How to Find a Book from Vague Description blog post image

You’re thinking about that book you read about last week, the one you wanted to buy for your beach vacation and get lost in while lounging by the pool. It was a juicy family drama, by Grant… Grant… what’s his name? And it had a picture of a Greek statue on the cover…

But for the life of you, you just can’t think of the title. So much for your vacay reading plans, right?

Don’t give up hope just yet! Thee are several ways you can find a book from vague descriptions or plot details, even if all you remember is the cover image.

How to Find a Book from a Vague Description

Next time you’re racking your brain for the name of that book you loved, have no fear: there are several things you can do to find the book you want without a title.

1. Trust in Google

As with most everything else, when in doubt, just ask Google. As a former librarian explained on BookRiot, any details that you remember about the book can help.

These can include:

  • Book cover: Even details about the book’s cover, including the color and images, can help you track down the book you’re looking for, especially if it’s combined with other details.

Let’s take the example of that iconic Great Gatsby cover:

how to find a book based on cover image
  • Title Keywords: If you remember any keywords from the title, those could be very helpful in your search.
  • Author: Of course, knowing the author will certainly help narrow down the possibilities. For example, let’s say I want to remember the name of that new Stephen King book I saw an ad for last week. I could narrow the possibilities by searching “newest Stephen King book.”
find books based on author image
  • Quotes: If there are any lines or phrases that you remember from the book, even if they’re just a few words long, this can go a long way, especially when place in quotes for your Google search. For example, I once found Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise just by Googling the first lines of a poem that stood out to me when I had read an excerpt of the book.
find a book by searching quotes image
  • Plot details: If you know some of the plot details, and other bits of information, like perhaps the author or publication year, you might be able to track down the right title. For example, if I’ve forgotten the title of The Sun Also Rises, I might search “Hemingway book about expats in Paris,” or something similar. And look what the first result is!
find a book based on plot image

Google Books allows you to conduct an Advanced Search, where you can narrow your results based on publisher, book topic, and keywords or quotes from the text.

Using Boolean Searches

To make your searches more efficient, familiarize yourself with Boolean search operators.

These include:

  • AND: using AND between search terms guarantees that the results you see will include both of those search terms, not just one or the other. This typically narrows your results.
  • OR: using OR between search terms means results will include at least one of the terms, but not necessarily all. This typically expands your results.
  • NOT: use this to exclude a specific term.
  • Quotation marks: putting quotation marks around certain keywords will produce results that feature those keywords together in that exact order.

2. Talk to a librarian.

Librarians are armed to the teeth with databases, knowledge about books, and Googling skills that would make the FBI envious, which makes them an excellent resource when you’re trying to find a book from vague description.

Head to your local library (or log in to their website) so you can consult a librarian or search the library’s databases.

Many libraries use a database called NoveList, which allows you to search for titles based on keywords you remember about the book.

However, simply talking to a librarian might get you there just as quickly. Tell them everything you can recall about the book (any of the details outlined in the step above can be extremely helpful). You’d be surprised at how far just a few words can get you!

And many library websites feature an online chat feature that connects patrons with a librarian, so you can ask your questions without making a trip downtown.

3. Ask social media.

Never underestimate the power of a book-loving community! In addition to your local librarian, another great resource for finding the answers you need is social media and sites for booklovers.

These include Goodreads, Reddit, Librarything, Twitter, and Facebook. In fact, Goodreads even has a forum called “What’s the Name of That Book?” entirely dedicated to helping readers find the name of a forgotten title. The group requires that you post the genre and any plot details you remember in the header.

You can also find Facebook groups that are genre-specific, where you can start any number of discussions about books you’re read, or ask around on Twitter.

How Do You Find a Book You Like?

It takes a little digging to find a particular book based on a description, but luckily finding a book you like is much easier.

When looking for your next great read, you can never go wrong asking a librarian for their recommendations, or a friend who loves books.

Speaking of folks who love books, we’ve put together our own list of our top book recommendations, featuring our picks for the best books for every genre. This is a great place to start your search!

Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!


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