seeking dimly remembered memoir, a "rare" book.
May 31, 2014 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for some help tracking down a poorly remembered book that I read 2 decades ago. Are there resources for "ID this book?" when the hapless reader does not remember the title or author and are those references different for books that are considered to be rare?

About 20 years ago, I got a memoir through interlibrary loan written by a young man who
disliked his city life and job and decided to be a fur trapper. I believe it was some sort of desk/finance job in NYC or Boston and he went to the French Canadian Wilderness with his young bride. I believe this was in the 20's, possibly the 30's.

He described their very athletic lifestyle (lots of running along snowy trails) and then stopping to build a fire and drink hot tea. And she kept up with him! At the end of the book, they had settled down a bit and started a family.

I would like to re-read this book, but can not recall title or author. I am not surprised that I don't remember the book details, but I do remember thinking it was very nice of VMI to agree to lend the book as it must surely be rather rare or scarce, anyway.

It was a hardbound book. I've tried using the VMI online catalog, but I've not made a lot of progress, given the limited sorting options. I've also contacted the librarian at VMI.

I would like to know the term for this type of question in the library world as well as in MeFi. Is it a "readers advisory" or a reference question?

I am also interested in info sources for this sort of question, particularly for older or rare books.
posted by egk to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call of the Wild: My Escape to Alaska?

I'm a librarian - honestly, when I get this sort of question I start plugging keywords into Amazon to see what I can come up with. This is too recent, but it lead me to:

One Man's Wilderness

Which seems to fit the bill.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:44 AM on May 31, 2014

Is it True North: A Journey into Unexplored Wilderness?

If this is it, I Googled: fur trapper and wife live in french canadian wilderness tea cabin
Result was on page 3.
posted by Fairchild at 9:27 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it a "readers advisory" or a reference question?

Reference. Reader's advisory means book suggestions based on your criteria. Tracking down something you already know exists is one of the several possible kinds of reference.
posted by clavicle at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2014

In regards to book detective sites, there's:

- (I frequent this :-D)

Another possibility is using WorldCat and using their super search options. It is difficult to find old books though - I am searching for one that was published in the 60s or 70s - but mostly because even when you get a clue like author or title, booksellers on Alibris, ABE and Amazon don't tend to take pictures of the cover. Good luck.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:32 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reading thru the Amazon descriptions and reviews, it looks like Fairchild nailed it.
posted by marsha56 at 9:23 AM on June 1, 2014

Abebooks has a booksleuth section, where you can pose your questions also.

I asked the board there about an out of print children's book, published in the 1960s... in Britain. (I am not British and have never been there.)

They found it for me.

I also suggest asking a used book dealer with a brick and mortar or specialty shop. A penny dealer is not going to know.
posted by mitschlag at 12:38 PM on June 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for helpful answers and resources. I've just gotten a copy of Merrick's _True North_ in hand.

Oddly enough, VMI tells me they don't have a copy. The basic story seems familiar but the writing style seems much more energetic and friendly than I remember. For example, I do not remember him mentioning his wife by name in the memoir; and I do remember thinking that was odd.

I hadn't realized Merrick has other works as well; I am in for some great reading this summer!

I think my original searches might have been more effective if I had not used the term "memoir."
posted by egk at 6:26 AM on June 27, 2014

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