8 Books That Blend & Transcend Genre


Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

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Set in the Spanish Golden Age, during a time of high‑stakes political intrigue and glittering wealth, The Familiar follows Luzia, a servant in the household of an impoverished Spanish nobleman who reveals a talent for little miracles. Her social‑climbing mistress demands Luzia use her gifts to win over Madrid’s most powerful players but what begins as simple amusement takes a dangerous turn. Luzia will need to use every bit of her wit and will to survive—even the help of Guillén Santángel, an immortal familiar whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both. The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo is on sale now.

Here’s my hot bookish take: genre is fake. Not only is it fake, it’s a weird and often extremely unsatisfying way to categorize (most) books. This is probably why many of my favorite books are ones that blend genre to the point of genre illegibility. I love anything that overspills its container or busts out from within the lines.

All of these books blend and expand genre in different ways. What they have in common is a refusal to adhere to convention, to remain fixed in one category. None of them offer a simple answer to the question, “What’s it about?” I could tell you that The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a Civil War novel, a ghost story, or a murder mystery — and none of those answers would come close to describing what it’s actually doing. I could tell you that The Unfortunates is a campus novel about depression and Black womanhood, but that really wouldn’t give you an accurate picture of the book. I could tell you that Future Feeling is sci-fi, and maybe you wouldn’t read it because you’re not into sci-fi, and maybe you’d be sad, because sci-fi doesn’t begin to cover it.

I’m not going to attempt to classify these books, and neither should you, but if you love the weird, the unexpected, the challenging — you should absolutely read them.

Cover of Lote

Lote by Shola von Reinhold

If you’ve ever interacted with me on the internet, you probably already know how much I love this book. It’s a literary mystery and a historical archive, an academic satire and a bizarre adventure, a study in queer excess and an ode to Black art. The protagonist, Mathilda, has always been enamored with the Bloomsbury Group and other artists from the 1920s and ’30s. When she discovers a photo of Hermia Druitt, a forgotten Black modernist, she sets out to learn everything she can about her — a journey that takes her to some truly surprising places.

Cover of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks

This novel does something remarkable: it blends genres sequentially. As in: at first, you think you’re reading a middle grade detective novel. And then suddenly you are very, very not. It’s a book best discovered for yourself. All you need to know is that it’s one of the most profoundly weird and profoundly beautiful queer and trans coming-of-age novels I’ve ever read.

Future Feeling book cover

Future Feeling by Joss Lake

In this wildly queer speculative adventure, there are spells and hexes. There is an otherworldly realm known as the Shadowlands, through which every trans person must pass at some point in their lives. There’s a mildly disturbing but also kind of radical worldwide organization of trans services (and a lot more). Subway cars change color, and technology is very, very weird. When a trans dog walker accidentally hexes the wrong person and sends him to the Shadowlands, he’s suddenly required to drop everything to get him out. It’s exactly as zany as it sounds.

The Unfortunates by J.K. Chukwu cover

The Unfortunates by JK Chukwu

This novel is technically more form-blending than genre-blending, but I’m counting it because it’s so unlike other contemporary novels I’ve read. Sahara is a queer Black college sophomore who’s not okay for a million reasons, including that Black students on campus keep dying. She refers to her depression as LP (for “life partner”) and attempts to hide her very real pain behind a cheerful facade. The book takes the form of a thesis, which she plans to present to the academic committee before her own death. It includes art, playlists, recipes, photos, collages, letters, journal entries, and other assorted ephemera. It’s an intense and often painful novel, but it’s also a celebration of Black friendship and art.

Cover of Flux

Flux by Jinwoo Chong

I read this book about a year ago, and I still don’t really understand what happened, but that did not stop me from loving it. It blends elements of dystopian fiction, mystery/thrillers, sci-fi, and 1980s detective stories. But it’s also a family drama and a moving exploration of grief. And it’s a little bit of an Asian American media studies PhD thesis. The narrative moves back and forth between three timelines: an 8-year-old boy who’s just lost his mother; a 28-year-old who’s just lost his job; and a 48-year-old whose participation in a TV exposé of a failed tech company causes him to look back at his life with a new perspective.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka cover

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

At first glance, this book is somewhat straightforward. It’s set during the Sri Lankan Civil War. Maali Almeida, a gay war photographer, wakes up dead with no memory of who killed him. He only has seven moons to figure out what happened and tie up all the loose ends he left behind before leaving the world forever. But what Karunatilaka does with all of these elements is bigger than the sum of its parts. He blends queer humor, a murder mystery, political satire, and speculative fiction into something distinctly new.

Cover of Variations

Variations by Juliet Jacques

This book of short stories is playful in form and subject matter. It reads like an archive of trans British history. Half the time I didn’t know whether I was reading fiction or nonfiction — and in the end, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes fictional queer and trans history is as important to tell as real-life history, especially since so much of the real-life history has been deliberately erased. This collection includes academic papers, oral histories, film scripts, letters, diaries, a collection of blog posts, and more. The structure of each story perfectly matches the time period it’s reflecting on.

Cover of Noopiming

Noopiming by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Some books transcend genre by blending it into new shapes. And some books, like this one, are firmly rooted outside of Western conceptions of genre to begin with. This novel is rooted in Anishinaabe storytelling traditions. It’s impossible to summarize — it’s an epic poem, a meditation on community and belonging, an adventure, a coming-into-self story, and a whole lot more. Simpson utilizes white space, a chorus of POVs, and poetic formatting to tell a moving, powerful story that genre cannot contain.

Looking for more genre-exploding fiction? Check out these genre-defying fantasy books and genre-defying mystery books. There are some great books on this list of genre-blending literary fiction, too.

Read original article here.

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