The Joys of the Search Engine

I spend a lot of time browsing the online catalogs of the various libraries I go to—maybe too much time. Sometimes, it can be a frustrating experience when the book I think I need to read right away is not available. Other times, it can be quite amusing to see the results the search engines come up with.

Nightblind, by Ragnar Jónasson, is “dark, chilling, and complex” Nordic-noir. It’s been called “an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.” As you can see, my library doesn’t have this book. The computer thought I meant to type “nightstand”  and offered me a music CD called “White ladder” instead. How do you go from “nightblind” to “white ladder”?


The Messenger Bird, by Ruth Eastham, is a book I looked up for Kid #1. It’s a mystery that involves the code breakers who worked during Word War II. I can maybe understand why the search engine offered me Atlantic Fever instead. You know…  birds — flying — Lindbergh. But Benny Hill???


Yesterday, the finalists for this year’s National Book Awards were revealed, so there’s hope that my library will acquire a few of the titles that are nominated that I am interested in reading. The one I was looking for last night, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, is not (yet) part of the catalog. As the title suggests, it deals with a topic that is on many people’s minds these days. Apparently, the library would like me to read about Madame Tussaud and the French Revolution while I wait for Kendi’s book.


A while I ago, I read some poetry by Patrick Warner, and I wanted more. I didn’t really expect to find any of his books on the library shelves. What I did find was the amusing suggestion that maybe I wanted SpongeBob instead. And maybe some SpongeBob that wasn’t even available…


Finally, here’s probably my favorite recent search result. André Alexis has been on my radar for a while now, but going by the simple fact that the electronic editions of his books are still priced below $10 here in the U.S., he’s not that widely read. One of the libraries I visit has just recently added the audio version of Fifteen Dogs to its catalog, but my town’s library actually presented me with this:


I truly cannot figure out which algorithm could have come up with this result. And also, WHY is there a classical music album to go along with Fifty Shades of Grey?

Tell me, dear readers, have you ever come across some odd suggestions like this?

I am not the only one who pays attention to this kind of stuff, am I?



  1. Pretty funny. The classical album to 50 Shades? I think Andre Alexis would get a kick out of that. He spoke at the book festival here yesterday.

  2. That was a fun post. I’ve had this experience, but I don’t remember any of the results. Only slightly related….I once saw a review for Henry Fielding’s classic Tom Jones…which is fully titled: The History of Tom Jones – A Foundling….only the reviewer left the U out of Foundling, which would have created a rather different impression had I not known better. (btw…I intentionally did not spell out the misspelled word, so you would not get any unsavory search strings leading to you blog)

  3. Haha. This happens to me all the time. I’m always wondering how they come up with their recommendations. I have never stopped to take note of it, though, but maybe they haven’t been as funny as yours. The Fifteen Dogs and the Sponge Bob are especially puzzling. I like what you and FF imagine is really going on. 🙂

  4. I know that your question about Fifty Shades of Gray was rhetorical, but I still sat here for several minutes pondering why such a thing might exist. If it’s not the movie soundtrack, I’m going to guess that maybe one or both of the main characters is into classical music? And so…er…companion CD?

    Have you ever taken your library’s recommendations? :p

    • I tried to read Fifty Shades once, but it was so awful that I stopped before any music was mentioned. I filed both the books and this companion CD, as you so aptly call it, under “no need to know.” I put the Lindbergh book onto my to-read list, but that’s as far as I have come to taking up any of the library recommendations. 🙂

  5. Hahaha!! These are brilliant! I always like to think that it’s not actually computers that come up with these random results at all – that actualy there’s a really bored worker hidden in an office somewhere just trying to brighten up her day. Next time, check if there’s a camera pointing at you and imagine someone somewhere, chuckling… 😉

    • I actually always check how often the recommended books have been checked out. Usually, they don’t seem all that popular, so I always imagine a librarian desperately trying to convince people to borrow them by randomly recommending them to whoever is using the search engine next. 🙂

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