Books and Authors is an excellent database for finding books for casual reading. Organized in a friendly layout, with its book entries accompanied by recommendations, summaries, and reviews, this database excels in helping people locate works of fiction and popular nonfiction. You can find the database by following the link here. Also, you can get to the database by clicking on the "Research" button on the East Lansing Public Library's website. Once there, click on the "Alphabetical list of all databases" link and then on the "Books and Authors" link.
Strengths of the Database
The database's greatest strengths are its summaries of books, its recommendations, and the ability to browse entries by both genre (such as mystery, fantasy, science fiction, etc.) and subgenre. Each genre has a list of subgenres related to it, some of which are well-known and others of which are relatively obscure. For example, the "Fantasy" genre has the subgenres "Adventure", "Coming-of-Age," "Steampunk," "Contemporary Realism" etc. associated with it. There are also nonfiction genres, such as "Health and Medicine" with "Anatomy," "Diseases," etc. as subgenres. If you want to browse for books, I would recommend browsing by genre and subgenre.
The database also has other ways to find books. In addition to the usual "title," "author," "keyword," and "series" searches available at the database search box, the database gives its users the ability to browse by title and author as well. It also allows the user to look at "expert picks" which has lists of "best book" recommendations from various sources. Furthermore, one can search for books by the awards that they've won by looking under "Award Winners." Once you find a book, the database recommends other books that you might also enjoy.
The many ways to find a book, combined with the reviews, synopses, and recommendations, all make it easy for the casual reader to find interesting works. The "browse genres" section in particular is quite remarkable. The number of fiction books, combined with the data available on each book, makes this database ideal for finding works of popular fiction.
The short biographies of authors, complete with publication lists of their works, are also a bonus.
Limitations of the Database
The database's most significant limitation is that its nonfiction section contains mostly popular nonfiction, rather than the most influential nonfiction works in an academic field. Thus, people who are conducting serious research would be well-advised to search other databases also, lest they miss a work that specialists would consider required reading.
Also, the "Who? What? When? Where?" option for searching is somewhat unreliable. It is supposed to use various categories to help find the specific type of book, but sometimes the suggested search terms are inaccurate. (The suggested "fencingsport" returns zero books, while "fencing" returns 82, for instance.) Thus, while this sort of search is a marvelous idea, the way it is implemented is not.
Overall, I would recommend using this database when you want to find popular fiction and nonfiction books. The many ways in which one can access books, combined with the summaries, recommendations, awards, and other data, makes this an invaluable database for readers.