Book stumpers! Those books that you recall but just can’t quite remember. Maybe it’s a childhood book you read, or something you picked up while on vacation a decade ago on a white sandy beach. You know the characters and the plot. You know when you read it and might even know the color of the book, but for the life of you … you can’t remember the author or title.
It’s right there on the tip of your tongue!
Try as you might you can’t remember it and Google has failed to turn up anything except odds and ends, many of which you may have preferred not to have discovered.
That’s a book stumper.
From time to time I get email from readers who have run into a book stumper. Just the other day I got one.
It was written in the 70s about a painter who lost his family in a car crash, met a new woman, then found he had a terminal disease. I think he was named Paul. Last line is “Black,” said the painter “is the purest of all colors.” It is in a dream of him looking into his grave. I thought it was “The Place He Made” But after looking at the author’s site I wasn’t so sure. I don’t know if I can read a book in 1979 that was printed in 1995! Please help, thank you.
I’ll do some poking around on my own to see if I can help, but most of the time I hand them off to the book stumper experts at Loganberry Books. Since 2003 they’ve been accepting book stumpers for the paltry sum of $2. The book stumper is then posted and literary crowdsourcing begins. Over 5,000 book stumpers have been submitted, with nearly 51% of them being solved.
Trust me, it’s more difficult than it seems. Sometimes the clues provided are scant at best.
I’m a fan of book stumpers for a number of reasons.
It is confirmation that what we read sticks with us for longer than we imagine. I find that both comforting and frightening. Comforting that some of my favorite books have influenced me and become part of who I am. Vonnegut’s Player Piano and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land still surface as reference points today. It’s frightening in that some may not read at all or may read absolute drivel. The latter still being far superior to the former.
Book stumpers are also a testament to the inability of the almighty search engine to solve all our problems and answer all our questions. I make my living on the Internet (and I’m grateful for that), but at the same time I like that technology is still unable to interpret the clues locked in our heads and pinpoint the correct author and title. Where’s the fun in that?
There is still mystery in the world … and isn’t that what a good book can reveal.
Got a book stumper? Submit one to Loganberry today.