Obscure Book Genres You May Not Know

There are so many genres, and even more sub-genres; this list could go on forever. It is more than likely that you have heard of one or more of these genres, but some genres are so exact and obscure that we had no idea they existed! How many of these have you heard of? 


Bangsian: Named after John Kendrick Bangs, a popular writer of this fantasy genre, Bangsian fantasy features famous literary or historical figures interacting with the afterlife. Books of this genre include:

The Ghost Bride by Yangzee Choo

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk


Shenmo:Another fantasy genre, Shenmo fiction is also known as Gods and Demons fantasy and is founded on Chinese mythology. Books of this genre include:

Journey to the West by We Cheng’en

The Investiture of the Gods by Xu Zhonglin


Bildungsroman: Chances are that you are already familiar with this genre, however you may not have known this specific German word for it. Bildungsroman encompasses a coming of age novel with specific focus on the psychological, moral, and social shaping of the a character (usually the protagonist). The genre/term was coined during the German Enlightenment. Many classic and extremely popular books are considered Bildungsroman, including: 

Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Wuxia: The direct translation of wuxia is “martial hero.”  It is a Chinese fiction, martial arts genre that features chivalrous protagonists on adventures filled with swords, sorcery, and – you guessed it – martial arts. Best-selling Chinese author Jin Yong is one of the most prolific writers of the Wuxia a genre. 


Comedy of Manners: This name of this genre says it all. The comedy of manners genre is a satire of manners and the pretension of social class(es). Historically, there tended to be at least one stock character (a stereotype recognizable by audience). Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is often regarded as the first comedy of manners. Others include:

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Boston Marriage by David Mamet


Hard-boiled: This genre shares the setting and characters of crime fiction, but its realism and naturalism sets it apart. Detectives in hard-boiled fiction are much more cynical and somber, the (usually urban) setting is more seedy, and the writing is more graphic and violent. The dialogue is quick and filled with slang. Books of this genre include:

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson


Hard Science Fiction vs. Soft Science Fiction: It is likely that a majority of audiences have heard of hard and soft science fiction, but before researching them, I did not know what they exactly entailed. Hard science fiction features detailed, well-researched, and plausible situations, while soft science fiction is not detailed science, and focuses more on cultural, social, and political interactions. Here’s an example of each:

The Martian by Andy Weir (Hard Sci-Fi)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Soft Sci-Fi) 


Then there are some interesting sub-genres of science fiction: 

Feminist Science Fiction: This is a sub genre of soft science fiction which deals particularly with women’s roles in society, and reflect the trepidation women have about their future. Feminist sci-fi is often set in a dystopian world with heightened gender inequality, reflecting the need for continued feminist work (in the real present). Books of this genre include:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler 


Planetary Romance: Most of the action in planetary romance takes place on exotic alien planets and is focused on the interactions between the characters and their world. Books of this genre include:

Dune by Frank Herbert 

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs 


Punk: has numerous sub-genres, but overall the punk literary genre is categorized by the use of distinct technologies and sciences. There is usually a group of people fighting government corruption (based on the ideologies of punk rock) in a cynical or dystopian setting. Sub-genres include:


Cyberpunk: A world where people have been physically or mentally enhanced.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 


Steampunk: The story takes place around when steam power first came into use, around the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution, with elements of science fiction and fantasy. Along with science-fiction, steampunk is generally thought of as speculative fiction as well.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld 


Biopunk: Biopunk stories present genetics and biological experiments gone wrong, focusing on the harmful effects of a character’s creation when they change an animal or human’s DNA and it turns them into something violent. This sub genre also falls under ‘horror.’

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi 


What genre would you add to this list?


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