In reviewing the New York Times “Notable Books of 2011” I started compiling what I hope to be a different kind of categorization of fiction and nonfiction. As a writing teacher, I find it imperative to teach how good writing can flow from the classroom into society, and so in this categorization I am looking towards a fundamental understanding beyond already established genre classifications.

While working at Barnes & Noble in the late 90s, I learned that classifications of books had become so ridiculous that fiction even had labels like “aviation fiction” and varying degrees of romantic fiction which I do not want to post here; nevertheless, as a teacher I find it impossible to teach good, solid forms with built foundations of theme and type without trying to come up with some kind of categorization.

Under fiction, I noted:

  • Historical – dealing with the past as subject and setting
  • Regional – dealing with a particular area as a main theme
  • Edge – fringe stories, with a focus on living outside accepted society
  • Political – focused on the interplay of structural power
  • Sorrow – any story with deals primary with how to cope with primary sadness
  • War – soldiers, generals, or citizens are the focus of experience
  • Relationship – tales which center on the interplay between sexual desire and shades of friendship
  • Finance – where the exchange of money is the primary concern, either with criminal or legal ramifications
  • Fantasy – stories which are painted in secondary belief
  • Science – stories which deal with the possible use and expansion of technology
  • Horror – stories that use death as a romantic notion
  • Culture – dealing with the interplay between national and ethnic worldviews
  • Religious – exploring human spirituality, especially in myth and the experience of invisible yet universal felt forces
  • Metaphysical – utilizing surreality and philosophical concepts made real in contemporary life
  • Occupational – where the theme is centered around the success of failure of work culture


Under nonfiction, I noted:

  •  Cultural studies – explaining current current
  • History – exploring the impact of the past on both past and present
  • Biography – describing the transformation of one human experience
  • Religion – defining the characteristics of the supernatural world in common life and the realistic impact
  • Economics – breaking down the relationship of money and culture
  • Technology – forecasting the future use and current impact of human invention
  • Linguistics – indicating how language, the structure of the written and spoken word, is related to both culture and identity
  • Poetry – exploring experience through line, rhythm, and image
  • Physics – capturing the essence of the natural world through formula, theory, and numerical consistency
  • Environment – understanding human relationship with the natural world, both through academic investigation and cultural implication
  • Political science – mapping out the relationship of culture and nation
  • Travel – exploring how new culture affects human experience
  • Art – describing the formulation and purpose of sensory imitations of life
  • Philosophy – explaining the categorization of the human mind regarding basic concepts and structures in the world logically

In teaching writing, it is always my goal to help students combine the skills of a researcher with the skills of a good writer.  I do believe that in the above categories great books have been written, utilizing all the skills of great writing, and that anyone in knowledge and practice of those skills can do the same.

0 comments