Stump the Bookseller

New York Times
Thursday, November 6, 2003

Online Diary
Pamela LiCalzi O'Connell

Mystery Books

A book you read as a child remains imprinted on your memory. You may remember how it felt in your hands, and even the color of the cover, yet you can't remember the title.

You are not alone. Luckily, Stump the Bookseller (, a service run by Loganberry Books of Cleveland, specializes in helping book lovers fill in their memory gaps. For $2, your stumper can be posted on the site, and the bookstore's proprietor, Harriett Logan, and online solvers will try to figure out which title you are fishing for.

The site grew out of routine requests Ms. Logan receives in her store. She figured the chances of recognizing a book from the sketchy details provided by patrons would increase if she tapped the collective wisdom of Web users. As it turns out, she solves about 10 percent of the stumpers; visitors to the site solve around 50 percent.

This year more than 1,000 stumpers have been posted at the site and more than 600 solved. The tough ones - those not solved in the first month - are archived. (Anyone remember a book about twin goats and their adventures in Arabia?)

Ms. Logan can give many examples of people who have searched for particular books for decades. Why do some people try so hard to find the books they loved as children? "It's not just that people want to rediscover the story," she said, "but to recapture what it felt like to be a child."