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At the Bookstore – Fiction Posted by on Aug 26, 2016 in Culture, English Language, English Vocabulary



If you are looking for a specific book, or even just something you’d like to read, it helps to know the various categories that bookstores use for shelving their products.

Almost every store has three main categories of books in different locations on the sales floor – Nonfiction, Fiction, and Children’s. You will then find those sections of the bookstore divided into sub-categories, and then within those sub-categories will be more specific micro-categories. Many visitors to a bookstore always head to one part of the store, knowing that the books they usually like to read are in that area. Last time, we journeyed down the various aisles of the Nonfiction section. Now, let’s browse through the Fiction shelves.


Comics and Graphic Novels – Comic book publishers collect story arcs, long stories which span multiple issues of their (usually) monthly 32 page comics, and publish them in hardcover and paperback editions. Other illustrated novels and memoirs for adult readers will be found here, along with studies of the history and creators of comics. You might want to try Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, or the super hero mystery Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer.

Anthologies – Collections of short fiction or poetry populate this category. Usually, the editor or compiler of the collection has selected the material to highlight a particular year or subject matter. You will also find anthologies in some specific genres at the very beginning of those sections. The Best Short Stories of the Year is always a good choice.

Classics – Books which have never gone out of print, and have stood the test of time, are here. Look for works by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and Victor Hugo, for example.

Fantasy – Often paired with Science Fiction, this is where you’ll find tales of fantastical lands, swords and sorcery, and mythical beasts. George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien have books here.

General Fiction – If a novel doesn’t fall into any particular genre, then you’ll find it here. This includes the vast majority of current bestsellers. Popular and respected authors you’ll find here include Michael Chabon, Jodi Picoult, and Salman Rushdie.

Historical Fiction – Books set in the past, often with scholarly details about the time period and settings (and frequently featuring famous historical figures) make up this popular category. Look for books by Hilary Mantel, Robert Graves, and Ken Follett.

Mystery – Private detectives, police procedurals, and the old-fashioned murder in a small town cozy make up a lot of the types of books in this aisle. You will likely find this category paired with Thrillers. Agatha Christie has been dominating this category for nearly a century. In fact she is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best selling  author of all time! If you’ve never read the Inspector Gamache novels of Louise Penny, set in Canada, you’re in for a treat!

Poetry – Poetry isn’t fiction, but it can sometimes be found near the novels. Nor is it nonfiction, but you might find it there, too. Poetry is a category which stands alone. You may find slim volumes by a single poet, or massive collections and anthologies. You might also expect to see the ancient classics by such figures as Ovid, Virgil, and Homer. Linger over the works of Pablo Neruda, or the late Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. You won’t be sorry.

Romance – Novels of love, seduction, betrayal, and marriage fill this broadly defined category. Sometimes you’ll find a classic, like Boris Pasternak’s Russian epic Doctor Zhivago sitting on the same shelf with 50 Shades of Grey.

Science Fiction – Often paired with Fantasy, classic adventure tales of outer space and time travel sit side-by-side with visionary stories of cyberpunk and alternate realities. Look for books by authors who transformed the genre, like Ursula K. LeGuin and Philip K. Dick.

Thrillers – Usually paired with Mysteries, thrillers are often nail-biting adventures which don’t involve cops or detectives as protagonists. This is where you’ll go to find books by Dan Brown, Ian Fleming, or the hugely successful Stephen King.

Westerns – This uniquely American genre is set in the part of the United States located west of the Mississippi River. Most of us associate the legends of the Wild West as taking place between the American Civil War, and the early part of the 20th century. However, many westerns are set in modern times, but evoke the nostalgia of the time of the cowboy. Look for books by the master, Louis L’Amour, or the more contemporary Craig Johnson.

Whatever your tastes, there’s no excuse for passing up a chance to wander down the aisles and scan the shelves of your local bookstore.

Next time, we’ll conclude this visit to bookstores by looking at the Children’s Literature section, and also at some of the other ancillary products you’ll find as you shop.


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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.