SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 9 — Shazam, Magnus, Vivino... There are a multitude of applications to help us recognise songs, works of art and even wines. But what about the books we read as kids? The answers come from @myoldbooks. This Instagram account helps users find the titles of stories that rocked their childhood.

Instagram and books have been a good duo for sometime now. Not only is the #bookstagram hashtag hugely popular, appearing in over 70.6 million posts, the social network is also full of themed shots of stacks of books or bookcases full to the brim. But that’s not all: Members of Instagram’s literary communities regularly share their feelings about their latest reads or even help each other find the name of their favourite children’s book. 

In these cases, many turn to the @myoldbooks account where they post messages in which they share the few, often confused memories they have of a book that marked their childhood. “I’m looking for a book title. I believe it’s from the late 80s or early 90s. It’s about a boy who goes to each member of his family and they are too busy to play with him, each for a specific reason... I think the cover is the of the boy standing on the porch of his house?” reads one of the posts.

The 34,000 followers of @myoldbook quickly identified the book described as The Do-Something Day by Joe Lasker. The page is home to hundreds of similar publications, some more vague than others. The authors say they have been searching for decades for references to books they grew up with. Hence their great relief when they discover them after decades, according to Marie-Pascale Traylor, the founder of @myoldbook. “There’s just a lot of sentimental nostalgia that goes along with this,” she explained to US Public Radio NPR. “I can really sense the emotion when they message me after they find their book...and they’re so happy and so grateful and it’s really sweet.” 

Stepping back into a key period

Originally, Marie-Pascale Traylor’s account was not dedicated to identifying the books that had an impact on our childhoods but to the retro illustrations they contain. It evolved when users asked this American, now retired, to help them find certain books they had read as children. Some children’s books leave a lasting impression on the minds of those who read them. Literary social network Goodreads realised this when it asked its members to share a list of the novels they most enjoy re-reading. The majority of them fall under the category of children’s literature. 

Researchers at American University in Washington looked at this phenomenon in 2012. They asked 23 participants about their reasons for re-reading books, re-watching movies, and returning to certain places. They found that repeated experiences allow consumers “an active synthesis of time and promote self-reflexivity.” 

Our attachment to the books of our childhood is deeply linked with the fact that they taught us valuable life lessons. Journalist Lucy Mangan suggests in Bookworm that it’s not only healthy, but vital for us to delve back into the books we devoured as children.  “You are learning about people, about relationships...Each book is a world entire. You’re going to have to take more than one pass at it.” The followers of the @myoldbook account seem to agree. — ETX Studio