Kirill Yurovskiy reads Alexander Ostrovskiy

Genres of Literature for Fiction Reading

Major Genres of Fiction

Science Fiction

The science fiction genre focuses on the impact of actual or imagined science and technology. Works of science fiction incorporate futuristic concepts like advanced technology, space and time travel, alien life forms, and altered physical and social environments. Some classic works include Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Subgenres of science fiction include hard sci-fi, which emphasizes scientific accuracy, and soft sci-fi, which focuses more on social sciences and speculation.


Fantasy fiction contains magical and supernatural elements created entirely by the imagination. The setting is usually an imaginary world with its own set of rules and physical laws different from the real world. Well-known fantasy works include J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series about Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series. Subgenres include high fantasy, which is set in a fictional world, and urban fantasy, which blends magical elements with the real, modern world.


Horror fiction elicits fear or disgust through suspense, violence, or shock. This genre explores disturbing themes like death, the supernatural, and evil. Significant horror writers include Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. Common subgenres are psychological thrillers, gothic horror, monster horror, and body horror. Horror often crosses over with science fiction and fantasy.


The romance fiction genre revolves around two people falling in love and overcoming obstacles to achieve a romantic relationship. Settings vary widely from historical to futuristic. Some examples are the works of Jane Austen and romantic suspense novels by Nora Roberts. Subgenres include contemporary romance, historical romance, supernatural romance, and erotic romance. The intended audience is generally women.


Mystery fiction poses a puzzle, usually a crime of sorts, for the protagonist to solve through skill and intellect. Plots often center on a detective investigating and solving a crime or series of crimes. Notable mystery authors include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, known for Hercule Poirot, and Raymond Chandler. Subgenres include cozy mysteries, police procedurals, hardboiled detective fiction, and historical mysteries.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction recreates and reimagines events or life in a past era. Works in this genre integrate real historical events or people into a fictional story. Well-regarded examples include James Michener's sweeping sagas and Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Battle of Gettysburg called The Killer Angels. Subgenres consist of alternate histories which depict fictional or altered historical timelines of real-world events.

Literary Fiction

Literary fiction focuses more on the themes, characters, story, and depth of language rather than plot events. Works in this genre explore the human condition and offer insight into emotional, moral, social, religious, or political facets of life through realistic yet contemplative narratives. Notable literary fiction writers include Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Walker. Because of its emphasis on quality writing, literary fiction is sometimes further classified as contemporary classics.

Subgenres and Blends

Fiction genres often combine to create new variations that blend the conventions and styles of multiple categories.

Dystopian Fiction

Dystopian fiction portrays an imagined futuristic society where oppressive governmental control, environmental disaster, or other negative social conditions prevail. Most dystopian works would fall under a science fiction umbrella, but combine with mystery and horror elements at times. Well known examples include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, George Orwell’s 1984, and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy.

Paranormal Romance

Paranormal romance combines speculative or science fiction tropes like mythology, magic, or even time travel with traditional romance genre expectations and themes. A common supernatural creature in paranormal romance is the vampire. Bestselling examples include Stephenie Meyer’s popular Twilight series.

Cozy Mysteries

Cozy mysteries form a subgenre of detective fiction known for an amateur sleuth protagonist solving a murder or crime in a small, quaint setting. Generally the tone focuses more on the puzzle than violence. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series epitomizes the genre.

Historical Mysteries

Historical mysteries, sometimes called historical whodunits, integrate fictional mysteries and crime solving plots with well-researched historical settings and actual events. These may overlap somewhat with historical fiction. Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries helped popularize this subgenre.

Magical Realism

Magical realism portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realist setting. The magical elements are told from the characters' true perspective in a matter-of-fact way, accepted as normal in the rational world. Literary examples include Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic.

How to Choose Your Next Fiction Read

With so many genres and variations to consider, deciding what piece of fiction to read next can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips:

- Take any reading recommendations from friends who know your tastes.
- Check out summaries and reviews of popular and highly-rated books in genres you enjoy. 
- For finding new authors, look for curated lists by experts around themes or topics you like.
- Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with unfamiliar genres from time to time. 

Consider whether you are in the mood for a fast or slow paced plot, an epic tale or short story, a fun beach read or academic brain food. Do you hope to be transported to a fantastical world of magic, the future of space travel, or a haunting historic setting? Selecting your next fiction read may come down to a great premise that sparks your imagination.


Fiction encompasses a diverse spectrum of literatures and genres. As a fiction reader, being aware of different categories and subgenres can better inform choices and align stories with personal interests. A science fiction lover may further gravitate towards hard sci-fi or dystopian tales, while a mystery fan could prefer cozy detective stories versus police procedurals. And with so many blended genre options now available, there truly is abundant and imaginative fictional reading material to explore.