Pop Lit
Genres of Popular Literature
The table below displays dstinct types (genres) of popular literature, as discovered by students through reading and close listening. Unless otherwise noted, information is either student-composed or borrowed from Wikipedia, and respects its fair use policies.


Distinguishing characteristics

Student Samples


Romance is currently the largest and best-selling fiction genre in North America. It has produced a wide array of subgenres, the majority of which feature the mutual attraction and love of a man and a woman as the main plot, and have a happy ending. This genre, much like fantasy fiction, is broad enough in definition that it is easily and commonly seen combined with other genres, such as comedy, fantasy fiction, realistic fiction, or action-adventure; Female protagonist; exotic settings; traditional gender roles; mutual attraction; sentimentality abounds, a happy ending ensues

Action adventure

Physical violence featured; usually male protagonist performs a quest/mission with military features (weapons, tactics,etc.); also usually a femme fatale; The conflict typically involves commandos, mercenaries, terrorists, smugglers, pirates, spies and the like. Stories often include elements of technology, weapons, and other hardware, but may also include unarmed combat. The genre is still largely aimed towards a male audience (for example, the James Bond series is often categorized as action-adventure), but it also commonly includes female characters in active "action" roles, the most famous examples being the Bond Girls from the James Bond series, who are often just as capable in combat or weapons handling as their male counterparts. Many post-feminist works such as The Librarian series even feature (conventionally attractive) women in roles more traditionally reserved for males, such as heroic bodyguards, though the femme fatale is still a notably frequent archetype in the genre.


Fantasy fiction features stories set in fanciful, invented worlds, an alternate and more fanciful version of our own world, or in a legendary, mythic past. Fantasy fiction stories generally involve magic, mystical elements, or supernatural creatures such as vampires. The genre's relatively loose definition means it includes a large number of works in styles ranging from pseudo-mythological epics (Lord of the Rings) to more deliberately modern works (such as Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and includes works which also fall under other genres, such as horror fiction, comedy, action-adventure or Romance.

Mystery, detective fiction whodunnit

This large, popular genre has many subgenres, reflecting differences in tone, character, and it always contains criminal and detective settings. Follows the solving of mysterious crimes, usually one or more murders; detective may or may not be a professional sleuth; Mystery fiction, technically involving stories in which characters try to discover a vital piece of information which is kept hidden until the climax, is now considered by many people almost a synonym for detective fiction. The standard novel stocked in the mystery section of bookstores is a "whodunit," a colloquial word for a mystery novel.

Police Procedural

The police procedural is a sub-genre of the mystery story which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. While traditional detective novels usually concentrate on one single crime, police procedurals frequently depict investigations into several unrelated crimes in a single story. While traditional mysteries usually adhere to the convention of having the criminal's identity concealed until the climax, the so-called whodunit, in police procedurals, the perpetrator's identity is often known to the reader from the outset. Police procedurals depict a number of police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants and interrogation.
  • Police Procedural page
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Crime fiction

Crime fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred. It has several sub-genres, including detective fiction (including the whodunnit), legal thriller, courtroom drama and hard-boiled fiction.
  • Crime Fiction page
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Creative non-fiction

According to Columbia College Chicago, Creative non-fiction "...comes in many forms: memoir, narrative journalism, travel writing, personal essay, descriptive storytelling...What they all have in common is a basis in reality from careful observation to honest emotional truth." Some writers in this genre are David Sedaris, Dave Eggers, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Contemporary Fiction

This could be a lot of fiction--is it every piece of fiction that is published now (contemporary)? that's not a very useful classification.
"Fictitious books written that are relevant to the modern day which occur around the same time period. These books can refer to real events, however the main storyline of the book is purely made up. Many times, the novel deals with a specific problem going on in a character's life, and how he deals with it."


a broad genre of literature, film, gaming and television. It includes numerous, often overlapping sub-genres. Thrillers are characterized by fast pacing, frequent action, and resourceful heroes who must thwart the plans of more-powerful and better-equipped villains. Literary devices such as suspense, red herrings and cliffhangers are used extensively.

Legal thriller

The legal thriller is a sub-genre of crime fiction in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. In this way, the legal system provides the framework for the legal thriller much as the system of modern police work does for the police procedural. Usually, crusading lawyers become involved in proving their cases (usually their client's innocence of the crime of which he is accused, or the culpability of a corrupt corporation which has covered up its malfeasance up until this point) to such an extent that they imperil their own interpersonal relationships and frequently, their own lives.
  • Legal Thriller page
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Techno-thrillers (or technothrillers) are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy thrillers, war novels, and science fiction. They include a disproportionate amount (relative to other genres) of technical detail on its subject matter (typically military technology); only science fiction tends towards a comparable level of supporting detail on the technical side. The inner workings of technology and the mechanics of various disciplines (espionage, martial arts, politics) are thoroughly explored, and the plot often turns on the particulars of that exploration.

Science fiction

Is set in a world in which certain scientific principles (currently theorized) are realized; often set in future Earth, or on other planets. Science fiction (abbreviated SF or sci-fi with varying punctuation and capitalization) is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based on current or future science or technology.
War Fiction
With soldiers as protagonists, war fiction is set inside an armed conflict. Normally male protagonists are in conflict with the enemy, their fellow soldiers, and themselves. Themes can range from the personal (one's own "private" victories) to the political (when war is/is not justified, the effects of war on a population, etc.)

Military History

Military History is usually organized according to the various wars in human history. It typically provides a non-fiction description of the events leading up to various battles, the main combatants or military leaders, an account of the various tactics and strategies, and one or more battle maps. According to Wikipedia, "The documentation of military history begins with the confrontation between Sumer (current Iraq) and Elam (current Iran) c.2700 BCE near the modern Basra, and includes such enduring records as the Hebrew Bible. Other prominent records in military history are the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad (though its historicityhas been challenged), The Histories by Herodotus (484 BC - 425 BC) who is often called "father of history".[5] "


Set in 19th century American frontier; hero is usually rugged individual male horsemen strive to bring law and order out of chaos. Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West between the years of 1860 and 1900. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century.
  • Western genre page
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Misery lit

Misery lit (mis lit, misery memoirs, misery porn) is a term ostensibly coined by The Booksellermagazine[1] that describes a genre of biographical literature mostly concerned with the protagonist's triumph over personal trauma or abuse, often during childhood (because of the recovery dimension of the genre, some publishers refer to it as "inspirational lit", or "inspi-lit"). The genre is generally considered to be American in origin, but eventually became wildly popular in Britain as well.[2]
  • Misery Lit page
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Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to as Gothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto.
The effect of Gothic fiction depends on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of essentially Romantic literacy pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole.
  • Goth Lit page
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Chick Lit

a term used to denote genre fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties. The genre's creation was spurred on, if not exactly created, by Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole diaries which inspired Adele Lang's Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber: The Katya Livingston Chronicles in the mid-1990s.[citation needed] Another strong early influence can be seen in the books by M. C. Beaton about Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. The style can also be seen to be somewhat influenced by female teen angst movies like Sixteen Candles and Clueless. Later with the appearance of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and similar works; the genre continued to sell well in the 2000s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit.

Fairy Tale

A fairy tale or fairy story is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events. In modern-day parlance, the term is also used to describe something blessed with princesses, as in "fairy tale ending" (a happy ending)[1] or "fairy tale romance", though not all fairy tales end happily. Colloquially, a "fairy tale" or "fairy story" can also mean any far-fetched story. Fairytales mostly attract young children since they easily understand the archetypical characters in the story.
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Dystopias are commonly found in science fiction novels and stories. Please see the article dystopia for discussion of definition. Note that the definition of dystopia is not agreed by everyone, but it is usually considered to mean something much more specific than a nightmare world or unpleasant future.
  • Dystopia page
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Spy Fiction

The genre of spy fiction—sometimes called political thriller or spy thriller or sometimes shortened simply to spy-fi—arose before World War I at about the same time that the first modern intelligence agencies were formed.
  • Spy fiction page
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Family Saga

The family saga is a genre of literature which chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families over a period of time. In novels (or sometimes sequences of novels) with a serious intent, this is often a thematic device used to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.
The typical family saga follows generations of a family through a period of history in a series of novels.
  • Family Saga
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Inspirational fiction

Inspirational writing includes a personal philosophy that attempts to persuade the reader to incorporate into his or her own life. The writer of a piece of inspirational writing draws upon personal experiences of his own or of others. The desired result strives to benefit the reader emotionally, physically and spiritually. Forms of inspirational writing include novels, short stories, or any other form of narrative prose. The natural extension of inspirational fiction would be the religious novel. Well-done pieces rely upon honest expression that creates an emotional impact without being preachy.


"Classic" may... be applied to literature and other art that is widely considered a model of its form--that is, it is so good that it becomes a standard for excellence in literature. In this sense, classics comprise what some call a "canon" , or select collection, of world literature. A matter of little dispute is what belongs in the canon of Western literature and art. But what can be said is that, although it may differ according to the reader, a classic is a book that has lasting interest or significance. The books generally acknowledged to be "classics" belong to the "canon" of accepted literary masterpieces. Over 25 years old, and usually with a dead author, they are often read in literature classes.

Most classics are many years old, but "classic" is sometimes pressed into use to describe newer works. The phrase 'classic book' or 'classic literature' has taken on new meaning - many view any pre-1900 book still in print as a classic, or titles that is hundred years or older and still in print, and many books are classed as modern classics because of their contemporary significance or perceived future significance. These latter understandings of classic are too lax for our purposes and are therefore rejected.

Young Adult

a vast category, which can be subdivided by type (e.g., "Young Adult Mystery," Young adult romance," etc.). According to Wikipedia, "Young-adult fiction, whether in the form of novels or short stories, has distinct attributes that distinguish it from the other age categories of fiction: adult fiction, middle grade fiction, and children's fiction. The vast majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but beyond that YA stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres. The settings of YA stories are limited only by the imagination and skill of the author.

Themes in YA stories often focus on the challenges of youth, so much so that the entire age category is sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming of age novel . Writing styles of YA stories range widely, from the richness of literary style to the clarity and speed of the unobtrusive. Despite its unique characteristics, YA shares the fundamental elements of fiction with other stories: character, plot, setting, theme, and style.[1]"

Christian Fiction

A Christian novel is any novel that expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot, its characters, or both,[1] or which deals with Christian themes in a positive way.
  • Christian Fic page
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Historical fiction

Historical fiction is a sub-genre of fiction that often portrays fictional accounts or dramatization of historical figures or events. Writers of stories in this genre, while penning fiction, nominally attempt to capture the spirit, manners, and social conditions of the persons or time(s) presented in the story, with due attention paid to period detail and fidelity.[1[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_fiction#cite_note-britannica-0|

Sports Fiction

this is a fiction set in a world of athletics--the characters, plot, and themes have to do with athletes. In general (according to Wikipedia ), Fiction is an imaginative form of narrative; one of the four basic rhetorical modes. Although the wordfiction is derived from the Latin fingo, fingere, finxi, fictum, "to form, create", works of fiction need not be entirely imaginary and may include real people, places, and events. Fiction may be written or oral or may be presented as a film or in theater or on radio or television. Although not all fiction is necessarily artistic, fiction is largely perceived as a form of art or entertainment. The ability to create fiction and other artistic works is considered to be a fundamental aspect of human culture, one of the defining characteristics of humanity.


An autobiography, from the Greek αὐτός autos "self", βίος bios "life" and γράφειν graphein "to write",, is a biography written by the predicate or composed conjointly with a collaborative writer (styled "as told to" or "with")... A memoir is slightly different in character from an autobiography. While an autobiography typically focuses on the "life and times" of the writer, a memoir has a narrower, more intimate focus on his or her own memories, feelings and emotions. Memoirs have often been written by politicians or military leaders as a way to record and publish an account of their public exploits.

Contemporary Non-Fiction

Non-fiction is an account or representation of a subject which is presented as fact. This presentation may be accurate or not; that is, it can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question. However, it is generally assumed that the authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition. Note that reporting the beliefs of others in a nonfiction format is not necessarily an endorsement of the ultimate veracity of those beliefs, it is simply saying that it is true that people believe that (for such topics as mythology, religion). Nonfiction can also be written about fiction, giving information about these other works.

Nonfiction is one of the two main divisions in writing, particularly used in libraries, the other being fiction. However, nonfiction need not be written text necessarily, since pictures and film can also purport to present a factual account of a subject


A biography is a description or account of someone's life, which is usually published in the form of a book or essay, or in some other form, such as a film. An autobiography (auto meaning "self," giving "self-biography") is a biography by the same person it is about. A biography is more than a list of impersonal facts (education, work, relationships and death), it also portrays the subject's experience of those events. Unlike a profile or curriculum vitae (résumé), a biography presents the subject's story, highlighting various aspects of his or her life, including intimate details of experiences, and may include an analysis of the subject's personality

Extreme non-fiction

This is literature based on factual occurrences that take the protagonist to "extreme" places, where it is a matter of life-or-death. Most battle memoirs could qualify as "extreme" non-fiction, as could many of the stories of people in "extreme" situations such as police officers, gang members, and mountain climbers. The "stickiness" of this genre is in the vicarious thrills it gives the "un-extreme" reader, who can safely experience the protagonist's experiences from a distance.
  • Extreme non-fiction page
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Classic non-fiction

These are non-fiction works written at least fifty years ago. These books could be science experiments, or any other story of a veritical nature. Since these books are very well written and often appeal to many generations, they have stood the test of time.

Travelogue--Travel writing

Travel literature is travel writing of a non-fiction type. Travel writing typically records the experiences of travelers in some interesting places and circumstances. It will include vivid descriptions, illustrations, historical background, and possibly maps and diagrams.


The Humor (or Humour) genre incorporates texts that are funny or humourous. Humour is different and distinct from the genre Comedy, because Comedy has a history stemming back to ancient theatre and has several different and equally valid definitions. Obviously, the Humour genre is highly subjective. Some texts are written simply for humour value; such as joke books, spoofs, and often, books written by comedians (with the exception of much of the work of Ben Elton). However, many books have Humour as a sub-genre, because the work falls under a literary genre and is also humourous. For example, Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is both Science fiction and Humour, and Ben Elton’s Stark is both Political and Humour. These books were written in the spirit of light-hearted fun, but also had an overarching genre. The spectrum ranges from books written simply for humour value, and serious books that contain dry, satirical wit. And, of course, always remember that one man’s humour is another man’s that’s-not-funny-at-all.
Horror Fiction
Horror fiction is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to scare its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror, with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole.The trait of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response, emotional, psychological or physical within each individual which causes someone to react with fear. In order for that response to be elicited there are different techniques used, such as unreal figures (phantoms, mummies, etc.), or more real situations and figures (serial killers, rapists, kidnappers). The main ingredient within horror is that the reader or viewer can relate to it somehow and that there’s always something unexpected on its way. The whole horror genre is build up upon people’s fear of the unknown and anxieties. According to H.P. Lovecraft: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."