Every now and then we get emails, or comments on the blog, from people who are trying to remember a book title based on fragments of information about: the story, characters, or cover. Often it's a book from their childhood and they can only remember a few details. If you have been in this situation it is very frustrating but all hope is not lost. I've got a few tips for you.
To start I'm going to assume that you have already tried plugging the info you know into BookFinder.com, this is one of the instances where keyword search is useful. Author and title are more accurate but keyword is a bit more of a catch all.
This is great if you can remember a bit of the title, or another key detail but when all you can remember is that "there's this cute puppy that’s lost his mittens, and the story is set at Christmas" a little more help is in order.
Rely on the kindness of strangers:
Several of our bookselling partners have areas of their websites dedicated to this exact problem. AbeBooks BookSleuth, Amazon's Askville, and Barnes & Noble Book Clubs: Lost Books are all good places to start. These are simple forums where other users play name that book. AbeBooks also has a similar feature called GiftSleuth where you can enter likes and dislikes of friends and family and readers can all blurt out book suggestions which they think might be appropriate for future birthdays and what not. This however is a different kettle of fish.
Internet Search Engine:
If you happen to know a detail that is unique about the book: a quote, a main characters name, or a key detail you can plug this information into your favourite search engine and could possibly be rewarded. Since Google started scanning books this has become even more powerful. You can also do a similar type of search on Amazon itself.
Seek professional help:
When in doubt seek professional help, and by this I mean you local independent bookseller. Booksellers hang around thousands of books every day for years on end and in doing so they tend to pick up a few tidbits here and there. Depending on how much you actually remember about the book (and the booksellers specialty) these literary angels can often pull off miraculous feats; librarians, also VERY helpful.
If anyone else has some good tips feel free to post them in the comments section and I will try and add some more to this post as we come up with other good ideas.