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The Best Book Database You’ve Never Heard Of

Abby Hargreaves

Staff Writer

Abby Hargreaves is a New Hampshire native living and working as a Children’s Librarian in Washington, D.C. She fulfills the gamut of the librarian stereotype with a love of cats, coffee, and crocheting (and likes a good run of alliteration). Her MLIS degree enjoys the company of a BA in English from Hollins University, making Abby an advocate of women's universities. Her favorite color is yellow.

NoveList Book DatabaseRecently, I was looking for books on (as it happens) readers’ advisory. Readers’ advisory is what happens when you go to the library and request a book recommendation. The librarian may ask you some questions about what kind of book you typically like, the style of writing you enjoy, and more to get at what makes a book a “good” book for you. In any case, I wanted to know more about how to do readers’ advisory well. So, in search for books on readers’ advisory, I hopped on the information highway we call the internet and headed to my local library’s website. Then, I navigated to the library’s database page and pulled up the best book database you’ve never heard of: NoveList.

The best book database that you probably have never heard of is one you also probably have free access to from your library. Learn all about NoveList and up your reading game.    libraries | books | book lists | finding books | book database

I quickly realized, then, that my library’s subscription included only fiction titles. So I hopped back on Google and discovered that there’s such a thing as NoveList Plus, which includes fiction and nonfiction. (And, NoveList K–8 Plus caters to juvenile works.) Lo and behold, another library I have a card to had access. And then I got to work.

What the NoveList Book Database Does

So, what does the NoveList book database actually do? The most basic and useful function of NoveList is the Title Read-alikes feature. Type a title into the search bar, hit search, and click on “Title Read-alikes.” Within seconds, you’ve got a list of books similar to the one you’ve searched for. Selected by curators, the books are accompanied by a reason they’re included on the list. There are also a pair of icons that allow users to agree or disagree with a given selection, which, when clicked, leads the user to an email form to share their opinion. For those taking their list to the library, there’s an easy print button. The Title Read-alikes is easily the feature I use the most, but there are plenty of others worth highlighting, too.

Meanwhile, the advanced search in this book database is a thing of beauty. Want something new? Try selecting the “Forthcoming” box. Trying to fill a Read Harder challenge that depends on author background? Scroll through the “Author’s Nationality” or “Author’s Cultural Identity” box.

If you aren’t quite sure what you’re looking for—just a “good book”—you can try one of NoveList’s pre-created lists. Find the “Best of” the previous year, check out common genres (which are then divided into more specific sub-genres), or click over to the Nonfiction tab, if you’re lucky enough to have a library that subscribes to NoveList Plus. You can also limit by audience age.

If you have a slight idea of what you like, the Make Your Own Appeal Mix is really useful. First, select a category that identifies a particular element of a book—things like tone, character, and pace. Then, find a word that describes what kind of tone, for example, you like: amusing, gossipy, romantic, and haunting are just a few of the many options. Once you’ve narrowed it down some, the book database will present you with some options you can click on to discover more about (as well as the ever-handy Title Read-alikes). Meanwhile, if you’re not sure how to describe a book you enjoy, you can visit your book’s page and scroll down to find the words NoveList uses to describe it. Check those boxes and you’re off to a great start finding your next great read.

Want a list of books around a given topic? NoveList has it and can direct you as to where to get started. Find specific lists like “Fractured Fairy Tales and Folklore: Beauty and the Beast: Fiction for Grades 3–5” or discover “NoveList Staff Faves” to find a good read with minimal effort.


Even greater, if you’re into audiobooks, NoveList has you covered—browse by audiobooks to find out about both story and narration quality. As with the print database, you can also discover new audiobooks by your favorite genre. NoveList highlights award-winners (both for audiobooks and print), too.

This really only scrapes the surface of NoveList. It’s a totally invaluable resource, both for librarians doing readers’ advisory professionally and for readers like you, wanting a little more nuance in your book recommendations through a book database. If your library does not currently subscribe to one of the NoveList databases, talk with your librarian! When the community shows interest, it’s easier to justify spending the budget in particular ways and, while they might seem like it sometimes, librarians are not mind readers.

And, if some big meanie tries to tell you libraries aren’t worth it, tell them about NoveList, which is just one of the many great things public libraries offer.