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Top selling book genres and what they’re about

If you’re a bookworm, you probably have a favourite book genre that you read. Some people read by author, others by book genres. Some just read recommended books or those nominated for awards. Some just read what they have to for studying. Others are self help book fans. There are so many books out there, I believe there’s something for everyone.

Books are a method of escapism. With libraries and ebooks you can access via phones, they’re so accessible to find favourite and new genres, authors and books.

If you want to explore different genres of books, you can find the most popular here.

Top 5 selling book genres

  1. Fantasy & Sci-fi
  2. Children’s books – humour
  3. Religious and self help
  4. Crime and thrillier
  5. Romance
top selling book genres and their themes

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Book genres and what they’re about


“Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people”


Generally these books are sited in an imaginary world with make believe characters, often including mythology, magic or supernatural beings.

Science Fiction

Science fiction has some crossover with fantasy, these may have more of a scientific or technology theme.


These books try to reflect what our real world may look like in future.


Stories with action and adventure with characters going off on a mission, and coming up against unexpected dangers and excitement. There’s always an end goal that the main character has to achieve. Often this genre overlaps with others.

Detective & Mystery

The main characters in detective and mystery books need to solve a crime, whether part of the police force or investigators, or not. Also known as Whodunnit, they also give the reader the chance to solve the mystery ahead of the detective.

Thrillers and suspense

Thrillers and suspense novels can have some overlap with crime and mystery books. Mostly plots centre around trying to stop a criminal in order to save their life or that of their family. These can include cliff hangers, and psychological complexity to work out how to prevent the worst happening.


Horrors want to scare the reader through terrifying instances, often featuring paranormal or supernatural.


Books well known for their style and story, generally years old, often the types of books studied at school. These are often books that made an impact when or just after they were written, and often inspiring contemporary fiction plots.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction are stories set in different eras, often based or inspired by an original event.

Literary fiction

Literary fiction covers a breadth of plot types, but are known for their strong artistic prose. These are the books most often nominated for the key awards.


Romance books focus on a love story and the coming together of 2 main characters despite the barriers than may exist. These can have sub genres with historical romance, contemporary comedic chick lit or even more steamy love stories. Mills and Boon are the famous publishers of romance books.

Chick lit

Chick lit are books aimed at a female audience, often featuring a young working woman, and ending with romantic success or having a sentimental message throughout.

Young Adult (YA)

Fiction which includes a teenage protagonist.

Children’s Fiction

Children’s fiction ranges from picture books to chapter books, and can have stories aimed at children of different ages.

Non fiction

Memoir & Autobiography

Written by the person whose life is the topic of the book. Autobiographies are usually chronological life stories, while memoirs are usually more about times in their life.


Writing about another person’s life, set in 3rd person.


Cooking books genre includes recipe books and those covering the history of food. Often written by chefs, celebrity chefs, or they can be based on a food brand.

Art & Photography

Often these books provide a history of these visual interest areas or are collections of beautiful images. These fall into the classic ‘coffee table books’ area.

Self-Help/Personal Development

Self help books are usually based on a topic of growth, to help the reader find their way through a problem, development area or mindset (e.g 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey)

Health & Fitness

These can cover diets of all kinds, or ways to deal with health problems like stress or sleep issues. Often written by medical experts.

Crafts, Hobbies & Home

Craft books are generally how to guides, or compendiums of craft tutorials and ideas.

Families & Relationships

Guidance on bring up babies, children, teens and marriage help. Usually written by those working with children in some way (e.g Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett)

Humor & Entertainment

Sometimes but not always written by comedians, generally written as commentaries on life. These can also overlap with other non fiction genres as observations of people or activities.


These books are based on history of an era in time, event or event a specific location through history.

Business & Money

This genre provides management ideas and guidance, learnings, and guidance on entrepreneurship, and can cover any aspect of business or finance.

pile of books on wooden background

True Crime

Real life crime stories, often written by those involved with solving the crime or understanding the person behind the crime (e.g The Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton)

Politics & Social Sciences

This genres can focus on the detail from a set point in time, can be essay based, or can bring sense to a complex situation in politics to a mass audience (e.g Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner

Religion & Spirituality

Religious books can be written as a self help book, from a personal perspective or theoretical teachings.

Education & Teaching

These range from textbooks to guidance on getting through school or university.


Travel books genre covers guides to travel in different continents, countries and cities. They can also fall more into the literature side, with a narrative on visiting and experiences in specific areas of the world. (e.g Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country)

If you want to read more about my book habits, head over to my 20 questions on bookish book tag post on my other blog.

What are your favourite book genres?

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  1. This was definitely an interesting read. I could guess that romance are first in the list I just could never tell about what else could be in the top 5. I loved the brief explanation you gave about each of the categories.

  2. This was such an interesting break down! I personally love thrillers and romances, despite how wildly different they are, although I have been getting more into fantasy recently too. Thanks for sharing!

    1. That’s definitely a real mix. Although it’s nice to get a total break from one genre on occasion. Thanks for stopping by

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