I Remember It Had a Blue Cover and... Finding Books by Their Plot Lines
Before you start your search it would help if you can identify everything you remember about the book, plot, character names, time period in which the book may have been published, genre, etc. All these can help in identifying the title and author of the book.
There are some resources online that can help with a search for a fictional work if all you have is a plot line. Also sometimes the best way to find these half remembered books is to post them on a listserv or discussion forum whereby someone who may have read the book recognizes the plot line.
- The Fiction_L Listserv "has come up with answers to numerous fiction and non-fiction 'stumpers' much to the delight of many patrons, as well as librarians, happy to find the title of a book they read 20 years ago (or just a couple months ago)."
- The Project Wombat listserv is "an e-mail discussion list for difficult reference questions." Project Wombat is read by librarians, scholars, students, professionals, and people from all walks of life, so by posting your question to the listserv you are drawing upon the collective memories and resources of thousands of people.
- You can also submit your question to a service offered by Abebooks known as "BookSleuth"
- Loganberry Books offer a fee-based ($4) research service known as "Stump the Bookseller" for people who can recall only plot details of a book for which they are seeking. Loganberry is used mostly for children's books that you vaguely remember.
- The Other Change of Hobbit bookstore in Berkeley, California maintains a "Department of Lost Stories" web page from which you can email the store's staff the book's plot and they will try to locate the book for you.
- Whatsthatbook.com has sections for Children's Books, Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Science Fiction & Fantasy for you to browse or you can post your own question.
- The Internet Book Database of Fiction has an "Ask the Oracle" section "where you can post requests to help you identify books you read or saw a long time ago, and can no longer recall."
- Barnes & Noble has a "Lost Books" discussion board.
Here are some subscription databases that you may be able to use to help you locate a book for which you remember only the plot. They allow you to conduct keyword searches for plot descriptions, and often allow you to search by genre and audience.
Other useful links:
- Half-Remembered Children's Books: Search Strategies from the Internet Public Library
- Use the Birthday Best Sellers database to locate best sellers from any date, if you remember when you read a book and know it was very popular at that time.
Search our catalog at BiblioCommons by tag. Library users around the U.S. and Canada can create multiple tags for a title that help describe its content. Similar sites include LibraryThing, Shelfari, and Goodreads. Try searching tags or discussion areas with the plot keywords you know, or create an account and ask for help from other users.