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Literary genres - a list of writing genres and why they matter

Litarary genres have been around for a very long time and the word 'genre' originally derives from the french word genre which means translated in English 'type' or 'kind'. A genre in literature identifies the written work by form, style and content. In the past most books would fit in one category since the authors were aware of the existing genres and took into consideration which form and style they should use for which genre. These days it is a little different and many books published might meet the criterieas of more than one genre.

It's not always obvious what type of literature a book is just by its looks, especially when you find them piled up in a store or on a shelf without the books being organised by genres.

Witihin the book publishing industry genres are very useful in order to 'categorise' written work and books. Without genres it would be very difficult for readers to find the right book and for booksellers and publishers to market and sell books within the right markets and channels. And without libraries using genres as a way to catalogue books we would probably never find the books we were looking for, especially if we don't know or remember the title of the book or the author's name.

A few reasons why literary genres in the book publishing industry are still important:

  • For readers to find the type of book they are looking for easily

  • A way to display and categorise books in a bookshop (guiding system)

  • Cataloguing in libraries (including online libraries and online catalogues)

  • Enable publishers to sell and market their books within the right channels

List of literary genres

This list might not be complete and is just to give an overview of the most important genres today.

It is split in the main genres poetry, drama and prose and lists a couple of subgenres but there exist certainly more subgenres.


  • Narrative poetry

  • Lyric poetry

  • Didactic poetry


Written for theatre, TV, film or radio and to entertain an audience.

  • Tragedy

  • Comedy


Fictional writing under which literature (fiction and non-fiction), film and journalism writing fall.

  • Prose Fiction, or short: Fiction (invented story and events)

  • Prose Non-Fiction, or short: Non-Fiction (writing based on facts)

Image by Mallorca Publishing Services. In PDF form for download below.

Book Genres Overview
Download PDF • 71KB

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