Maybe you read and loved a book a long, long time ago but can’t recall its title. Or maybe you noticed an intriguing book on television or in a magazine, but you didn’t think to write it down. You can picture that the cover is blue and some basic elements about the plot may come to mind, but that’s as far as your memory will take you. We’ve all been there!
Library staff are happy to help you rediscover your long lost book, but please keep in mind that items in library collections are not catalogued by cover colour or design. Generally a book’s colour is not a helpful clue unless the staff member has a photographic memory…which may not be far off in some cases. Nonetheless, there are several helpful strategies that we (and you) can employ to solve the mystery.
Your first step is to try Google. Start by typing in everything you can remember about the book other than the colour of the cover. For example, type memoir, Africa, dog if what you remember is that the book is a memoir set somewhere in Africa and dog is in the title (Answer: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller). Or, if you are trying to recall a Nora Roberts book you read ages ago but all you can remember is that it featured an archaeologist, type nora roberts, archaeologist (Answer: Birthright by Nora Roberts). In both of these examples, the correct title is the first hit on Google. Although, in some cases you may need to do some scrolling.
Still can’t figure it out? At this point, if you are desperate, you can consult the people of the Internet! There is a sub-Reddit called What’s That Book (www.reddit.com/r/whatsthatbook) where you can submit your query and, if you’re lucky, the answer will be crowdsourced. You can even try describing the cover! Similarly, you can join the What’s the Name of That Book group on Goodreads. It has searchable discussion posts and thousands of questions and answers, plus you can submit your own.
If you can remember a word or two of the title, you can try the Big Book Search database (http://bigbooksearch.com). You enter the words you remember to the search engine, and it will generate all the book covers associated with that word. Unfortunately, it does not work for cover colour or design features but if you are a visual person, it just might give you the memory jog you needed.
Another worthy tool is NoveList, which the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries subscribes to on your behalf. It is a huge database of books that allows you to search based on thousands of subject headings, character-types, genres and appeal factors. Sometimes you might not recall what the book is about specifically, but you’ll remember how it made you feel. This is why narrowing down searches by appeal-factor is a helpful strategy. You can search for books that have been categorized as suspenseful, inspiring, violent, heartwarming, gossipy or homespun, just to name a few options. Access this database by visiting our website at CountyLibrary.ca and clicking on ‘Readers’ Advisory’. Keep in mind that you’ll need to sign in to NoveList using you library card.
Still stumped? Let us help! We might not successfully reunite you with your forgotten book, but we should be able to point you in the right direction or, at the very least, find you something similar.
This article was originally published in The Napanee Beaver.