The Classification Struggle | How Do You Decide Which Genre Wins Out?

Posted April 22, 2020 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Discussions / 7 Comments

Max and I moved into a new home last year and I was lucky enough to have a room built that is specifically for my library! It’s been a DREAM of mine, and I can’t wait to get it finished one day (COVID-19 has put a halt to my furniture shopping for the room for now). With a new library comes a more shelves, and for the first time ever I actually have an abundance of shelf space! While going through the unpacking process and actually being able to have shelves dedicated entirely to certain genres, I noticed that I had a few books where I struggled to decide what I’d consider the “primary genre” for them. This tended to be an issue mostly with my books that were historical fiction- they could so easily be placed in paranormal, fantasy, horror, mystery, etc. I also encountered this struggle with some books that could either go the contemporary or romance route. It got me thinking about what motivates readers to place a book primarily in one genre category over another.

Examples of Books I Struggle with Assigning a Primary Genre To:
  • The Diviners Series (Historical Fiction or Paranormal?)
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper (Historical Fiction or Horror?)
  • Mara Dyer Series (Paranormal or Sci-Fi?)
  • American Royals (Contemporary or Fantasy?)
  • Anna and the French Kiss Series (Contemporary or Romance?)
How I Decided to Classify

Some of these are fairly obvious- they clearly fall into two genres (historical fiction and one other) so it makes sense that I struggle to categorize them. Typically, if a book is historical fiction I will assign that as the primary genre because I have quite a bit of free space on my historical fiction shelf compared to my others. Some books/series are more difficult to categorize conclusively. For example, I went into the Mara Dyer series thinking it was paranormal, but after some revelations later on in the series it felt like it was actually more science fiction to me, almost X-men like (which adds another layer of complexity, when the genre of a series changes midway through!) American Royals almost seems to be in a genre of its own, because it’s clearly not set in our world, but there’s no fantasy elements- it’s just a parallel universe, alternate history type story. I ultimately ended up clasifying it as contemporary but it really doesn’t feel quite right there to me. Then there’s YA romances, such as the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, books by Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Morgan Matson, etc. Many of these have romance plots at their core, but I still keep them on my contemporary shelf because when I think “romance” as a genre, I think of actual adult “romance” books, where the romance is meant to be the focus of the book rather than an element of a broader coming of age story (though I could see how you could argue classifying such books either as contemporary or romance- there’s a lot of overlap with those genres!)

Let’s Discuss!

Do you struggle with assigning books a primary genre? Do you go with your gut or how the book is officially categorized on Goodreads, Amazon, bookstore websites, etc? Do you shelve your books according to genre? Let me know in the comments!


7 responses to “The Classification Struggle | How Do You Decide Which Genre Wins Out?

  1. For whatever reason, historical fiction trumps all for me, even if there are fantastical or paranormal elements. I just think that immediately puts it in a different category! haha. I blend contemporary and romance together but generally I only think of “romance” for adult fiction, for some reason?! I always have thought of Mara Dyer as paranormal but I have no reason for that haha.

    • Me too! Historical fiction, no matter what the sub genres, automatically get grouped together! On my shelves I don’t differentiate between contemporary/romance (mainly because I don’t own enough romance to have its own section) but when reviewing/my Goodreads shelves I do distinguish them. Totally agree with you- Romance is really only for adult novels for me, all YA romance is always grouped as contemporary for me!

  2. I can completely to relate to your struggles. I also like to categorise my books by genre and it really is those historical and other genre books which are difficult. I have a few which are historical but also have a mystery element, both are genres which are underrepresented on my shelves so have no idea where to place them. My other struggle is I like to place all of an authors books together to make it easier to find them, but then some authors fo and write in a few different genres so where do I put the books which break their usual genre?

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