Book Amnesia: How to Find a Forgotten Book Title

Have you ever read a book that worms its way into your memories and then, when you want to read it again, you can’t remember the title or the author? Dang. Did it become a mini-obsession, something that sticks in your mind until you can figure out what was that book?

That happened to me recently, not once, but twice. First up was a book I read in elementary school about Virginia Dare, the first English baby born in the New World. This was one of the first books that brought history alive for me. My memories were sketchy: little Virginia had been adopted by friendly Indians, she had red hair, and the book cover had a little girl with a basket of grapes hanging from her arm. I’m not sure why that book stuck with me all these years, but I wondered if I could find it again, even without an author or title.

The second was a past lives romance between a monk and a girl who was killed when she was bricked up in a wall. Being a visual person, I remembered a vividly green cover and that same color was in the title. Again, I had no memory of the author or the name of the book, but snatches of the plot kept popping into my brain.

This was beginning to feel like an annoying little brother, poking me and then skipping just out of reach.

Turning to the internet, I learned that there are several ways to find the answer:

  • Ask a librarian. Librarians are the Jedi of research. They love this stuff. An amazing librarian friend of mine once said that the ultimate satisfaction is when the client points to the book and squeals, “That’s it!” If you are more inclined to online interactions, a cool place to connect with librarians is the Facebook page, Library Think Tank where all things library find an outlet and maybe your question will find answer. If, however, you want to search on your own…
  • Google it. This is how I began. I tossed in all the words I could remember about the book: green, romance, monk, past lives. I hit on a lot of past lives discussion boards (obviously not what I was looking for), so I switched up my keywords. I played around with other clues, like when I thought I read it or when I thought it was written or a girl bricked up in a wall. After narrowing it down, I scrolled through pictures of book covers and, lo and behold, there was the cover art I remembered. I couldn’t help myself. I pointed at the screen and squealed, “That’s it!” The book? Green Darkness by Anya Seton.

What happened to my Virginia Dare search? Virginia Dare, Mystery Girl by Augusta Stevenson could be found in school libraries from the time it was written in 1950’s to the mid-1980’s as part of the Childhood of Famous Americans series. Eventually it was replaced by books that were more historically accurate and politically correct, but most readers remember it as being a positive view of Native Americans for the time. Me? I remember Virginia running through the woods with her best friend and wishing I could do the same in my sheltered suburban world.

Since the book is difficult to find nowadays, I don’t think I’ll be putting my hands on a copy any time soon. But I have now put to rest that bothersome question, “What was that book?”

Best of all, I learned that I was not alone. It turns out many people remembered the book from their elementary school days. Now, decades later, others remembered the same stories and were searching for them once again. They were also trying to put that annoying little brother to rest.

Isn’t that one of the greatest truths about a good book? If it touches the soul in even the smallest way, it leaves behind a bit of itself and becomes a part of the reader with or without a title.

Now that’s worth the search.

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