Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Have you ever struggled to apply a genre to a book you are reviewing? I certainly have. Especially as I am quite new to this and trying to specify a single genre against a book is rather tricky.

Most recently I was trying to determine the genre of a book and was thinking about putting it down to biography or memoir but I realised I wasn't perfectly clear what a memoir really was so I did a little research.

Now to understand this first we need to define an auto-biography and a biography. That's relatively simple; the first is a book about a person written by that person and the second is a book about a person written by someone else. That's pretty clear.

However a memoir is a little trickier. A memoir for many is classed as a sub-genre of auto-biography in which the story focuses on an aspect of the person's life. It may be only one time in a person's life, or one event or simply one aspect of their life. A memoir focuses on the emotions, moods and attitudes within the story rather than the factual events that occurred.

So the question I have is can a memoir be a biography? According to the literal definition of the genre, no. But why not? Take for example the book I mentioned earlier; tuesdays with Morrie. This book centers around the death of Morrie Schwatz, his feelings and thoughts and emotions about dying. If it had been written by himself I would have no qualms about saying this was a memoir. But it wasn't written by Morrie Schwatz, it was written by Mitch Albom. But here's the clincher the book is also about Albom and his experiences with Morrie. So is this book actually a memoir about Albom or a biography of Schwatz?

On a side note I fight with the genre Literary Fiction. Is it really a genre? Or is it just a term to try and differentiate a 'serious' book from it's counterparts? If we define a book on our blog to be literary fiction should was also assign it another genre to help clairfy it?

I am fascinated by genres (especially when a book doesn't fit into one) and find it a great way to fuel a discussion. So what do you think? Have you read the book and have an opinion on it's genre? Do you think a biography can be a memoir? Is there another genre I haven't heard of that could define a biographical memoir? What do you think of Literary Fiction as a genre? Do you even care about genres? Tell me your thoughts.