How to Find a Book When You Don’t Know the Title or Author

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Student Lifehacks
finding a book when you don't know its title

How to find a book you forgot the name of? This is an issue a lot of students might have experienced countless times. Trying to find a book can be really frustrating, trying to remember that book you read in your childhood about the kid whose family moved to a new estate and had to fight off magical creatures that all want a journal he found containing info about all the mythical creatures (FWI: The Spiderwick Chronicles), or a particular textbook you came across in high school that perfectly explained the laws of quantum physics. But hey, don’t lose hope of finding that book title by plot just yet! In this article, we’ll show you several ways to help you search.

 Find a Book Title by Plot with Google

How to Find a Book When You Don't Know the Title or Author 1
Designed by ijeab / Freepik

The first thing to do when you don’t know how to find a book when you don’t know the title or author is to ask Google. You can never really underestimate the power of Google. It’s one of the fastest and most reliable search engines on the Internet. You can find absolutely anything there. In 2015, Google launched a separate site called Google Books Library Project, which works as a special search engine just for books! It also makes the complete text from all books searchable. When you search for a keyword or phrase in a book, the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) returns basic bibliographic information about the book and relevant snippets of context around the keywords. If a book is out of copyright, you can read and download the whole book. Sometimes publishers even give permission for their books (or portions of them) to be available on Google Books—including popular ones. Here are a few tips when trying to find a book on Google Books.

Remember the Details

Write down the most memorable thing that’s happened in the book that’s most likely not in any other book (if you remember that a girl was kidnapped by a clerk who collected butterflies… here you go—The Collector by John Fowles).

Search Book Titles by a Quote

You can find a book title faster if you remember a phrase, quote, or a particular paragraph of the book.

Find a Book Title by Plot

How to find a book? If it’s a novel, you can try to write down anything you remember from the plot. For example, a book about a man/woman who did such and such/said such and such/went to such and such. You’d be surprised what Google can find with a few keywords (even “two scholars who find old letters of a poet fall in love” will lead you to A.S. Byatt’s Possession).

Use Character Names

How to find a book by character name? Remembering one or two characters’ names can also help in your search. However, it may be the trickiest task of all, so don’t despair: there are other ways to succeed.

How Else to Find a Book? Ask Your Local Librarian

ask you local librarians when you don't know the title of the book
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If you still haven’t found that book after trying the methods listed above and the book title search in Google was ineffective, then you should consider seeking professional help. Head down to the local library to inquire about the book you’re looking for. Librarians have come across thousands of books every day for years. Technically they know their way through books and have a lot of experience when dealing with them. Who knows, they may know a special secret on how to find a book by character name, or they even have it for you to borrow or could direct you to the location of the exact book you’re looking for.

If up till now you don’t know how to find a book that you forgot the name of, don’t give up yet! Here are some websites that can help you in your search:

  • Goodreads: Feel free to search in their archives and shelves. There’s also an UNSOLVED section where you can post a detailed description of the book you’re looking for.
  • WorldCat: WorldCat is one of the world’s largest network of library content and services. It lets you search the collection of over 72,000 libraries in over 170 countries and also in your community. There’s also the Advanced Search section with unique filters like Audience and Languages.
  • Library of Congress: Library of Congress collections contain over 162 million books, periodicals, manuscripts, maps, music, recordings, images, and electronic resources. The LC Online Catalog contains 17 million records describing these collections. You can search Catalog records by keyword or browse by authors/creators, subjects, names/titles, series/uniform titles, and call numbers. Browse lists also include searching aids such as cross-references and scope notes. The site also provides a friendly Ask a Librarian form for queries.

If you don’t know how to find a book if you forgot the title and author, and if you’re looking for a textbook specifically, you can also browse through our subject categories. For example, your professor recommended a specific college book for your Chemistry course, but you remember only the cover and forgot the name of it. Without bothering your professor or TAs again, look at our catalog of Chemistry college books—there is a high chance you’ll recognize the book you need!

Iliana K