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Finding Fiction

Want to find books to enjoy outside of classes, work, or research projects?

Finding Fiction by Genre or Topic in the Library Catalog

It can be hard to find genre fiction (mysteries, westerns, sci-fi, etc) or fiction about specific topics in an academic library.  We aren’t set up to browse types of fiction the way a public library is. So what can you do?

Open the library catalog and construct a subject keyword search using some basic Boolean logic like this: 

(topic or topic or topic) and (type or type or type) not (academic category or academic category)

For example, for novels that focus on family life or family relationships, use the above formula to construct a keyword subject search that looks something like this:

(brothers or sisters or parents or families) and (fiction or stories or tales) not (criticism or authorship or history)

Then click on the SUBJECT button to find any of those possible combinations in the subject field of any record.

If you get too many books in your search set, look at some of the records that seem most interesting. Examine their subject headings (use the "details" button to see more information and choose the  “catalog record” tab) and decide what terms you can use to improve your search strategy.

Mysteries/Detective Fiction

Words associated with this fiction genre include detectives, murder, crime, police, prviate investigators...So try constructing a Subject Keyword Search like this using the formula above:

(detective or crime or police or murder or mystery) and (fiction or stories or tales) not (criticism or history or authorship)

Science Fiction

Using the subject heading "Science Fiction" can help you locate science fiction novels but because so many people have written critical analyses of science fiction, those non-fiction works are often what come up unless you add some other terms. A Subject Keyword Search constructed like this can help get you started:

"science fiction" and (fiction or stories or tales) not (criticism or history or authorship)

Some of the classic, older sci-fi books may not come up with this kind of search because they were cataloged before the routine use of subject headings for fiction.  See the "By Author" tab of this guide for more suggestions.

Native Americans in Fiction

Since the Library of Congress (LC) subject heading for Native Americans is Indians of North America, try a search like this:

indians and (fiction or stories or tales) not (history or criticism or authorship)

You could also expand the first topic group to include the names of specific tribes, but be careful that you are using the name for the tribe that is recognized as a subject heading by LC.

To search for books by Native American authors, see the "By Author" tab in this guide.

Geographic Fiction

If you want to search for fiction set in Montana (or any other geographic area) try this:

      montana and (fiction or stories or tales) not (history or authorship or criticism)


For westerns, try this Subject Keyword Search:

(western or ranch or cowboy or frontier or pioneer) and (fiction or stories or tales) not (criticism or history or authorship)

You could just use one topic word in the first set, but because fiction subject headings can be very unevenly applied to novels in this genre, you risk getting very few back and missing out on some that you really might have liked.

On the other hand, you may still be missing some good topics using the string above.  Look at a record for a recent book that you’ve heard of that features cowboys, such as Brokeback Mountain, and see what subject headings have been assigned to it.



The same Subject Keyword Search principles apply for this genre.  Try:

(horror or terror or fantasy or monster or ghost) and (fiction or stories or tales) not (criticism or history or authorship)


This is a tough category.  Academic libraries seem to purchase more in other genre areas than this one.  This may be in part because the other categories of fiction seem to produce a strata of more literary titles that an academic library can justify purchasing. Romance or “bodice-rippers” or “harlequins” or “mills & boon” (as they’re known in the UK) type novels don’t seem to have that “literary” stratum. 

But try this Subject Keyword Search:

(romance or love) and (fiction or stories or tales) not (history or criticism or authorship)