20 Unique Genre-Bending Novels You Need to Read

If you know me, you know that genre-bending books are my favorite! I love when a book surprises me with a unique combination of two genres, like a fantasy-mystery mashup, or threads of magical realism. So today, I wanted to share some of the best page-turning, genre-bending novels that I recommend to everyone!

genre-bending novels book covers

What does ‘genre-bending’ mean?

Genre-bending is a term used to describe works of storytelling (in this case, books) that encompass multiple genres. They don’t fit into one specific genre “box” – and in my opinion, that’s a good thing!

Having specified genres helps define books so they can be found by their ideal reader, but I strongly believe that a book’s genre shouldn’t be trapped by rigid guidelines.

Genre mashups allow a story to go in so many more directions, which means more opportunities for uniqueness. It’s great for readers, because it means stories can be less predictable!

Best Genre-Bending Books

In recent years, I’ve noticed an increase in genre-bending books being published (which I am all about)! There are a lot more options to choose from now, based on your genre preferences.

Whether you’re intrigued by mysteries with fantasy or science fiction elements, historical fantasy books, fiction with magical realism, or something else, there are tons of genre mashups to enjoy on this list.

I’ve included works from some of my favorite authors who have written multiple genre-bending stories, like David Mitchell, Matt Haig, and Alix E. Harrow.

Some of these novels are more focused on the real world with hints of different genres woven in, while others feature strong elements of multiple genres. It’s an eclectic mix. 🙂 Enjoy!

(If you’re a fan of romance and fantasy, check out these enchanting romantasy novels!)

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks book cover

Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction/Magical Realism/Fantasy/Science Fiction

The Bone Clocks is an interwoven patchwork of incredible storytelling. Spanning through many decades and countries, from the past to the present and into the future, different characters’ stories are told in various stages of life and growth, each connecting with the other characters in some way.

One of the main characters, Holly Sykes, is a young woman who’s particularly sensitive to psychic phenomena – including hearing voices and seeing strange visions.

This story is an unusual tour de force that brings literary fiction and fantasy together in a magical fusion. I absolutely loved it. Highly recommended!

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance/Magical Realism

This enchanting book follows a young woman living in the early 1700s. She makes a bargain to live forever, while being doomed to be alone, forgotten by anyone she ever crosses paths with.

Until one day, after hundreds of years, she comes across a man in a bookstore who remembers her name.

It’s an exquisite story, with everything I love most about reading captured in one book.

Genre-wise, it’s hard to pin down, but it’s like a cross between historical fiction, romance, and magical realism. It’s set in the real world, but with threads of fantasy elements.

I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already – it was a definite 5-star read for me!

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue book cover

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery/Magical Realism

This is one of the most unique and engrossing books I’ve read. It’s twisty, genre-bending (historical mystery, magical realism, and more), and best-enjoyed with an open mind.

It’s hard to nail down a synopsis for a book this unique, but I’ll break down the essence.

A man (Aidan) is summoned to a Gothic mansion for a lavish party. But what he finds is much more sinister: he must find out which of the guests killed Evelyn Hardcastle, or he’ll continue to wake up every day in a new host’s body, re-living the same day over and over.

It gives off serious Agatha Christie vibes, which I am ALL about. The cast of characters, the eerie setting, the twists and turns…it’s all so well done. Highly recommended!

The Tainted Cup by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Tainted Cup book cover

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery

Here’s a fun fantasy/mystery mashup for fellow fans of genre-bending novels!

A brilliant, quirky investigator and her assistant – who’s been magically-altered to have a perfect memory – are called to an opulent mansion to investigate the murder of a powerful officer.

But in a world where magic exists, finding a murderer – and keeping your own secrets – is even more difficult and dangerous.

genre bending book covers

The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

The Unmaking of June Farrow book cover

Genre: Magical Realism/Mystery/Romance

June Farrow’s family is cursed. Every woman in her family, as far back as she can remember, has started to get “sick” at some point – seeing visions and hearing sounds that aren’t there.

After a year of these visions, her grandmother – the woman who raised her – dies, she discovers a series of strange. They lead her to believe that the red door she’s been seeing is real, and that maybe she should walk through it.

The Unmaking of June Farrow is an enchanting and unique story, with a beautiful setting (a farm in a small town in North Carolina), a fascinating historical aspect, and characters you’ll love.

If you enjoy genre-bending stories filled with mystery, romance, and a hint of magic, I highly recommend this one!

Adrienne Young book on a bookshelf

The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden

The Warm Hands of Ghosts book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

From the author of The Bear and the Nightingale comes a new historical fantasy about a combat nurse during World War I.

When Laura Iven returns home after serving as a combat nurse, she’s devastated to hear her brother Freddie was killed in the war.

But something isn’t adding up, so she returns to Belgium as a volunteer nurse to follow the strange, eerie rumors she’s heard.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Science Fiction

This is a wide-reaching novel, following many characters in different places and times – from Constantinople in the late 1400s to an Idaho town in present day to a space ship many years from now. But somehow, each of these threads is tied together by an ancient story.

This is mostly historical fiction – but it mixes in some science fiction, too. It reminds me a bit of David Mitchell (who’s another favorite author of mine), but really, it’s in a league of its own.

This book totally lived up to the hype for me (and so did Doerr’s other, more traditional historical fiction story: All the Light We Cannot See). I hope it does for you, too. Highly recommended!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig book cover

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism

Nora Seed isn’t sure she wants to be alive. But when she finds herself between life and death, she sees a library of books all around her.

All the books represent different realities – based on all the decisions Nora’s made in her life – that she can jump into and experience. But this library won’t last forever, and Nora must make a crucial choice.

(Check out this post for all of Matt Haig’s books in order!)

Hardcover of The Midnight Library sitting on a grey chair with a plant

Voyage of the Damned by Frances White

Voyage of the Damned book cover

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery

This locked-room murder mystery and fantasy mashup is set on an enchanted ship in an empire called Concordia.

Twelve magical heirs to each of the empire’s provinces travel aboard the ship toward a sacred mountain. But soon, a body is found. It turns out a killer is on the loose, and everyone’s a suspect.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism

A lonely sixteen-year-old girl living in Tokyo starts a journal to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun.

Years later, a writer living on an island finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed ashore. The items inside pull her into the past, affecting how her future unfolds.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January book cover

Genre: Historical Fantasy/Magical Realism

January Scaller is the lonely ward of a wealthy man, living in a vast estate filled with strange trinkets.

One day, she comes across a peculiar book – and she’s inexplicably drawn to what’s inside. Because it’s not just a story, but a doorway to somewhere else.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January hardcover book on a white knit blanket next to a small succulent plant and a wide brim hat.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Set in New York City during the turn of the century (early 1900s), two mythical creatures from different cultures – a golem and a djinn – cross paths and form a friendship.

And, if you love this book, there’s also a sequel called The Hidden Palace to enjoy!

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Nothing to See Here book cover

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism

A funny, moving novel about a woman who becomes a caregiver to two children – only to find they have strange abilities. In fact, when agitated, they happen to burst into flames.

Can she make it through the summer without drawing too much attention to the twins?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

Ursula Todd is born in 1910. Sadly, she doesn’t survive – but that same night, she’s born again.

Thus begins her unusual journey through life, where she will die and be reborn over the next century.

But will this strange ability give her the chance to save the world from itself? And if so, will she choose to change the course of history, or leave the world to its fate?

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries book cover

Genre: Cozy Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Romance

In this cozy historical fantasy romance, a grumpy scholar and faerie lore expert travels to a small town to study a group of secretive faeries called The Hidden Ones.

But so does her infuriatingly charming academic rival, who manages to involve himself in her research – to her chagrin.

Shark Heart by Emily Habeck

Shark Heart book cover

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism/Romance

A few weeks after getting married, a man is diagnosed with a rare condition: while he will keep his mind, his body will slowly change into that of a great white shark. He and his new wife must grapple with this news – and figure out what it means for their future.

This unique, genre-bending novel delves into the heart of marriage, and what happens when one person goes through a life-altering change.

Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore book cover

Genre: Fiction/Magical Realism/Fantasy

This popular magical realism story follows an unlikely pair: a teenage boy who ran away from home, and an elderly man who was injured in the war.

They journey through Japan, experiencing one strange occurrence after another, until they realize their destinies.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism/Mystery

Set in the late 1800s, this historical mystery – woven with threads of fantasy/magical realism – follows the inhabitants of a town in England near the river Thames.

One winter night, a child is found on the riverbank. She isn’t breathing. Hours later, she miraculously stirs. But where did she come from, and how is she alive?

The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo

The Fox Wife book cover

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Mythology

Set in China in 1908, The Fox Wife explores the folk mythology of fox spirits who are believed to transform themselves into beautiful humans in order to lead people to their deaths.

When a woman’s body is found in the snow – her death swirling with rumors about the fox gods – a detective is called to investigate.

Meanwhile, a cursed family believes they are about to lose their eldest son, until a mysterious woman arrives. It seems her arrival may have turned their luck around – but can she be trusted?

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Book cover: Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Science Fiction/Magical Realism

Oona Lockhart is at a crossroads. On New Years Eve at age 19, she has a choice to make: go to London to study economics, or stay in Brooklyn to study music and be with her boyfriend.

Instead, she wakes up the next day 32 years into her future – and finds out she’ll live her life out of order, hopping between decades.

Do you have a favorite genre-bending novel or genre mashup combination? Let me know in the comments!

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