Celebrate Sci-Fi and Fantasy Subgenres with These 64 Books

Posted by Sharon on July 13, 2020


Science fiction and fantasy have spawned some of the most imaginative plots and settings in existence. Makes sense, given that these genres are all about thinking outside the box.

Whether you’re a sci-fi and fantasy newbie or a longtime reader, figuring out what to read next can be quite the challenge when there are so many possibilities to explore. To help you out, we’ve made a list organized around popular subgenres and tropes, featuring a mix of classic and more recent examples of each category.

Don’t forget to add any titles that catch your eye to your Want to Read shelf, and be sure to tell us your favorite example of these tropes in the comments below!



So, You Walk through a Wardrobe...

Characteristics of this trope: An ordinary person discovers an extraordinary world right next to our own; aka portal fantasies; aka don’t betray your family for Turkish delight; aka giving kids this much power seems to really mess them up.
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So, You Have a Special Destiny...

Characteristics of this trope: Long-lost heirs; hidden prophecies; reluctant “chosen ones”; eager “chosen ones”; unlikely “chosen ones”; gotta protect the “chosen one”; gotta save the kingdom/world/galaxy.
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Wait, Are Robots...Bad?

Characteristics of this trope: Artificial intelligence; that human is really a cyborg; aka say hello to our new robot overlords; aka “We never thought the robots would murder us,” sobbed the inventors of murder robots.
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Whoops, You’re a Time Traveler

Characteristics of this trope: The past is so much better than the present! The past is so much worse than the present! The past is...pretty much the same as the present? (The future is always pretty bad.)
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That’s So Epic

Characteristics of this trope: Books with big page counts; multibook series; hero’s journey themes; usually (but not always) set in ye olden days of vaguely pseudo-Western European nations; aka high fantasy.
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Black to the Future

Characteristics of this trope: Black traditions and cultures through a speculative lens; sociopolitical commentary; attention to race and race relations; aka Afrofuturism; aka Wakanda is extremely cool.
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Aliens!

Characteristics of this trope: Finding extraterrestrial life on a faraway planet; extraterrestrial life finding us on our planet; first contact is messy; hang on...is all of this a metaphor for colonialism?
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So, You Live in Space...

Characteristics of this trope: Space exploration; generation ships; galaxies far, far away; terraforming other planets; space opera (not to be confused with music opera); wow, space is terrifying.
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What are your favorite sci-fi and fantasy tropes, and which books best exemplify them? Let’s talk books in the comments below!
 

Comments Showing 1-50 of 102 (102 new)


message 1: by Catalina (new)

Catalina Grimdark fantasy, anyone?


message 2: by Kruemi (new)

Kruemi I miss the series of the Chronicles of St Mary's by Jodi Taylor here.


message 3: by Johanna (last edited Jul 13, 2020 03:12AM) (new)

Johanna Really love this type of article where we know a little bit more about the books : the context, the genre/subgenre, short "summary"... Good job ! Though, it will have been great to offer more diversity: some of us don't tend to read adult books.


message 4: by Raquel (new)

Raquel Historical fantasy is my favorite fantasy subgenre. Some great books listed here I'll have to check out!


message 5: by Kate (new)

Kate Johanna wrote: "Really love this type of article where we know a little bit more about the books : the context, the genre/subgenre, short "summary"... Good job ! Though, it will have been great to offer more diver..."

I agree! I would've liked to see more books that weren't adult. Loved the list, though!


message 6: by Alison (last edited Jul 13, 2020 06:57AM) (new)

Alison Kruemi wrote: "I miss the series of the Chronicles of St Mary's by Jodi Taylor here."

Me too. Shame.


message 7: by Dianne (new)

Dianne Where is Asimov? Can't talk robots without the guy who came up with the three laws


message 8: by Karen (new)

Karen No steampunk? :(


message 9: by Lois (new)

Lois Young Catalina wrote: "Grimdark fantasy, anyone?"

Agree. Do you want the long list, or the short one?


message 10: by Margarida (new)

Margarida Amaro This was a really fun list!! I really liked reading all the tropes, I think you should do it more often!


message 11: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Ania Omg the color commentary about each sub genre is amazing.


message 12: by Muff (last edited Jul 13, 2020 11:47AM) (new)

Muff Urban fantasy: Rivers of London series--oh yeah! Iron Druid--also good.


message 13: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Karen wrote: "No steampunk? :("

Do you have any recommendations? I'd be really interested to get more into that genre from a literary pov :)


message 14: by Mackenzi (new)

Mackenzi Octavia Butler knocking it out of the park in three categories... such a good author!

I'm loving these trope articles too, please continue making them!


message 15: by Jobke (new)

Jobke Visser Love the tropes lists, I can definitely easily see what I'd just devour in a day and what I'd probably never even be tempted by


message 16: by louise m. (new)

louise m. Yes please on the dark gothic fantasy/sci fi sub genre. It doesn’t get enough attention apart from Frankenstein!


RJ - Slayer of Trolls 12 read.


message 18: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I love this list! Thank you!!


message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael Hard sci fi (no FTL) / speculative fiction


Borders Are Global Apartheid Nice article! The subgenre/trope sections are a great way of breaking it down so people can find something they like. I'm one of those people who screams into the void that scifi can be intelligent and groundbreaking... and yet my preferred categories far and away are aliens, space opera, and robots.

Thanks for including Sisters of the Vast Black, in particular. Definitely gotta read that.


message 21: by Emma (new)

Emma Isabella I don’t think The Empress of Salt and Fortune has the Chosen one trope, who would be the chosen one?


message 22: by Theresa (new)

Theresa The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is an underrated portal fantasy. Terry Brooks' Landover series is also pretty fun.

Magic School has been used enough that it has become a trope. Magic for Liars and Carry On are good examples even if strongly influenced by The Magicians and Harry Potter respectively.

I haven't read enough Indigenous Speculative Fiction to make my own list, but the Sixth World series by Rebecca Roanhorse is wonderful and I'd love some recommendations.


message 23: by Coni (last edited Jul 14, 2020 07:37PM) (new)

Coni (coni_reads or skingproject) For portal fantasies (So, You Walk Through a Wardrobe...), I loved that they included Neverwhere, but they didn't include the novel that I always felt Neverwhere was inspired by, Weaveworld.


message 24: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Anyone have any further recommendations for "So, You Walk through a Wardrobe..."? This is one of my favourite tropes so I'd love more to read!


message 25: by Malena :-) (new)

Malena :-) Found a few books I didn't know about :-) I'll try to read a few this week!


message 26: by Wolfkin (new)

Wolfkin Black to the Future
- missing Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky which impressed me a lot. Exactly the sort of YA novel I wanted as a kid.


message 27: by Simona (new)

Simona Bălan Catalina wrote: "Grimdark fantasy, anyone?"

You should give Ed Mcdonald a try. :)


message 28: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown is a massive oversight. Some of the best sci-fi writing of the 21st century in my opinion. Riveting!


message 29: by Jana (new)

Jana Cool list. But why must fantasy and sci-fi constantly be mashed together as if each doesn't have MORE than enough depth and breadth to stand on its own? There are fifty-two weeks in a year. Surely enough for sci-fi and fantasy to each have a week of its own?


message 30: by Jessica (new)

Jessica aka don’t betray your family for Turkish delight 😂


message 31: by AlwaysV (new)

AlwaysV 0/64 😝 Wrong Pile ‼️


message 32: by Stan (new)

Stan A new and little known portal fantasy trilogy that I have enjoyed is The Mindruler, The Restorers, and The Strongholder.

Very creative world and the author, a linguist, even created a language or two for a couple of races. An engrossing read!


message 33: by Nicola (new)

Nicola F (Bronte Babe Blog) Radiance by Catherynne M Valente is a must read. It's dreamy.


message 34: by Akemi (new)

Akemi G. How about historical fantasy/alt history? (The difference, I think, is that in alt history fiction critical historical fact(s) is changed, whereas in historical fantasy the story unfolds within the known historical context.)


message 35: by Roy (new)

Roy DeRousse Dianne wrote: "Where is Asimov? Can't talk robots without the guy who came up with the three laws"

Yes, I was pretty shocked by that omission. Overall a pretty decent list though.


message 36: by C. J. (new)

C. J. Scurria Wow I have either read or have a "Want to Read" on at least one of every subcategory here. Can't wait to take the next step and read the ones I haven't gotten to yet!!


message 37: by S. (new)

S. The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas should be on the time travel list.


message 38: by C. J. (last edited Jul 15, 2020 12:03PM) (new)

C. J. Scurria S. wrote: "The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas should be on the time travel list."

I know what you mean. I know they only have so much room to give credit but I myself was a little disappointed I didn't see the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy by Lewis a space-opera (strange that instead Narnia made it though).


message 39: by C. J. (new)

C. J. Scurria Whoops my mistake I see that it says "Sci Fi and fantasy." I get it now, lol!


message 40: by Anayan (new)

Anayan yooo have you guys heard of Maria V. Snyder ????? she has both sci-fi and fantasy and she is totally my favorite author <3


message 41: by Dannell (new)

Dannell Karen wrote: "No steampunk? :("

Right?!? I was looking for some new ones!


message 42: by Dannell (new)

Dannell Kevin wrote: "Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown is a massive oversight. Some of the best sci-fi writing of the 21st century in my opinion. Riveting!"

Agreed!!!


message 43: by Luana. (new)

Luana. Yesterday i finished Cinder, the first book of The Lunar Chronicles, amazing!!


message 44: by Julie (new)

Julie • bujo.books one of my favorite fantasy subgenres is historical fantasy: real life setting, usually incorporates folklore.


message 45: by Joseph (new)

Joseph Bucknall Johanna wrote: "Really love this type of article where we know a little bit more about the books : the context, the genre/subgenre, short "summary"... Good job ! Though, it will have been great to offer more diver..."

So true, I love YA stories!


message 46: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Emma wrote: "I don’t think The Empress of Salt and Fortune has the Chosen one trope, who would be the chosen one?"

If you look at the story from the victor's perspective, the empress is. The narrative setup pulls the reader out of most of the war and conflict, instead focusing on the personal relationships, but it is still ultimately a story about the rise of the underdog (the empress) to bring the oppressed (the north) into power.

That's my interpretation at least!


message 47: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Walsh Catalina wrote: "Grimdark fantasy, anyone?"

I'm the author of a Grimdark, Gaslamp series you might like. I've got book two on the way inside the next month, and book one is here.
(Yep, I did comment before, but my original link went to an old duplicate version that slipped by until now. Apologies)

As Fierce as Steel


message 48: by Dario (new)

Dario Comedy sci-fi: John Dies At the End

Special destiny (sort of) sci-fi classic: The Stars My Destination


message 49: by Susan (new)

Susan Hancock Raquel wrote: "Historical fantasy is my favorite fantasy subgenre. Some great books listed here I'll have to check out!"

Just wondering if you'd like to check out my new novel 'Surviving Anstey' (first in a trilogy) set in sixteenth century England (Devon.) It's cross genre, since the protagonists are refugees from a different time and planet. Second in the series 'Anstey's Revenge' (out shortly) includes the Lundy Island pirates and the great floods on the Devon coastline in 1605. Great fun to research. I should mention that they're adult books with some darker themes.
Susan_Hancock


message 50: by Peter (new)

Peter I note David Gemmell, David Eddings, Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, John Brunner, don't rate a mention.

They might not have invented these tropes, but they certainly at least provided a fair proportion of the bases upon which the mentioned authors built.


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