Recently, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out the names of books I read when I was younger. It’s part of a grander obsession of mine to remember + document things from my past. For a couple of years, I’ve been keeping kind of a running list of books I had memories of, but no idea what the titles were.
Over the past few weeks, I remembered a bunch more books that I had to know what they were called. Just like when you hear the melody of a song in your head but you can’t remember what song it is, trying to remember the name of a book is the annoying kind of thing you’ll lie awake thinking about, & the kind of thing that will keep bothering you & gnawing at your brain until you find the answer.
If you remember a book but you have no idea what the title or author was, here are a few tips that I used to help me figure out what every single book on my must-know list was called. It feels so good to finally know!
Normal Google Search. This is a good general place to start in any book search. If you can remember any words from the title or character names, this can be a great way to find the book. Years ago, I remembered a book I’d read from the library. I remembered that the cover of the book featured a girl sitting in a barn with a dog, that there was a character named Jenny & one named Sam, & that the book was pretty old. Initially in my searching, I only remembered the main character’s name was Jenny, but later in my search I remembered Sammy as also being a character. I knew the plot of the book & that there was a character with an old-sounding name that began with an “H” who the main character told stories about to some younger characters. After searching various combinations of the keywords “Jenny Sam book invisible”, I found Jenny, Sam, & the Invisible Hildegarde.
If there are any books, series, or authors that keep showing up in your search that definitely don’t have to do with the book, try advanced search to exclude those words. Also, the more combinations of potentially relevant keywords you try, the better off you will be. You can also try searching for things like “book about _______________”, & add as many relevant keywords as possible. The more details about the book you can provide, the easier it will be to find it. Think about including keywords regarding things such as professions/ages/genders of characters (teenage boys, lawyers, kids), features of characters (if they were friends, animals, a club, etc), time frame story takes place in (1950’s, war time, futuristic), place (magic world, England, Florida, old barn), intended audience or details about the book itself (children’s book, old book), or things characters do/what happens (go to the beach, club for conversations about ideas, guy gets murdered). The “book about ____” format helped me remember The Famous Five series, which I had been searching for, & “ladybug book with transparent pages” brought up Ladybugs & Other Insects (With Transparent Pages).
Google Image Search. Much like the aforementioned “Normal Google Search”, searching for any keywords you can remember about the theme of the book – even if they seem quite random – can help you find the book, especially when coupled with using Google Images. The title alone might not ring a bell, but when coupled with seeing the title & cover, you might experience a “EUREKA!” moment.
In one of my searches, I remembered a series I had sometimes read. It was about some preteen girls who time traveled into the past to have adventures, based upon (I believe) a treasure chest in an attic. After searching some keywords relating to this topic, I found The Magic Attic Club books, which was what I had been looking for. Additionally, this worked well when I wanted to find a book I’d read as a child, which featured a colorful, artistically-drawn rooster on the front. Relevant keywords & the utilization of Google Images brought up Barnyard Banter, a book I enjoyed a lot when I was three years old.
Library Records. If you got the book at the library, finding it may be a little easier. If it wasn’t too long ago, even if you no longer have a library card at that library, searching for keywords relevant to your book could bring it up in their system. Some libraries allow you to view a complete list of every book you’ve ever checked out. Searching this list could be helpful, provided that you still have an account at that library.
I was searching for a book I’d read about four years ago. I remembered it was kind of science-fiction themed, as I was in the phase where I read sci-fi books & books about physics/time travel/chemistry/astronomy extensively. I remembered reading it in the fall or winter, when I was in my phase of being obsessed with the band Queen, so I must have been reading the book sometime between September & March of 2011-2012. The book was about some kids who lived in England/Scotland, who, during the war (presumably World War II), were sent to live on a farm with relatives of theirs. The book had really beautiful descriptions of things, & I unfortunately had to send it back before getting very far into it.
After the above methods of Google searching things like “book about kids England farm war” didn’t bring up the book, I decided to look with the library system. I got the book when I lived in a different county, so I couldn’t view those library records. The library did however email me every week regarding books that needed to be renewed. After looking through the emails they’d sent me in the designated time period, I found the book, which is called A Traveller in Time. You could also try describing your book to a librarian, who may be able to find it for you.
Amazon Search. Amazon searches can be helpful in two different ways. Amazon is better if you have more relevant keywords which are part of the title or a major theme/topic of the book. If you have an idea of the topic or important word in the title, you can search Amazon for that, then narrow them down by category, age range, or other specifications, which can be helpful. I remembered a funny fiction book I had gotten from the library when I was obsessed with reading about manatees. I searched the keyword “Manatees” on Amazon, then narrowed my search to fiction. I found the book Key Manatee this way. I also used this search method to find a non-fiction children’s book about Salmon that I read when I was eight years old. I searched “Salmon”, narrowed it down to juvenile non-fiction, then looked at the publication dates for books published before 2003. This was how I found the book, which is merely titled Salmon.
Google Books. This was perhaps the very best search method I found, especially for books which I could not find based on the other methods alone. Google Books allows you to search the full texts of millions of books, & any keywords you came up with relating to the book you’re searching for are going to be especially helpful here. Here are three types of searches I recommend in Google Books.
- Try searching Google Books by theme keywords. I remembered a paperback chaper book my mom had read the first few chapters of to me when I was about six years old. I remembered the cover, but the other methods of searching had not helped me find the book. All I could remember about the theme was that it had four main characters, & that the first character the book discussed was a girl sitting on a swing who got turned into a frog, & that the whole theme of the book was “be careful what you wish for.” I searched Google Books for “be careful what you wish for frog”, & discovered the book was called The Wish Giver: 3 Tales of Coven Tree.
- Search Google Books for actual quotes from the book. Yesterday, someone around me made mention of the phrase “go jump in a lake”, & I was eating a piece of cake, which compelled me to connect the phrases & remember a quote from a childhood book. “Go jump in the lake, said the chocolate cake.” I remembered a poetry book for children. There was a poem about food with the aforementioned chocolate cake line, a poem about snow covering everything in a city, & a bunch of other kind of funny poems about things. The first poem in the book included the lines “Gooseberry looseberry gooseberry jam.” I searched Google Books for these quotes, & rediscovered Blackberry Ink.
- Search any random keywords from the text that you can even begin to remember. The most frustrating, & long-lived book search I had been engaged in was a hunt to find a book I’d read when I was eight years old. The book had a lion, possibly other similar animal characters like giraffes or elephants. There were four animals characters in this book and they were friends who had some sort of club where they met in this tree house or by this tree. The book was about having good morals, like being honest & having self-esteem & such. I also remembered it had somewhat glossy bright white pages, was a medium sized book, had illustrations every few pages, & the illustrations were fairly realistic & well-drawn. I had been looking for this book off & on for a few years, & no amount of Google searches was bringing it up. After my luck yesterday in discovering the above books in Google Books, I decided to give it a try. The keywords “lion tree house virtues” or “lion tree house club” weren’t bringing up the book. Some part of my brain vaguely had an idea of the word “golden” being used on one page of the book. I searched “lion golden friend”, seemingly random keywords, & amazingly, The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personalities came up, & it was the exact book I was looking for.
Rare Book Search. BookFinder.com allows you to search common & rare books alike, including out of print books, using a combination of keywords, publication dates, etc. It seems to have a lot of books & give pretty extensive search results, & if you find your book on here, it shows you somewhere you can buy a copy of it. I tried using it to find The Treasure Tree before I knew what it was called, & although I didn’t see it on there, I feel this search engine is a valuable tool for any book lover to know about.
Social Media, Friends, & Family. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Goodreads, Yahoo Answers, & other forums are another good way to find out what a book might be called. I didn’t get to the point of describing the book on social media & asking for suggestions of what it might be, but I think it could give you some great suggestions regarding what your mystery book could be. With some of the books I remembered, I didn’t really know what they were about as much as I remembered the way they looked (like in the case of the Salmon book), but provided you knew the general theme or plot of your mystery book, social media might be a valuable thing to try, especially if you still cannot find your book from all the other methods. Talking to family or friends about your book may also help you figure out important details or keywords about your book, & they may even be able to tell you what it is.
With these tips, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before you know what the mystery book that’s been bothering you for the past five years is. You will finally be able to feel relief in knowing exactly what it was you were searching for, & relax as you read your now not-a-mystery book. Until the next time you remember an obscure but for some reason, important book from your past.
But this time, when the all-too-familiar feeling of needing to know what a book is called fills your mind, you won’t have to feel helpless. This time, you are armed with the knowledge & resources to track down your awesome forgotten book, & you will be able to find it both quickly and accurately. Happy book searching!