Have you ever forgotten the title or author of a favorite book? It can be so frustrating when you remember bits of pieces of the book but can’t remember the one thing that will help you find the book again. We’ve been there and know how frustrating it can be!
Readers often ask librarians for help finding these kinds of books. We get things like, “I can’t remember the title, but the cover was blue and it was on the top shelf.” Or, “I think the authors name starts with an A and there was a little boy in it.” We can’t always figure out the mystery, but we do have a few tricks that might help find the book.
First, Search Your Brain for Book Memories
When you are trying to find a long lost book, you need to try to remember everything you possibly can. You never know which little detail could be the clue to help identify the title or author!
Try answering some of the following questions to see if they help you remember any additional information.
- Can you remember any part of the title or a first or last name of the author?
- What did the cover look like? Was the author’s name in large print, or was the title large?
- Can you remember a character name? Even if it isn’t the main character, remembering even one or two names can be a huge help in your search. What can you remember from the plot? Did something unusual or memorable happen?
- What genre was it? Was it a fantasy, mystery, romance or about everyday life?
- Can you remember a phrase, quote, or certain paragraph? Sometimes a line will stand out to you because it was funny or meaningful. There is a good chance that the same phrase may have stood out to someone else.
- Do you remember any other story-related details, like a street name, city name, pet, time period, etc.?
- Where did you get the book? Was it a school library, a friend, your grandma? Did you see it in a store, hear about it on the radio or from a magazine? Do you remember any other similar authors that people seemed to also read if they liked the book you’re trying to remember?
Next, Try Google!
Google is not perfect but it is a great place to start. Think of some of the main keywords or type everything you can remember about the book and look through the results. Unfortunately, your average search won’t always get you the results you are looking for. Big companies can pay a lot of money to make sure their items appear at the top of your search results. So unless the book you are looking for was super popular, it probably won’t show up. You might need to try some of Google’s different search functions. For example, quotations around a phrase or quote will help to make sure Google doesn’t try to leave out any distinguishing details. Also, addition symbols (+) in front of each word will help link multiple elements into one search.
The Google Books Library Project makes it possible to find books by searching through the text. Once you start searching for possible titles, the reference page displays some extra information like various covers, tables of contents, common terms and phrases, and popular passages from the book. You can also view sample pages to make sure the book you found is the book you’ve been looking for.
Try Other Websites and Databases
There are several other book databases you can use as well.
You can try searching their archives and shelves. There is also a What’s the Name of That Book? group with searchable discussion posts and thousands of questions and answers.
WorldCat is one of the world’s largest networks of library content and services. It lets you search the collection of over 72,000 libraries in 170 countries. It will also show if the book you want is located in a nearby library. There is also the Advanced Search section with unique filters like Audience and Languages.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library and catalogs over 167 million items. The site also provides a friendly Ask a Librarian form for questions.
Reddit has a What’s That Book thread where users try to help other users remember book titles. There is also another subreddit called Tip of My Tongue. Just browse through the solved answers with the green tag and you will be amazed at the power of collective memory.NoveList: This database needs to be accessed through the Library’s website. It is a great resource to find book and author read-alikes.
Ask Your Social Network and Community
Post on all your social networks, reach out to friends, ask a local librarian, an old school teacher, or people you knew around the time you read the book. You might be surprised to find that your local community holds the missing link to find your book.
How to Move On
Sometimes, you’re just not going to find the book you’ve been searching for. It’s okay! The world is full of great books! Maybe now is a good time to try something new. You could try looking through our Provo Library Blog or read through our Library Staff Reviews.Our librarians can also give you a personalized recommendation of 3-5 titles to match your reading interests if you fill out our Personalized Reading Recommendation form.Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the process and happy reading!