What Is It? Genre, Part I
by Tracey Allen - July 1st, 2014
In this What Is It? article we’re going to take a look at genre. Identifying a genre of books you love can be exciting and rewarding, but readers can become lost in the terminology; so let’s look at the very basics of genre.
Fiction & Non Fiction
All books can be separated into either fiction or non fiction. Fiction books contain stories that are ‘made up’ whereas non fiction books contain information that is factual. A novel is the same as a book, but not all books are novels, so what’s the difference? A novel contains ‘fictitious prose’ which means a non fiction book will never be a novel (because it’s not fictitious).
From there, there are literally thousands of genres that fall under the headings of fiction or non fiction. An easy way to think of genre is by considering the categories of shelves (or sections) in a bookshop.
Fiction shelves in a bookshop will house crime, romance and fantasy novels. Each of these categories is a genre.
Non Fiction shelves will usually include: travel, art and history books, and each of these is a genre.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the fiction genres that may be new to you. Most readers will recognise science fiction, horror, YA (Young Adult), classic and short story genres, but what about these:
Cozy mystery: a murder mystery without violence, usually featuring an amateur sleuth.
Farm lit & rural romance: romance novels that take place in the outback or towns in rural areas. (Australian authors of note in this genre include: Nicole Alexander, Loretta Hill, Rachael Johns, Fiona McCallum and Rachael Treasure).
Historical fiction: a story that takes place in an historical setting and which can include fictional accounts of famous people from history. Popular historical fiction books from Australian authors include: The Secret River by Kate Grenville, Maralinga by Judy Nunn and Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.
Urban fantasy: a book with supernatural themes (such as magic, werewolves, witches, vampires) that take place in a real-world setting, hence ‘urban.’ In other words, the setting is not a make-believe world.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the genres within non fiction that you may not have explored.
For Dummies: the yellow and black instructional manuals tackle every topic under the sun in an easy-to-read and understand format.
Literary criticism: essentially the study of literature, or other books. Authors and works are subtly and overtly analysed and interpreted resulting in positive and negative criticism of existing works. If you are reading (or have read) a great classic and want to know more about it, then the literary criticism genre is a great resource.
Survival: books detailing the survival of individuals from tragedy, natural disaster or crime can be inspirational and informative. An Australian survival book that comes to mind is Everything To Live For by Turia Pitt. An international bestseller is I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
Travelogue or travel writing: the author informs the reader about their travel experiences. Travel writing (and TV shows) continue to increase in popularity and give the reader the opportunity to experience travel and adventure from the safety of their armchair.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to genre. Stay tuned for the next instalment in the series, What Is It? Genre Part II. In the meantime, please leave a comment below and let us know what genre is your favourite. Mine is historical fiction.