Everyone knows the inhuman torture of having a melody stuck in their head while the song's title is just out of reach, hiding from the light of the conscious mind. Terrible. But even worse is when you're trying to remember the title of a book, but your brain is being particularly uncooperative. You've already asked a couple of family members and friends, and tried a Google search, but to no avail. Well, fear not — read on to discover how to find a book title by plot!
- Take a Moment to Remember
- Try One of These Sites
- Put Out a Call on Social Media
- Ask Your Local Librarian or Book Store Employee
- Sleep On It
Table of contents
(If you're an author trying to find good book title ideas for your own novel, check out these book title generators.)
1. Take a Moment to Remember
The brain works in mysterious ways. For some reason, sitting down in front of a blank Google search bar is not all that conducive to remembering. That blank bar seems to reach out and blank your mind when you don't know exactly what words to use for your search. (At least that's what happens to me. I could be weird.)
This is why it's important to put the phone down or step away from the computer. Instead, grab a pen and a pad of paper, and take a moment to remember. Write down anything you can recall about the book, even if it seems like nonsense to you. Handwriting seems to help the synapses fire like good synapses should.
Think about (and write down) any of the following you can remember:
- Genre – Get as specific as you can – Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Romance, Female Protagonist Spy Thriller Set During the Cold War, Spiritual Self-Help Transcendental Meditation, etc.
- Plot Details – No matter how hazy. Anything you can remember about the plot can help. Did the first chapter hook you? If so, what do you remember about it?
- Character Names/Descriptions – Again, anything you can remember will help. Even if you think you're misremembering, write it down. Not just the main character(s), but any secondary characters.
- Standalone or Part of a Book Series – This can help narrow your search even further.
- Time of Publication – Try to remember when you read it or heard about it. Was it a new book at the time? Or had it been around for a while?
- Author Details – If you knew the author's name, you could easily find the book. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to brainstorm. Sometimes the winds of a brainstorm will clear away cobwebs covering important details. Maybe you remember it was the author's debut novel and that his or her name was hard to pronounce. Use these details to refine your search!
- Book Cover – Any details you can remember about the cover can help you in the steps below.
- Random Details – Anything else you can remember can aid you in your search. Whether it be a joke, quote, monologue, memorable plot twist, or even a feeling you had when you read the book, write it down.
Now that you have at least a vague description, you can turn to some handy websites that will likely help you find the book title.
2. Try One of These Sites
When a simple Google search isn't enough, try one of the sites below. Chances are, one of them will lead you to your answer.
Yes, trusty old Google has a search tool just for books! You can go as broad or targeted as you like. Obviously, the more specific you get, the fewer results you'll have to comb through. You can also try the Google Books Advanced Search if you're not having any luck with the regular.
Amazon's Advanced Book Search
Why not go to Amazon, the original online bookstore? The advanced search asks for things like title, author, and publisher, but you can also search using keywords, age range, publication date, and subject.
If you're not familiar, BookBub is a great search engine for books. (If you're a writer, it's also a powerful book marketing platform to help you reach potential readers.) From nonfiction to historical fiction and everything in between, they are in the business of books. You can refine your search using category tags, which you can pull from your book summary or vague description.
(Read my BookBub review here!)
Library of Congress
Search through the largest online library in the world by visiting the Library of Congress Website and using the Advanced Search feature. Narrow your search by using keywords you pull from any story beats you remember and choosing categories like “children's book,” “graphic novel,” or “young adult.”
The Amazon-owned GoodReads is a good place to search for books in general. But specifically, the group, What's the Name of That Book? is dedicated to helping people find book titles based on things like the book's plot, narrative type, genre, or synopsis. You'll need to have a GoodReads account to post in the group, if you don't already (it's free).
Sometimes what stays with us the longest is the feel of a book. This is why WhichBook is a great search site, as it lets you browse books by mood and emotion. You can also search by character and plot as well.
There's a subreddit for everything. So you may not be surprised to learn there's one dedicated to helping readers remember book titles called Tip of My Tongue. Post what you can remember about the book, even if it's a vague description, and wait to see if anyone recognizes it.
Reddit and Quora are similar in that you can post a question about a book and get answers from book lovers. Include genre, a book description (if you can), and anything else you can remember. Chances are someone will know the novel you're talking about.
3. Put Out a Call on Social Media
If you have no luck with the websites above, you can turn to social media. Since your friends likely have similar tastes, you may be able to find the book's title simply by posting on Facebook or Twitter about it. Use hashtags to help people locate your post. A good one is #findthisbook. Or you can find social media groups of readers and ask them.
Social Media Groups
Facebook is a great place to find a book club or ten that can help you find the novel title you're looking for. The group Help Name That Book has (at the time of this writing) over 20,000 members. It's a good place to start.
4. Ask Your Local Librarian or Book Store Employee
Finally, if you're having absolutely no luck, try asking a librarian. It's likely your local librarian is an avid reader, plus he or she works around books all day. The same goes for book store employees or owners. You can also use the Library of Congress's “Ask a Librarian” feature to send an email to a librarian who will get back to you with (hopefully) the right answer!
5. Sleep On It
Sometimes the brain is stubborn. When you really want to remember something, your mind gets all bottled up.
When this happens, it's best to just let it go and think about something else for a while. Sleep on it and then try again the next day. Or the next week. It'll come to you!
Finding a book with limited information can be tough. However, there are a ton of tools to help you search. Just keep in mind that, if none of the tools are working for you, it's possible you're misremembering some crucial detail. I often muddle two or three different books in my mind, especially if it has been many years since I read them and they were in the same genre.When this happens, the best thing to do is narrow your search to one or two details you're absolutely certain about, and start looking for the book again And to prevent it from happening in the future, use a book review site like GoodReads to create a reading list of all the books you've read for future reference.