or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Book Review Search

   August 9th, 2007

Google Custom SearchI've been trying for awhile to come up with a good way to use Google's Custom Search, and I think I found one.

I created a search for online book reviews. It can be a reader's advisory tool, help librarians with selection, or aid book groups in looking for information on their current selection. Give it a try:

Search for Book Reviews
Google Custom Search
(hint: enclose book titles in quotes to improve results; i.e.: "Cat's Cradle")

Despite my Very Large Skepticism of Google in general, the tool itself is very easy to set up and is potentially extremely useful (especially for librarians). Basically, it lets you limit searching to a select group of websites - in this case, book review websites. In fact, my biggest problem was in choosing which websites to include in the search (see below for my initial list).

One complaint I do have is that I can't control how included websites are ranked. For instance, I included amazon.com on the list, because it has a variety of reviews. In almost every search amazon.com shows up first. I would rather see them ranked below the non-commercial review websites, but Google's search algorithm always puts amazon.com on top [update: see comments below].

So, let me know what you think, and which very obvious websites I forgot to add. I've also embedded this search in my Library's Reading Room web pages, and plan on maintaining it as a readers advisory tool.

Thanks to Kate for pointing out this tool in the first place.

List of domains searched:

book, book review, book review search, book reviews, books, google, google custom search, library, public libraries, public library, reader advisory, readers advisory, review, reviews

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11 Responses to “Book Review Search”

  1. Kate Says:

    I tried your custom search engine (they are fun and easy to make, aren’t they?) and oddly enough it will only find 6 Rage in the Page posts. I tried searching for a book I’d reviewed and my review wasn’t among the results. Odd.

    But thanks for adding us. Our reviews are fantastic after all. 🙂

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    I’m not sure why the full glory Rage in the Page isn’t available. It might be due to the way Google indexed the site (but since Google runs blogspot.com, I would have thought it would all be available). I will look into it.

    In other news, I think I found a way to address the amazon.com problem. Instead of searching all of amazon.com, I am limiting the search to specific phrases in the url – namely:
    so now only a book review pages (either customer or published) come up.

    I also did the same thing for librarything.com (www.librarything.com/review/*) so that only those books that have been reviewed by LT users show up in the search.

    This is my first Google Custom Search, and I’m still playing with the settings. I’ll let you know what what progress I make with RitP.

  3. Jessica Says:


    Stumbled across your blog. It rocks. I have a library-ish blog, too, which you’re welcome to visit: thelesbrarian.com.

    If you’d like to add another book review blog to your links, stroll over to http://bfgb.wordpress.com. “Blogging for a Good Book” offers a review per day from your faithful library friends at the Williamsburg Regional Library.

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    Thanks Jessica – I added http://bfgb.wordpress.com to the book search. And I added your blog to my bloglines account – talk about a rockin’ blog.

  5. Brian Herzog Says:

    Just added Overbooked.org and Whichbook.net to the search, thanks to this discussion.

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    Also added two big book vendors, Baker & Taylor and Ingram (but I’m not sure that Ingram is actually working).

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    Just added Booknotes, C-SPAN’s author interview program, and BookVideos.tv, a website with videos of author interviews and stories.

  8. Book Reviews Online Says:

    I just saw your amazing site and was impressed with the way it helps with searching for books online. I’ve been looking for something that does this – and I’m happy that you’ve managed to implement it.

    Keep it up! Nice site by the way 🙂

  9. first page google Says:

    Interesting…so, I’m assuming it would work for any web site. For example I have a successful work at home business online, if I apply the same principal it will work for my site as well?

  10. Brian Herzog Says:

    Added http://www.librarylovefest.com and http://roaring20s.typepad.com, both library-centric blogs from HarperCollins.

  11. travail a domicile Says:

    Stumbled across your blog. It rocks. I have a library-ish blog, too, which you’re welcome to visit: thelesbrarian.com.