I use Books Google and Gallica often for research, but I’ve only recently begun using Amazon.com in this way.

It’s excellent. Because of the “Search inside” feature, I am able to read references to practically any subject, searching for things often too elusive to be indexed. This pairs well when I own the book, as well.

The Discovery of France


I love Graham Robb’s work. His book The Discovery of France changed the way I perceived the country historically.

A reference to “Winter Swallows”—the name given the country boys that flocked into Paris every winter to beg—set off creative sparks. I knew that a character in my next novel would have to be a Winter Swallow. (How and why, I had no idea.)

Several years after reading Robb’s book, however, I began to question whether or not this was a fact. Had I imagined it? I searched the book’s index for “Winter Swallows” without success (of course), but through the “search inside” feature on Amazon.com, I was able to find it.


This is a wonderful book: I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in France or history.

(For more on my research process and research in general, go to On Research. )