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How to Find a Book When You Can’t Remember the Author or Title

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Just like with a song you can hum, although the words elude you, it’s frustrating when you can’t remember the name of a book. Perhaps it’s a romance novel you read many years ago, and the details remain clear and crisp in your mind. Or it could be a striking cover that caught your eye or a blurb you saw that seemed enticing, and have nothing else to go by. Either way, you’re stuck and don’t know where to start. We have several ways to help you find the name of that book you can’t recall.

The human memory can be a tricky thing. If a person doesn’t eat right, get enough sleep, or stay physically active, days can blur together, and events seem the same. Alternatively, things like smells, music, and emotions can enhance memory. This is called associative memory, and it has helped me in recalling books. For me, Edith Wharton’s tragic tale of Lily Bart, The House of Mirth, stays in my mind as the book that kept me company in a lonely hospital room while my premature daughter fitfully slept in an isolette in the NICU.

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, 1905 Original Pub

Can you recall what you were doing while you read the book you’re looking for? If you commute via train and read while you travel, you may think that there’s nothing special to remember. But what if there was a day the subway got stalled on the tracks or someone with a bright red coat sat next to you? Can you see the book in your hands now?

If not, are there any musical memories or scents associated with the book? Bibliophiles know that paperback books can collect smells, and pleasant or not, they can affect what you remember. In middle school, I once got a little crazy with perfume and sprayed it everywhere. Whenever I opened up Kathleen E. WoodiwissAshes in the Wind, a heavy, floral scent clung to the pages that would waft in the air. Although I never finished that particular romance, I still remember where I stopped: right after a case of mistaken identity causes a monumental shift in the plot.

Can you picture the cover? If there’s one thing I love about the romance genre above all else, it’s the variety and beauty in the covers. What color was it? Was there a face on the cover? Was it hardback or paperback? By recalling the physical nature of the book, you can try to see the title in your head.

Goodreads

When you’ve wracked your brain as much as you can, it’s time to turn to the wonder of the internet. Goodreads is the web’s biggest book site, with over 90 million members from all over the world. While there are other alternatives to Goodreads like Booklikes or StoryGraph, the ability to build friendships and join communities is indisposable.

To begin your search for books, you must be a member. Build your own bookshelves. You can create them for just about everything imaginable, from plot points to book color covers to publisher and cover artists. Peruse your friends’ shelves to see how they categorize their reads.

Sadly, the BROWSE section leaves much to be desired, but you can search by other people’s Lists. For example, if you’re looking for a bodice ripper and know Playboy Press published it, there are two lists devoted to the best books published by that company, Best Playboy Press Books, Parts I & II.

moment of desire
Moment of Desire, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Playboy Press, 1978, Gina D’Achille cover art

Then, collect as many details as you can and join either of these two groups:

Websites and Blogs to Search

There are many sites on the web dedicated to helping a reader find book titles. Some of the sites require membership, like Reddit and All About Romance (AAR). The more information you have, the better, like publisher, character names, cover information, etc. Some searches will be as simple as entering whatever information you have into fields and pressing enter. Other searches may require you to join or give as detailed a description as possible of the novel you’re searching for.

In addition to the sites above, there are many ways to find books on Pinterest, as many users “pin” their favorite book covers, book lists, and reviews and categorize them into distinct boards.

Libraries, Book Stores, and Fellow Booklovers

If all fails, asking people is always an option. There’s a reason libraries and bookstores exist, and if anyone knows about books, it’s the people who work there.

Librarians do much more than put novels on shelves and help people sign out books. They’re responsible for purchases, controlling what’s in stock, knowing which books and authors are in high demand, what kind of readers enjoy certain books… In short, these professionals know everything about fiction, non-fiction, and reference! Your local librarian may surprise you with how much information they have about the written word.

Similarly, there may be someone who works at a book store who can aid you. If it’s not a book store but a Costco or Target, be a proud Karen and ask for the manager or whoever is responsible for purchasing and returning books. There’s nothing wrong with being polite and seeking some help.

Last, don’t forget about your fellow friends here at Sweet Savage Flame. If you have any questions that we might be able to answer, feel free to ask in the comment section or go to our About Page for contact information.

Good Luck! And as always, let’s talk romance!

3 replies »

  1. THANK YOU, Jacqueline, for this article. It really helped me.

    Jacqueline and I have previously communicated about this in another forum. I have been trying to find a book I read back in the day that I couldn’t remember the title or author of; however, I did remember the names of the hero and heroine. I tried searching for the book, but couldn’t find it.

    After reading Jacqueline’s wonderfully researched article, however, I am happy to report that I have found the book, Thank you, again, Jacqueline, for this article, Sweet Savage Flame and all that you do. You are a shining star, no matter who you are. Shining bright to see, what you can truly be.

  2. Thanks, Jacqueline. Lots of helpful info!

    Forgetting a title rarely happens to me. But when it does, the first thing I do is to enter into a search engine keywords I CAN remember.

    An actual example. Recently I couldn’t recall the title of a Harlequin Romance I’d read around forty years ago. All I could remember was the publisher and series; the setting, somewhere in the Middle East; the name of the hero, Adam; and the name of the heroine, Dove. The only time I’ve heard of anyone with that name! I figured an unusual name would aid my search.

    So I entered in the search box “Harlequin Romance Adam Dove”. I would’ve entered the venue, only I couldn’t remember that specifically.

    Sure enough, a few taps on the keys brought me the title. Even though I got one of the keywords wrong, thanks to my hit-or-miss memory.

    The book is by Margaret Rome, published in 1979. And the hero’s name is Marc. The title? “Son of Adam”!

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