“What kind of book is that?” Is a question I often get at the small public library where I work after giving a book suggestion to a patron. Genres are hard, I think. For example, I was telling someone about Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, and they asked what genre it was. I said…drumroll please…”fiction?” Because truthfully, I don’t know! I can tell you what it’s about, I can tell you what I would suggest for subject headings, but as for a genre…I’m not sure. Genres are limiting. Genres are often confused with format. Genres are hard. 

Crossovers between traditional genre writers and the way we organize books by genre can limit/inhibit a patron from picking a book they might like just because it doesn’t fall under the category of the type of book they usually like

Also, what do we do with graphic novels? Are they a genre or a format? If they’re a format why are they all generally shoved in nonfiction when they can be either fiction or nonfiction?

LGBTQ is another ‘genre’ that people often ask about; what qualifies as lgbtq? Is it an LGBTQ author or LGBTQ characters, or both? It’s not a format, but it’s not a genre either–not all LGBTQ characters are detectives or vampires–they cross over in to all types of genres.