Ingram Blog

Everything You Wanted to Know About Genre Fiction (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Ann Cox, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
Rachel Montgomery, MLS, Collection Development Librarian

As temperatures heat up, our reading tastes turn to genre fiction. Whether it’s tough urban fantasy heroines, spooky Gothic manor houses, or swoony regency romance couples, we are completely enthralled by these entertaining books that put story at the forefront. And we’re not alone: according to the Romance Writers of America website, romance novels make up nearly a quarter of  the entire US fiction market, with other genres such as mystery, inspirational fiction, horror, and science fiction and fantasy each making hundreds of millions of dollars every year. A glance at the New York Times Fiction Bestseller list also shows the dominance of genre fiction in American reading tastes, as authors such as James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and Kristin Hannah stay on the list for weeks with each new title.

If your experience is anything like our days on the reference desk, your patrons are clamoring for genre fiction as well. Have you seen a jump in your circulation stats for a genre you’re not familiar with? Have you analyzed your fiction collection and found you’re strong in some areas, but others need work? Do you have a genre that you can’t keep on the shelves and need to expand? We can help! We are so excited to introduce a new collection of book lists to our High Interest Categories for Adult materials: Genre Fiction. These lists have been designed to help librarians build or enhance their genre collections and act as a counterpart to our existing nonfiction Subject Lists. The four new categories of lists below will allow you to take a deep dive into genre fiction.

First, we have our Top New & Popular genre lists. These are the genre titles that are popular right now and are sure to pop up on your holds list. Most titles here will be the newest and brightest, but older titles will occasionally sneak in, from perennial classics to that book being made into a movie. These lists will be refreshed on a quarterly basis and include Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Suspense, Horror, Historical Fiction, and Inspirational Fiction. In the Science Fiction list you’ll find Neal Stephenson’s latest beside Octavia E. Butler’s classic Parable of the Sower . And in Romance, debut author Sonya Lalli’s The Matchmaker’s List can be found with Diana Palmer’s Any Man of Mine, originally printed in 1982.

Next are the Top 10 Essentials, a mix of classics and standards for each of the major genres: Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Inspirational Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Suspense, and Westerns. These are the titles your patrons are likely to ask about and every library should have, and they are helpful for any library with a limited budget and gaps in their genre fiction representation. These lists include titles such as Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in Mystery, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander  in Romance, and Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf  in Fantasy. These lists will be updated biannually.

We are particularly excited about our Diverse Genre lists, highlighting genre fiction written by and for marginalized groups, incorporating racial, sexual, gender, and differently abled inclusivity. As the recent controversy surrounding the RITA finalists indicated, diversity in the book world is needed more than ever. If you are looking to better represent your community or bring new viewpoints to your existing collection, these lists can help. They include fantastic authors such as Walter Mosley, Cat Sebastian, Daniel Jose Older, and Helen Hoang. Here you can find Diverse Mysteries and Suspense, Diverse Romance and Erotica, and Diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy, which will be updated on a quarterly basis. We hope to expand this collection in the future.

Finally, we have the Must Have/Can’t Miss Sub-Genre lists. We like to think of these as the types of titles you’d find in a listicle, delving into popular sub-genres. This collection will contain a rotating set of lists, with new offerings every month. But don’t worry, a retired list may find its way back in the future with exciting new titles. Currently you can find lists such as Gothic Horror Novels, Inspirational Amish Fiction, Dystopian Novels, and Cozy Mystery Series. Not only will these lists lend themselves to fun displays, but they’ll also help with those tricky RA sessions when your patron has exhausted a favorite series and they need more, just like that one

We hope you'll find these lists helpful for replenishing your much-loved collections, expanding perspectives within your community, or marketing and displaying your amazing new genre collection.

Looking for more lists to fill your Library inventory? Check out these other awesome lists.