The Most Popular Book Genres Right Now

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The son of a librarian, Chris M. Arnone’s love of books was as inevitable as gravity. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. His novel, The Hermes Protocol, was published by Castle Bridge Media in 2023 and the next book in that series is due out in winter 2024. His work can also be found in Adelaide Literary Magazine and FEED Lit Mag. You can find him writing more books, poetry, and acting in Kansas City. You can also follow him on social media (Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, website).

If you’re like me, you can nerd out a bit when it comes to numbers and statistics. Math doesn’t lie, after all, though one should always question where statistics come from. When that math applies to something I love, my nerd flag flies even higher. So math about the most popular book genres? Yes, please.

There are a lot of book genres out there. Not only is there a split between fiction and nonfiction, but genres within those, as well as genres by age group. Oh, and there are formats like art books, graphic novels, and so on. So, what are the most popular book genres right now? How have they changed in recent years? Let’s dive into some numbers.

Publishing Is Doing Fine

A recent report from Publishers Weekly looked at the industry in April 2024. That report showed that the industry as a whole did 18.3% better than April of 2023, a nice year-over-year increase. While their article didn’t break down exact numbers by genre, it did show how numbers have moved from last year.

Graph showing sales changes by genre from April 2023 to April 2024 from publisher's weekly.Graph showing sales changes by genre from April 2023 to April 2024 from publisher's weekly.
Chart from Publishers Weekly

Both adult fiction and nonfiction are looking strong. Fiction for young readers is also doing well, while nonfiction for young readers fell. Books from religious presses showed the biggest gains in the market, however, with a nearly 40% year-over-year increase.

While April was strong, the book industry overall is up only a little bit from 2023. The Association of American Publishers’ StatShot showed that before April, book sales were only up 0.2% from 2023.

The Top 5 Most Popular Book Genres

To discover the most popular book genres, I had to dig a bit and collect some data from various sources. First, I looked through bestseller lists from The New York Times and Amazon. I also checked on blogs from some book industry analysts like those from Book Writing Pioneer. Here are the most popular book genres as of mid-2024.

1. Romance

Romance has dominated the industry for a while now. Not only is it popular and enjoyed by a devoted fanbase, but romance writers taught the rest of the industry how to sell books. It amazes me that we are only now seeing romance-centric bookstores popping up around the country. Romance-centric book fairs are a booming business, too. According to Romance Writers of America (I cannot find a direct link, but several references to this number), romance books accounted for 23% of book sales last year. Colleen Hoover dominated bestseller lists recently, but she’s far from the only romance writer doing well right now.

2. Fantasy

Fiction that involves escapism has been on the rise in recent years. It was huge during the pandemic and has continued to stay strong in a real world with multiple wars, rampant divisiveness, and major elections on the horizon. How better to escape than into the world of fantasy?

Romantasy — a genre-blend of romance and fantasy — is particularly commanding right now when looking at the recent success of Rebecca Yarros’s Empyrean series. Both Fourth Wing and Iron Flame spent considerable time at the top of the bestseller lists last year and into this year. It seems a new romantasy book is dropping every week in the wake of Yarros’s success, keeping both romance and fantasy in commanding positions.

3. Memoir and Biography

This genre of nonfiction can actually be divided into two major camps: celebrity and political. Memoirs from Britney Spears, Matthew Perry, Viola Davis, and Michelle Obama commanded the nonfiction bestseller lists. But politicians weren’t far behind, and as the election cycle ramps up, so, too, will sales of political memoirs. Liz Cheney and Ron DeSantis had recent bestsellers in this arena. As politicians throw their proverbial hats in the ring, they often release books to raise their profile and get their messages out there.

4. Children and Young Adult

We have moved past the era of The Hunger Games when every literary agent was trying to urge their clients to shift their books to a younger audience. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for books for young audiences. The demand for picture books remains steady, and genres like fantasy and science fiction still dominate the YA market. While there are no single commanding titles in the space right now, the film adaptation of The Ballad of Birdsongs and Snakes spiked that book back to bestseller status three years after its release.

5. True Crime

Here’s the other big part of nonfiction sales: true crime. While some people clamor for escapism, others need to dive into the reality of human depravity and suffering. From podcasts to streaming shows to bestselling books, true crime is big business right now. Killers of the Flower Moon has been a bestseller for more than half the year. If there’s a serial killer you’ve heard of (or haven’t), there are probably several books diving into their psyche and the gruesome details of their rampages.

Other Most Popular Book Genres

Of course, there are way more than five book genres. So, how does the rest of the top ten round out?

6. Science Fiction

7. Mystery/Thriller

8. Historical Fiction

9. Self-Help

10. History (nonfiction)

The most popular book genres are largely the same as last year. In fact, they’re largely informed by last year’s bestsellers at this point. But the numbers don’t lie, so there are books other than romantasy burning up the charts, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Which genre are you driving to the top of the bestseller list?

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