Sunday Salon 2009-02-15: What kind of book is it?

My job requires me to categorise and classify things. In fact it requires me to be something of a crusader about the joys of classification. But when it comes to books I’m really, really bad at it. This week in a post at one of my favourite book blogs, Crime Scraps, Uriah posed the challenge of coming up with a list of books in these categories that you might use to introduce a newbie to the crime/mystery genre. It sounded like a great idea (and was going to be the subject of my Sunday Salon post this week) until I started going through my reading notes to work out what books I would suggest and realised I couldn’t sensibly categorise about 95% of the books I’ve read.

Even looking back through the reviews I posted this week I struggled to categorise them. State of the Onion is recognisably a ‘cosy’ book but I didn’t know how to classify Sacrifice. It’s more of a thriller in some ways although there are crimes in it and there’s a proper police investigation too. What does that make it? I loved The Three Evangelists and would happily recommend it to friends but I couldn’t put one of the sub-genre labels on it if you paid me. I’m not entirely convinced the book is even crime fiction. I heard Ian McEwan say in an interview once that almost all books, including his Booker Prize short-listed Atonement, could be considered crime fiction in the purest sense as a crime occurs in it and there are consequences of that crime that the characters have to deal with.

Anyway, I gave up trying to prepare a list to meet Uriah’s challenge. Maybe I don’t read widely enough in the genre so my reading notes don’t reflect the variety suggested by the categories in that list. Whatever the reason I’ve stopped trying to meet this challenge and am going to spend the remainder of my Sunday curled up with my current book (Linwood Barclay’s No Time For Goodbye which I would classify as…damn good).

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9 Responses to Sunday Salon 2009-02-15: What kind of book is it?

  1. Nymeth says:

    I’m bad at categorizing books too…I guess it helps that I’m a bit skeptic about genres and sub-genres in general. However, as a mystery newbie, thanks for the link to the list!


  2. Dorte H says:

    Well, I answered Norman´s question but I googled many of the books and used Wikipedia. Usually I just distinguish between crime (the best) and thrillers (secondary in my opinion).
    There is a better list when it comes to thrillers here:


  3. Some books are difficult to classify!

    My TSS post is up!


  4. Norm/Uriah says:

    Thanks for the nice comment Bernadette, I will forgive you for giving up.;o)
    I have just finished reading Brodeck’s Report by Philip Claudel and am not sure what category I would classify it under, realistic but allegorical crime fiction? It was such an emotional read [my review on Euro Crime in due course] that I am going to edit a list of categories in order to reduce them to a dozen as away of recovering my equilibrium.


  5. Maxine says:

    i agree, I have done Norman’s challenge today and it is pretty much impossible. Most if not all of the books on my list would fit into more than one of the categories. I gave up in the end and just kept the “category” aspect vaguely in the ball-park, and recommended some books to “an imagined person who has not read crime fictoin before”, so tried to go for some variation and some slightly unusual (well, not all the best selling) authors.


  6. I find it hard to categorize most of my books. Probably because they fit in more than one category. Enjoy your book.


  7. claire says:

    I’m also terrible at categorizing books, which is why I never do it. That’s a lot of sub-genres for just one genre of fiction, too. I don’t read a lot (if at all) crime fiction (although if you can call McEwan’s books that, then yes). But I’m probably more inclined towards the historical whodunit, as I love The Name of the Rose. Enjoy the rest of your day, not categorizing! 🙂


  8. bernadetteinoz says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who can’t classify books 😀


  9. Pingback: Sunday Salon: What to read first (a revised Dartmoor Dozen) « Reactions to Reading

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