Archived Reading Room

A critic’s guide to literary genres renamed

bookNot so long ago, a neighbor in the building where I love in Montford, a budding comedian in her early 30s who works as a publicist for the Mast General Stores, was visiting with me in my apartment. We are both readers and began joking about bookstores and genres of literature. I mentioned a book that I categorized as “chick-lit,” and my friend, who disliked this particular book, replied that it should be labeled “s**t-lit.”

By then, a couple of gin-and-tonics were flowing through our veins, and we commenced, in deliberate but playful fashion, to liven up the nomenclature for literary classification. Back and forth we batted terms and definitions, sipping our drinks and bursting into laughter when one of our creations seemed particular apropos. 

Below are some of the categories we invented that evening. Perhaps the bubbles and gin made our contrivances appear more amusing than they actually are; that assessment I shall leave to you, dear readers. But whether you are a bookseller seeking to pull a sinking store from the storm or a bibliophile trying to put your shelves in order, please feel free to divide and label your collections employing our appellations, offered here in no particular order:


Genres Renamed:

• Chick-Lit: female authors and/or female audiences. Jane Austen remains the ruling monarch of this realm. 

• Git-Lit: books on bartending, wines, beers, spirits, and frat parties. Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis would provide the cornerstone of this edifice.

Related Items

• Lit-Lit: Books to read while drinking wine, beer, and spirits. Also, books by and about alcoholic writers and recovering addicts. Especially recommended: The Thirsty Muse by Tom Dardis and any book by Augusten Burroughs.

• Hit-Lit: A mélange of works on boxing, martial arts, and the Mafia. Look here for biographies of Muhammad Ali or Jimmy Hoffa.

• Fit-Lit: The category for bodybuilding, sports, and exercise.

• Mitt-Lit: Books on baseball, which as every used bookseller knows, is that category of sports which most appeals to buyers. This section would also include any biographies of the 2012 Republican presidential candidate.

• Pit-Lit: NASCAR, of course. Also, barbeque recipes and accounts of life in hell. Featured selection: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

• Quit-Lit: More confessionals on addiction and recovery.

• Wit-Lit: Home of Oscar Wilde, H.L. Mencken, and other iconoclasts. For special consideration: The Letters of Evelyn Waugh and any title by Judith Martin aka “Miss Manners.”

• Tit-Lit: From novels to coffee table tomes, here is the domain of girls gone wild. Featured selection: Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds. 

• Clit-Lit: Women’s studies section. Also includes porn-lite/erotica books like Fifty Shades of Grey.

• Prick-Lit: Men’s studies section. Also, all collected works on the appropriately named Anthony Weiner. Featured selection: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.

• Zit-Lit: The “young adult” section. Featured book: The Hunger Games.

• Flick-Lit: Books on film. 

• Sick-Lit: Medical dictionaries, off-the wall-absolutely-nuts cures for cancer and death, and tomes on natural medicine.

• Brit-Lit: Chaucer to Hitchens, and everyone in-between. Featured author: Antony Burgess. Though famous for A Clockwork Orange, Burgess also gave us the superior Earthly Powers, one of the great novels of the twentieth century.

• Glit-Lit: Astronomy, astrology, and life among the glitterati. Books having anything to do with the Kardashians would be banned.

• Grit-Lit: Books about those who chew tobacco, own guns, drive pickups, and eat biscuits with gravy. Featured book: Blood and Grits by Harry Crews.

• Pig-Lit: Books about Winnie the Pooh’s companion. Also the repository for bacon cookbooks.

• Twit-Lit: The metrosexual collection. 

• Nit-Lit: Insect books. Sub-section: Tick-Lit. Featured selection: Metamorphosis by Kafka.

• Writ-Lit: Law and order books. All books on the Constitution, a document by which the United States was once governed. Featured author: John Grisham.

• Crit-Lit: Books by celebrated critics, including pundits of the Left and Right Featured writers: Featured literary critics: Michael Dirda and Gregory Wolfe. Featured pundits: Al Franken and Ann Coulter.

• S**t-Lit: Books not worth reading, but which nevertheless appear on the NYT’s Best-Seller list. Included as well would be all those gaseous volumes written by presidential candidates and other politicians running for office. 

• Sit-Lit: Fat books requiring a comfortable chair and several days reading. Featured authors: James Michener, Susan Howatch, and Michael O’Brien (who is incapable of writing a book less than 500 pages long).

• Kit-Lit: Books for cat lovers, including all 29 books of Lilian Jackson Braun’s mystery series “The Cat Who….”

• It-Lit: Books on aliens. 

• Knit-Lit: What else but knitting? 

• Stick-Lit: Lacrosse.

• Kick-Lit: Soccer.

• Mick-Lit: The Irish collection. Featured author: James Joyce.

• Dick-Lit: Detectives and who-done-its. Featured author: Raymond Chandler.

• Shtick-Lit: Books by comedians. Specially feature: Jim Gaffigan’s Dad Is Fat.

• Outwit-Lit: Spy novels. Special feature: Charles McCarry’s The Last Supper (Note: A wonderful book that I have just discovered). 

• Split-Lit: Books on divorce and abandonment. Books on multiple personality disorders.

• Hypocrite-Lit: Certain political commentators from both left and right along with books by Al Gore and deserving pastors.

• Intuit-Lit: Life among the Eskimos. 

• Spit-Lit: Books that make you made enough to want to spit. For conservatives, see Al Gore under Hypocrite-Lit. For liberals, see Ann Coulter under Crit-Lit.

• Smit-Lit: Books on love. Special feature: Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things.

• Admit-Lit: All confessionals, ranging from Rousseau to today’s “tell-alls.” 

• Requisite-Lit: Classics and other must-read books. 

• Sprit-Lit: Books for sailors. Featured: Master and Commander.

• Snit-Lit: Books for those who pout, go off in a huff, or are easily enraged. Featured: Anger Management by Call M. Savage. (Read author’s name slowly for inside joke).

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