This page is inspired by two great posts at Book Soulmates and The Overstuffed Bookshelf where the idea of defining genres was discussed. It really got me thinking as genres can sometimes be tricky to determine and they are very subjective. So I decided to figure out for myself what I think each genre is based on what I read (which turned out to be a lot of genres).
These are my personal definitions for genre which I use to classify my books. Some books could happily belong to more than one genre, so I generally classify by whichever is closest in my opinion. I also divide my books between Adult and Young Adult, generally based on who they are marketed at.
Set in our world, this storyline sees the characters on some kind of adventure or journey and is usually quite heavy on the action.
Example: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
A book that is widely regarded as a classic literary work, usually published quite a long time ago. These are separated out due to their differences with any contemporary work.
Example: Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
A book that focuses on one or more female characters and their life/lives. Romance may be included but isn't the main focus of the storyline.
Example: 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
A romance novel set in our world with regular human characters. May have secondary plotlines, but this is all about the love.
Example: Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force
A book focusing on some kind of mystery (usually murder) where the main character is an amateur sleuth. There is usually no swearing, sex or on the page violence. There is usually some kind of distinguishing secondary plot element like yoga, cookies or crafts.
Example: Corpse Pose by Diana Killian
A novel focusing on a crime (generally murder) where the main characters are some kind of professional (i.e. detective, coroner, forensic specialist).
Example: Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
A book set in a world where things are very wrong. There is usually some kind of corrupt governing body but there is a lack of freedom and/or equality. The society can have arisen after an apocalypse, and the book may offer commentary on our society.
Example: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A book set in a world that is different to our own. Usually everything is pretty different and the only limits are really the author's imagination. This is where the dragon books are usually found.
Example: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
A romance novel with a historical setting. These can be based loosely on real historical relationships or made up, but are generally set in a real historical period.
Example: Her Notorious Viscount by Jenna Petersen
A book with a scary plotline. I usually use this for books that scare the pants off me, but basically it's anything with a storyline that induces fear. It could have supernatural elements or not, it just needs to be creepy.
Example: The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff
Those books designed to make you laugh. These are funny in all kinds of different ways and can have supernatural elements or act as retellings or parodies of other stories.
Example: The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore
I use this for books that fall somewhere between cozy mysteries and crime. This is usually an amateur or retired sleuth and the cases can be more graphic.
Example: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Generally found only in young adult books, this genre focuses on characters with some kind of paranormal element to their world that they are dealing with. Romance only exists as a secondary plotline.
Example: Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan
A mystery with a heavy paranormal element. These are books where witches, ghosts and other supernatural creatures are real and have a role in the storyline. Usually a sub-genre of cozy mysteries.
Example: The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt
A book focused on the relationship between a couple with a paranormal element. This can be either young adult or adult, but generally one or more of the main characters are some kind of supernatural creature (vampire, werewolf, demon).
Example: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
This is how I classify any kind of poetry. I don't read much so I tend to lump it all together.
Example: Say Not What If by Andrew Friedman
Similar to dystopians, these books are usually set in the future after some kind of apocalyptic event. I distinguish these from dystopians as there is no central governement - i.e. a world in chaos.
Example: Ashes by Isla J. Bick
A romance novel with a bonus storyline including some kind of suspense. This can be related to a crime or a stalker, but basically includes a heap of tension from outside of the relationship.
Example: Cover of Night by Linda Howard
Any kind of fiction novel that plays around with science. This is where you find books set in space or those that change scientific rules (for example, by resurrecting dinosaurs from DNA).
Example: Across the Universe by Beth Revis
A variation on fantasy, steampunk books are generally set in a version of Victorian England that relies upon steam for much of its power. There are usually cool gadgets involved and alternate histories are used. Romance can appear, but as a secondary plotline.
Example: Soulless by Gail Carriger
A book with a heavy paranormal element set in a world much like our own, just with supernatural creatures. There can be romance but it is always a secondary plotline.
Example: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
If you'd like to read the original posts you can find Book Soulmates here and The Overstuffed Bookshelf here.