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English: Literature, Rhetoric, and Composition: Books

Reading Critically

Finding Fiction (Does the Library Have Any Fun Books?)

To locate fiction on a topic, type in your keyword of interest plus the word fiction into "Library Catalogs" in Scholar OneSearch.

In general, literature in Snell is physically arranged by geographic area, then by date, and then by author. Some popular sections, arranged by author's last name, are:

  • PN 6700-6790: Graphic novels
  • PR 6050-6126: Contemporary British literature
  • PR 8309-9680: Commonwealth literature (Asian, African, Canadian, Indian, and Caribbean literature in English)
  • PS 3550-3626: Contemporary American literature

If you can't exactly remember the title of the book you want, try Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes, from the Library of Congress.

Use Scholar OneSearch to Find Books at NU

The "Library Catalogs" option in Scholar OneSearch is the primary way to discover what books are here in the library. You can also use Scholar OneSearch advanced search options within "Library Catalogs".

Books Beyond NU - Deep Research in WorldCat and Google Books

  • WorldCat - identify titles at other libraries and request via InterLibrary Loan. Uses the same principles and subject headings as Scholar OneSearch, so if you find a good phrase, re-use it here.
  • Google Books - unlike Scholar OneSearch and WorldCat, search the full-text of digitized books; includes both older, public-domain and current, copyrighted titles. Most books under copyright only provide a short snippet, but the full title may be available at NU (check Scholar OneSearch to see) or via ILL.

Advanced Book Catalog Searching

1 - You are not searching the full text of the book.
Each book you see in the catalog includes author, title, and a subject phrase. Those subject phrases are very specific words that a human has tagged each book with, and are meant to summarize the content of the book for you. Some books will include a table of contents or abstract, but not all.

2 - Use those subject phrases.
This is how do you make sure the books you find are about, rather then by, your author. Better yet, this can help you make sure the books you find contain substantial analysis of the author or work in question.

3 - As an example, let's say you're interested in this book.
First, type the title into the catalog, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Note that the author's name is reversed to Atwood, Margaret.

4 - Next, try putting Atwood, Margaret into the subject field.
That guarantees those books are about her, but not necessarily by her. If we had a book both by and about Margaret Atwood, that usually would be her personal views, or interviews, or perhaps correspondence.

5 - Find the master subject phrase Atwood, Margaret 1939 -- Criticism And Interpretation.
Any books with that additional subject phrase Criticism and Interpretation will contain a substantial amount of analysis. Also notice that, from the Margaret Atwood subject list above, many subjects include additional helper terms like criticism or technique. Recycle those terms back into your search to narrow it down. This can be particularly helpful with canonical and frequently-studied authors like Walt Whitman or Jane Austen.

Subject Guide

Amanda Rust's picture
Amanda Rust