Reading by the Genre


The dystopian fiction genre has taken the book world by storm, with such well-received hits like The Hunger Games and Divergent. With the dynamic duo of suspense and futuristic undertones, as well as a setting where anything goes, it’s a no brainer why this genre has rapidly grown in popularity. But aside from surviving man-eating monkeys or outrunning Grievers, this genre serves an immense amount of variety.

It did not occur to me that I have been a fan of this genre since I was as young as twelve. Dystopian fiction was not all that popular during my youth, they were still present but as a different appearance. They existed in the forms of A Wrinkle in Time and The Giver, but by far, my personal favorite dystopian novel of my childhood is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. On the outside, it may not appear to fall in this category-but it totally is! Keep in mind that this novel was first published way back in 1961.Once you look past its zany puns and playful exterior, the Kingdom of Wisdom was pretty troubled. Not to give away too many spoilers, but there’s a scene where the young protagonist Milo gets arrested unfairly for the silliest reasons. Or how the harmonious princesses get banished simply because they believed letters and number were equally important.

With that being said, the list I have compiled include several dystopian novels that I’m very fond of (including The Phantom Tollbooth), a couple that are lesser known but still awesome reads, and some that I recently read and enjoyed. Regardless, the purpose of creating this list is to show our young patrons that there are other fantastic dystopian novels outside of big names like The 5th Wave and The Maze Runner. I vouch for all these titles and are surly to be hits to the right reader.

Brace yourselves fellow thrill-seekers!

Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi

The Missing Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The City of Ember Series by Jeanne Duprau

Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld

Among the Hidden Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Legend Series by Marie Lu

Candor by Pam Bachorz

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman

Reading by the Genre



“Where are your mystery books?”

“My teacher says I need to read a historical fiction book for my report.”

“My son hates to read, but loves sports.  Do you have any fiction sports books he might like?”


Sound familiar?  These requests are made daily because most kids we serve think in terms of genre.  A few have favorite authors and series, but most of them are open to the possibilities of what is out there, as long as it is whatever genre is capturing them at that moment.  Maybe our patron just read Goosebumps and is looking for something else to give them that knot in their stomach, anticipating what creature or magic is waiting for their favorite character.  Maybe the patron laughed their way through Greg’s antics in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and she wants to recapture the humor.  Most kids are still open to suggestion.  When they ask us for a recommendation based on genre, it is a chance for us to open yet another door for them.


But… what about those kids who aren’t searching for genre because they already have an interest?  Because they have read something similar and what more? What about those kids whose teacher or parent is trying to broaden their horizons for them?  For me, even as a veteran to advisory, this is where I falter.  I don’t want to give a kid a book just  because it is this genre.  I want to give them a reason to connect with the specific book I put in their hands.  I want to get a feel for what they could read if the choice were their own and get as close as possible while sticking with what they need in regards to the genre.   That is what we all want.  To give them a reason not to dread that project but to open them up to the possibilities of trying something new!


It is a tricky balancing act sometimes, and the more knowledge we have as to what is out there, the better we will be at getting the right reader with the right book.  With this in mind, we are launching our series on Reading by the Genre.  We have created lists  of new and old titles, some popular and some that flew under the radar, that will hopefully add titles to our arsenal so that when we get that genre request we have more options to share with our patrons.


For us at MPL, historical fiction seems to be one genre that we get asked about a lot (I mean… A LOT) in September, so we are jumping off there.  Some of these titles are familiar and even award winning but some are lesser known.  All are awesome options when put with the right reader.

What books would you add to this list?

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance by Eleanora E. Tate