The University of Iowa

Types of Fiction


Posted on: May 11, 2016

Last summer we shared the blog post, “Is Your Family Reading Widely,” which highlighted an article that is a resource in the IRRC collection. The article gives suggestions for genres, or categories of books, that are important to include in your family’s reading routines. Although the blog post features a few genres, I thought it would be helpful to go a little more in-depth on the different types of fiction and non-fiction that young readers should be reading. This week, our blog post will focus on types of fiction texts, their defining characteristics, and examples of books.

Realistic Fiction

Defining Characteristics:

  • A fiction, or untrue, story
  • A story that has believable events and characteristics that could actually happen in real life
  • Although it can take place in a real setting, it is not based on history or science


  • When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry—by Molly Bang
  • Frindle—by Andrew Clements
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins—by Katherine Paterson

Historical Fiction

Defining Characteristics:

  • A mix of fiction and historical facts
  • Based on historical events, but the story is mostly untrue
  • Could possibly have historical character


  • Pink and Say—by Patricia Polacco
  • Uncle Jed’s Barbershop—by Margaree King Mitchell
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963—by Christopher Paul Curtis


Defining Characteristics:

  • A fiction, or untrue, story
  • The story couldn’t happen in real life
  • Typically involves magic or supernatural powers
  • Oftentimes takes place in another world or has make believe characters, such as wizards or dragons


  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—by Roald Dahl
  • Magic Tree House (series)—by Mary Pope Osborne
  • A Bad Case of Stripes—by David Shannon


Defining Characteristics:

  • A fiction story based on a mysterious event or a crime
  • The story provides clues throughout the story, but the mystery isn’t typically solved until the end of the story


  • I Want My Hat Back—by Jon Klassen
  • The Boxcar Children (series)—by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • Holes—by Louis Sachar

Traditional Literature

Defining Characteristics:

  • Stories that are typically passed down from generation to generation
  • A variety of types of traditional literature include:
    • Fairy tales—these stories typically have a theme of good vs. evil and typically have a happy ending
    • Fables—these short stories often have animals as characters and teach a moral, or lesson
    • Legends—these stories often exaggerate characteristics of a person that makes them notable

Graphic Novels

Defining Characteristics:

  • Similar to comic books in that they use art, and text, in sequence to tell a story
  • Although graphic novels are not considered a separate genre, there are many fiction graphic novels that are motivating young readers around the globe


  • Hamster and Cheese—by Colleen Venable
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—by Eric Shanower and L. Frank Baum
  • Coraline—by Neil Gaiman

It’s important to make sure children read a variety of books. This list provides ideas for the types of fiction you can include in family reading.  Also, check out the list in this Types of Fiction Books infographic. Your local library is a great resource for finding different types of fiction books.