We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies and other technologies.


How to Find Science Fiction and Fantasy Books by Description

"I think it had a pink cover...and a girl with a crown?"

find scifi fantasy books by description
  • camera-icon
  • Photo Credit: Lacie Slezak / Unsplash

It's happened to all of us: We read a book years ago—maybe as a kid, or maybe during a hectic time in our lives that made us put the novel down—and now we want to return to the amazing world we left behind. 

But of course, memory can be imperfect. If you've forgotten the title and author of an old favorite, it can feel like you'll never find it again.

Sure, in some cases you can scour your personal library and find what you're after. But life is rarely that simple. 

So what if you've hit a dead end in your hunt through genres like science fiction and fantasy, which are vast and eclectic?

Here are five simple steps to help you find a science fiction and fantasy book by description.

Collect what you know.

You'd be surprised what details will help you find what you're after, so be sure to write down everything you can remember about the book. 

Obviously things like character names are the most helpful, but branch out into locations and plot details if you can't remember character names. Does it take place in a sexy vampire school? Is an asteroid hurtling towards Earth in the distant future?

Keep in mind the intended age group of what you read—YA and adult fantasy will turn up different results. Consider when you first read the book as well, as more recent publications probably won't be what you're looking for. 

Is there a subgenre like techno-horror or historical fantasy? Is there a quote you remember like the back of your hand?

You can even recount what the cover looks like!

Work a search engine.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, (and even Bing, if you're feeling adventurous), are the obvious places to turn. In fact, it was probably where you started. But now you've got a mountain of notes to pull from, and that should hopefully make your search easier.

Make sure you know how to utilize the features of the search engine you're using, too. For example, if you're sure you know a character's name or phrase is in a book, you can put the search term in quotation marks in Google, and only results containing that term will appear. 

On the flip side, if you're getting frustrated with repeated and irrelevant results, using a minus sign in google for a particular title or author will remove the term from your results.

It can also help to play around with your phrasing. A search for "book with adorable woodland monster" might not yield what you're looking for, but maybe "book with cute forest creature" will. You never know!

Turn to Google Books.

Unfortunately we don't yet live in the year 6028, where the internet has a direct line into our thoughts. So sometimes a run through a search engine isn't going to help you. 

Luckily, we have Google Books, which is the closest thing to magic that exists on Earth.

This incredible resource checks the text of every book that is available for purchase on Google—and their collection is pretty colossal. 

Rather than throwing together a string of search terms like you might do in a broader engine, Google Books requires you to search via a phrase you are positive would be included in the book. 

So for example, instead of typing "hobbit vows to protect magic ring," you would type "one ring" and filter through the results containing the phrase.

Crowdsource your search.

Sometimes you just don't have enough information to do it on your own—and that's okay! The internet is full of people who have read the same books as you, and plenty of them are eager to help. 

This is where your handy list of book details comes in extra handy. Plot summaries, writing styles, and cover descriptions are all helpful tools for sparking recognition in another reader.

Reddit is a great source for reaching out. Head over to the subreddit r/whatsthatbook or r/tipofmytongue, and make sure to follow the comments closely after making your post. Speculative-fiction subreddits such as r/fantasy or r/sciencefictionbooks can be useful as well. 

Anywhere you have an online presence is helpful as well. If you're Tumblr famous or balancing thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram, there's probably someone there who can help you!

Recruit your local librarian.

When all else has failed, you can always head to the library. Librarians bring all the skills of science fiction AIs and fantasy wizards to life with their unmatched research abilities. Bring your list along, and they'll use their knowledge-set to find what you need.

Worst case scenario, if even your librarian is stumped, they'll at least have some awesome recommendations similar to what you were looking for. Who knows, maybe they'll introduce you to a new favorite?