Urban fantasy incorporates magical elements and takes place in urban contemporary settings. A good series to try that also combines some pretty comedic writing is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, which follows Chicago’s one and only professional wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden. Try the first in the series, Storm Front.
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if something in history had gone just a little differently? Alternate history fantasy takes that idea and runs with it. It usually combines actual historical events and themes, and includes them with what-if scenarios that present different outcomes of what really happened in time. If you’d like to give this genre a shot, try Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle where reality as you know it has changed. In 1962 America, slavery is back, America has lost a war, and we find ourselves under Nazi Germany and Japanese occupation.
High fantasy is set in completely fictional worlds where magic is real, and epic characters and settings take center stage. A classic author in this genre is J.R.R. Tolkien, whose titles The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy have been beloved favorites of countless fantasy lovers for decades.

Looking for something else in fantasy? Try dark fantasy, heroic fantasy, magical realism, superhero, mystic, or sword and sorcery.

Mystery is the whodunit of the fiction world. Who committed the crime? Who steps up to solve the case? In these subgenres within mystery, there’s a crime caper for every taste.

Cozy mysteries are the light-hearted and clean-minded branch of the genre for those who love the mystery aspect of a story but aren’t looking for violence or bloody details. They are often set in small-town communities, and the detective solving the case is usually an amateur sleuth. M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin is a staple of the cozy community; her story begins with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.

Hard-boiled mysteries are pretty much the polar opposite of cozies. If you like urban, gritty settings with a healthy dose of violence and sex thrown into your mystery, then this is the genre for you. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is the story of a young woman brutally murdered in 1940s Los Angeles.

Police procedurals are mysteries where the main characters are usually police detectives or technicians who work to catch a criminal. Sometimes titles in this genre are also called forensic mysteries. If you’re looking for a procedural you can’t put down, try The Black Echo, the first in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

These are just a few of the many subgenres of mystery we have to offer. Some, but not all, of the rest are amateur sleuth, bumbling detective, legal, historical, locked room, and paranormal.

Romance is a genre that everyone knows about, but you either love it or hate it. If you love it and are looking for your next great read, then one of these subgenres might be just what you’re looking for.

Billionaire is a branch of the romance genre that has recently grown in popularity. As the name would suggest, this genre has themes that fall into a kind of “Cinderella” storyline. The male characters tend toward the wealthy and powerful lover while the female character is often of a lower socioeconomic class and is swept off her feet/rescued from her everyday life. These also tend to be pretty steamy on the romance scale. If you’re looking to get your toes wet in this genre you might like to try The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

Historical romance is a romance set in history, generally before 1950. The romance and the story itself are set in realistic situations based on the time period. If there were dukes and duchesses running around during the time your romance is set in, one will most likely show up in the story. These types of romances are also called “bodice rippers,” because often the cover art will have the female character dressed up in a corseted gown in some state of dishabille. If you’re looking for some bodice ripping of your own try Tempt Me with Diamonds by Jane Feather.

Drumroll, please… it’s time for my personal favorite in the romance genre, paranormal romance! That’s the fantasy lover in me. All things magical and strange with romance thrown in? Right up my alley! There could be vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, or ghosts tossed in there, but anything supernatural or magical in the romance will put a story into this genre. Right now I’m reading Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs. Werewolf romance, what’s better than that?

Some of the other subgenres of romance that might interest you are contemporary, inspirational, holiday, military, regency, sports, romantic suspense, and western romance. There is a little bit of something for every romantic taste out there.

The thriller/suspense genre is another very popular one. Titles that fall into this category are put here because they give the reader heightened feelings of suspense, anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and surprise.

Psychological thrillers/suspense novels are a subgenre where the main protagonist of the story ends up in situations that threaten their mental state or sanity. They are often told through the viewpoint of these psychologically stressed characters, which helps create that feeling of suspense.  A good title in this genre to start with could be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s a twisty mind bender that was such a hit it was made into a major motion picture starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Military thrillers are a very popular genre with male readers. The main characters are either in the military or are former military, and they use their training and skills to solve a mystery or crime that has been committed. Often these stories will be set in military surroundings, like on a base or submarine. A great read to get you started here is Patriot Games by Tom Clancy, which introduced his bestselling character Jack Ryan. As it happens, Ryan is now the star of several major motion pictures and television series.

Techno-thrillers are another genre that is very popular with male readers. These stories are heavily steeped in cutting-edge technology, or even fantastic future technology that in some way either threatens or supports the main character and storyline. The heavy technical detail gives them a super realistic feel. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton is an excellent title to read in this genre.

Paranormal, religious, political, medical, legal, forensic, historical, and disaster are just some of the other subgenres of thriller/suspense that you can try.

This list barely scratches the surface of all the genres and subgenres that are out there for your literary pleasure. If you’re looking for more great genre titles to read, check out MCL’s database NoveList Plus. A reference librarian can show you how. Or you can try it from the comfort of your own computer at home. All you’ll need to get started on your literary journey is your library card number. NoveList Plus provides helpful genre fiction reading lists and, if you have an author or title that you really love, you can also find title and author read-alikes – other great books/authors that have similar themes and stories.

Give a new genre a try today!

- Megan S., Twin Rivers Branch