Everyone who works with books – or who has a deep love for them – will tell you how difficult it can be to catalogue them into specific genres. Recommending books based on the genre only is sometimes impossible, since stories that fit into similar categories can be so wildly different.
Often when I am reading, I struggle to label my books, and I often wish there were more genres to choose from. So I asked around and found out book genres that don’t exist, but several book lovers wish they did.
Of course, you might argue that the genres I speak of below, even if they got introduced into a book catalogue, would be categories or tags, not genres – and you’re not wrong. But for the sake of a bit of humour – and a nicer title – let’s call all of these new genres. Let’s imagine a world where we can walk into a bookstore with a deep need for a book with a completely bonkers plot and find shelves of them in a dedicated Bananapants section. A dream!
No Plot, Just Vibes
Most of the time, when I am looking for a rec that falls under, for example, dark academia, I am less concerned about the plot, and more about experiencing a certain atmosphere.
I want to read a book with the exact vibes I’m in the mood for, independently of how interesting the plot may be.
In fact, more than once I really couldn’t care for an intricate plot; just give me a story that requires low focus, but that transmits a specific atmosphere, and I am sold.
In this category: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.
This is less a category I came up with myself, and more a conversation that has been going around literary circles for a while.
While there may be legit reasons why New Adult isn’t yet an officially recognised category by publishers, it still confuses me that we continue to cram together books about middle teenage years, and books featuring people in their early twenties.
I think it is true to say we all have personal relationships with New Adult and adult fiction, so having the actual label to work with would be of great help to several readers when we are looking for one or the other.
In this category: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.
Bad People Get Punished
I don’t do well with injustice, and if there is something that can break a book for me is when the big bad guys don’t get what they deserve.
There is a deep satisfaction in seeing characters reaping exactly what they have sewed, and I wish there was a category focused exactly on this. If it comes with petty revenge, even better.
In this category: Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk.
Do you ever read a book and think: WTF did I just read?
I personally love these because they always surprise me in the best way possible. Reading them is like having a fever dream, and for a while I was so keen in finding such books, I even put a small list together for Book Riot (and there are many more out there).
These books never fail to be amusing; sometimes they’re disturbing, other times just absolutely… bananapants.
In this category: My Heart is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones.
Nobody Falls In Love
Do you ever read a book that contains a romance and realise you’d actually have liked it better without the romance part?
I’m as much of a sucker for romance as anyone else out there, but in some narratives the friendships and found family tropes are so well-made, a romance just seems like an unnecessary addition.
Moreover, there are not enough books out there without romance, and it would be super nice to go into a book knowing beforehand that it is all about the platonic.
In this category: On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu.
I know what you’re thinking: how can the literal apocalypse be cozy? Hear me out.
Let’s imagine a best-case scenario: the world crumbling around a group of people who are just enjoying their last days as peacefully and quietly as they can.
Not running, or fighting, but helping each other in community, getting to learn each other’s stories, what drives them, and knowing that, when the time comes, they’ll face it as they need to face it.
Doesn’t this sound nice to you? I’d go as far as calling it hopeful, an optimist view that, in the worst of times, we also very often get to see the best of people.
In this category: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano.
I don’t think I need to explain why Road Trip deserves its own category: young people, middle-aged people, old people getting in a car, grabbing some snacks and a good playlist, and going on an unexpected adventure into the unknown – to find more of the world, or of themselves.
When I was younger I used to watch several anime series: Pokémon, Naruto, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Dragon Ball, to name a few.
While I enjoyed the series a lot, I always enjoyed the so-called filler episodes the most, those that have no actual relevance to the development of the plot, and in which the characters are just frolicking around.
The truth is, I was never much interested in the fights; all I cared about was getting to know the characters and seeing them chill and enjoy themselves without all the stress of the fights.
Tea Dragon would be a Studio Ghibli meets Pokémon category: no fight, just going around the world making friends with fluffy creatures, eating amazing food, and sightseeing.
In this category: Tea Dragon Society by K. O’Neill.
The more I hear personal stories of mothers and what they go through in parenthood, from the physical toll to systemic failure, the more enraged I get.
In the face of this, it’s actually surprising there aren’t more books out there with moms going (justifiably) batshit. And this is the reason why books portraying this should have a category of their own.
In this category: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder.
We all try, one way or another, to find our place in the world, and sometimes blood-family can’t fill the shoes we own.
Found family isn’t a genre, but with so many people trying to find a group of people that understand and accept them, it is a very sought-out category, and should probably be a genre on its own merit.
In this category: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender.
This is a category that goes beyond the dystopic – which, in fact, often portrays situations that are actually already a reality to marginalised communities – and it enters the field of “I can see how this could very easily become the norm”.
It is a hyperbole based on very real human behaviour.
In this category: Tender Is The Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica.
So many queer stories are about struggle and hurt, and sometimes what we want to read is about queer people in a world that accepts them as queer.
This does not mean there is no suffering in that world: it just does not have directly to do with queerness because although we want to see ourselves and our struggles on the page, sometimes we just want queer people to be unapologetically and utterly happy.
This is also known as queernorm.
In this category: The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.
Cry Me A River
There is nothing I love more than a book that completely and utterly destroys me. The sadder, the better, and this sometimes makes it hard to do my job as a bookseller, because people will ask me for happy recs and my hands will be empty.
If someone tells me they read a book and it made them cry a lot, I’m very likely to also pick it up.
Having a bunch of books placed under this category would probably break my wallet, but I would gobble it up each time.
In this category: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Some books manage to hide a very thin layer of sadness underneath a hilarious narrative, and that sweet-and-sour taste that lingers among the pages always manages to make me emotional.
I will be laughing through the tears, and it’s one of the best feelings ever. For this alone, it should be a genre on itself.
In this category: Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson.
What genres/categories would you add to the list?