Literary Fiction Vs. Genre Fiction: Finding Books You Love

This week the list of 2019 Pulitzer Prize winners were released and while more than just Fiction winners were on the list it got me thinking about the types of fiction we read and enjoy and the books that get critical acclaim.  Some books sell faster than they can be printed but win few, if any, awards, while others may rake in the acclaim and prizes, they aren’t widely known by all readers. Obviously, books are like people, they come in a lot of different shapes, sizes, and types but when it comes to finding a book you love, you might need to explore the types of books you enjoy as well.

In a very basic and reductive sense, a lot of fiction comes either as literary fiction or genre fiction.  Again, at a very basic and simple definition Genre Fiction is typically categorical and adheres to certain rules/traits about those categories.  For instance, Mystery, Horror, Romance, etc., are genre novels because they typically focus heavily on the plot or story. Literary Fiction, while it does have a plot, is usually more focused on commentary or criticism of something.  For instance, To Kill A Mockingbird is more literary despite being a more southern style of fiction because it’s focus is more on the commentary about racism in the story.  It’s got some tense moments and there is a story but the deeper point of the books isn’t about the story, but about the rights and wrongs of their society.

Now, for some people, literary fiction is terribly dull, it can drag, or the language is too flowery.  Some people think genre books are low-brow and simplistic, but both genres have their good and bad points.  Yes, literary fiction can be slower moving in terms of the story but it usually has a great lesson or rich characters to enjoy.  While genre fiction might not bring deep commentary on the people, ideas, or society that surrounds the characters, it’s very fun in a lot of ways and the plot moves fast.

I had read a few Pulitzer winners when I was younger and I hated them, swore them off, and never looked back…until I got older and a little more thoughtful.  While I enjoy most types of books, I would encourage you to read books outside your norm because there are some great treasures hidden out there, but sometimes you have to wade through books you might not like.  However, this could also lead you to a new love of types of fiction you’d cast off in the past or never thought to try.