Genre Descriptions

Crime Fiction / Mystery

Mysteries deal with the solving of a murder or a series of related crimes.

Detective Fiction (whodunit)

The reader tries to figure out whodunit and the identity of the murderer is revealed at the end of the book.

  • Amateur Sleuth (AS)
  • Private Investigator (PI)
  • Hard-boiled – explores the gritty, seamy side of a large city
  • Cozy – very little onstage violence, usually amateur sleuth

Police Procedurals (howcatchem) (PD)

The focus is on the way the police force solves crimes (forensics, autopsies, search warrants). The reader may or may not know the perpetrator’s identity.


The focus is on the perpetrator of the crime.

Suspense (S)

These books are characterized by high tension. The reader is waiting for something to happen, knowing that is coming.

Thrillers (T)

Fast-paced action sequences, good vs. evil plotlines. The consequences are usually large – the terrorists explode a bomb, the president is killed.

  • Action Adventure (AA)
  • Legal Thriller (LT)
  • Medical Thriller (MT)
  • Political Thriller (PT)
  • Espionage (E)

Westerns (W)

Tales set in the American West usually during the last half of the 19th century.

Speculative Fiction

Horror (HORR)

The intent is to horrify the protagonist and in so doing scare the reader.

Fantasy (F)

Fantasy uses magic and other supernatural elements as the main focus of plot, theme, and/or setting.

  • Urban Fantasy (UF) -- set in contemporary, real-world, urban settings
  • Epic Fantasy (EF) -- themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Generally set in alternate worlds
  • Heroic Fantasy (HF) (Sword & Sorcery) -- swashbuckling heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. Tends to be set in pseudo-medieval settings
  • Alternate history – Set on Earth with a different historical twist
  • Dark Fantasy– Horror novels with a supernatural element

Science Fiction (SF)

  • Space Operas (SO) – set in space emphasizing romantic adventure, exotic settings, and larger-than-life characters
  • Apocalyptic – set on Earth after the end of civilization usually caused by nuclear war, plague or other catastrophic disaster
  • Steampunk - set in an era when steam power was still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian England with fictional technological inventions
  • Cyberpunk – near-future settings where technology has overtaken the Earth and individuals feel isolated
  • Military - the principal characters are members of a military service and an armed conflict is taking place, normally in space, or on another planet

Women’s Fiction

Books that appeal to women, but may or not be classified as a romance. They primarily deal with a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Chick Lit

Young women discovering themselves while living in large urban environments.


  • Traditional Regency (RG) -- comedy of manners
  • Category Romance -- series like Harlequin and Silhouette
  • Historical Romance (HR)
  • Romantic Suspense (RS)
  • Contemporary Romance (CR)
  • Gothics (GO) -- woman in peril
  • Paranormal Romance (PNR) – any supernatural element mixed with romance
  • Fantasy Romance (FR) – fantasy set in other worlds