A Simple Method to Search Books You Already Own for Stories, Quotes or Ideas

I love books. In fact, my wife would say books are slowly taking over our home. If there is one major question that has haunted me about learning from books it’s this: How do you best apply what you’ve learned from books?

simple way to search books online

I have a system I hope to share with  you someday, but for now let’s talk about how to best use the books we already own to create better speeches, blog posts or podcasts.

You can go the old route I’ve taken for years. Grab a book and begin to flip through it. This is often time consuming as you rack your brain trying to remember where that story or idea lives in the book.

Another approach is to use the power of the internet as a quick reference tool. I have a simple 4 step process that works well for me:

1. Go to Google Books and search for a book you own.

Google books is a neat tool if you know how to use it. They have indexed just about every book out there. The key here is to search for books you already own. Google books can become your very own “book search engine.”

how to use google books

2. Search for a keyword or phrase related to your topic.

Once you land on the “book” page, Google Books gives you the option to keyword search the book. This is not just a keyword search of the table of contents, but the entire book!  In the example below I’m searching for “sharpen the saw” from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

search books you own on google books

 3. Look up the corresponding page for your reference material.

Google books will not give you access to the entire book for free. Your search results will only show an excerpt, but it will give you the exact page where your “keyword phrase” lives.

You can now use the page numbers to go directly to the pages in your physical book (see pic).

how to use google books online

 4. Create awesome speeches, blog posts, and podcasts.

You can now use the quotes, illustrations and stories to make awesome speeches, blog posts and podcasts. This simple process saves me hours each week and I hope it will do the same for you.

Question: Do you have any productivity hacks to do research faster? You can leave a comment by clicking here.



    Jonathan has been blogging since 2009 and is still in awe that the Creator of the Universe desires to have a relationship with him. His passions include spending time with his kids, reading, March Madness, surprise get-a-way trips with his wife, and watching funny YouTube videos.

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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    14 thoughts on “A Simple Method to Search Books You Already Own for Stories, Quotes or Ideas

    1. I would also recommend finding links/cross references with Google Scholar, as more and more social media, published media, and academic media are intersecting.