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How many cookbooks do you own?

  • m

The post on "you know you're a chowhound when" got me to wondering how many cookbooks chowhounds own. I own 123. I love my cookbooks.

One of my greatest pleasures is searching for vintage cookbooks...I drive all over looking for them. One of my favorite bookstores is in Jackson, CA. I spend hours looking at cookbooks...and I always buy a few.

I don't buy many of the Food Network stars cookbooks..but I do have two of Alton Browns and one of Ina Garten...and of course, Tony Bourdain's (I know...he's on the Travel Channel now).

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  1. I probably have about 300 cookbooks; mostly vintage, purchased from estate sales and thrift stores.

    One of my favorite was written by a WWII General who had a group of buddies who cooked together in the various countries in which they were stationed.. Very, very interesting--on every level.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Funwithfood

        What is the title? It sounds so interesting.

        1. re: Atomica

          Shamefully, this is one of the cookbooks I tore pages from (mentioned below). Because the pages are not in my "stack", the individual pages must be...somewhere?!

          When I find the info, I'll let you know.

      2. I came up with 91 - there may be a couple lolling about on my nightstand that didn't get included. Didn't include "periphery" books on cookware/cheese/wine/beer/cooking science etc. A favorite reference book of mine is called "The Complete Food Guide" - a handy paperback with illustrations of over 1,000 ingredients - useful when I don't know what something is.

        1. About 350 give or take. Every couple of years I cull and donate some that I am really sure I just will not be getting into again. But that just makes room for more.

          BTW does anyone collect the Gourmet Annuals? I got my 2006 2 weeks ago and want to make ablsoutely everyting in it. Hate the magazine and no longer subscribe, but this particulay annual my be my fovorite of all of them and I have them going back to the first and that makes 21 of them.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            I save Sunset magazines. Love the recipes in there..for the most part.

            So far...this thread has 864 cookbooks and 53 food magazines.

            1. re: melly

              For some reason I started getting a free subscription to Sunset - I found I did not like the recipes. I'd love to hear some of your fave Sunset recipes - I feel I must be missing something great.

              1. re: niki rothman

                I'll check in my sunset recipe box and share a couple.

            2. re: Candy

              Glad to hear I am not alone in hating GOURMET MAG. I used to love it. Ever since my Dad bright home a pile of them when I was in HS.

              I do love the Annuals thought, especially the featured country feature. I have had great success in finding them on eBay for ridiculously low prices.

            3. We have about 350-400, but that includes books about food, like Harold McGee and Jeffrey Steingarten, bot just cookbooks. Every now and then I begin to cull (I think we have three or four boxes of books in the garage that I did not include in this tally) and my husband acts like I am giving away vital organs when I donate them.

              1. I have around 165... recently started collecting (less than 2 years ago). I mainly buy newer ones and a bunch at a time so its my most expensive hobby, lol. It's my guilty pleasure, I'm a college student :P I actually made a website with an index of them but the site isn't live yet, lol.

                1. At last count, I had 182 cookbooks, 31 books ABOUT about food, wine, cooking, etc. and 3 FEET of food magazines.

                  1. Whew! So far we have "about" 1600 cookbooks and about 4 feet of food magazines. I think books about food could be included..why not? That's lots of books for only 8 posts!

                      1. I inherited from my mother over 1500 cookbook that she received from the early 1980's to early 1990's from publishers while she wrote a weekly food/recipe column in a local newspaper. Sometime she would write a review of a recipe from a book, but after a while, the books would come so fast and furious from the publishers, that the books ended up just getting stacked in the attic.

                        A friend of mine that works for an international food service company, loaded on my laptop thier complete library of recipe books.

                        With all these resources, I still only use or refer to the maybe 20 books in my kitchen.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Infomaniac

                          Okay...that's it. I have to have a cigarette now.

                          So, in 14 posts "we" have about 3813 cookbooks or books about food and over 7 feet of magazines.

                          I am truly humbled. No kidding.

                          1. re: melly

                            You can add my six feet of magazines to your tally! Gourmet mostly - I force myself to go through others and tear out recipes.

                        2. Last time I counted I was up to just over 400, also counting books ABOUT food that include recipes as well. We sold about a third of the accumulation when we left Nashville, but of course we've more than made up the difference...and now we're about out of room. There is a good used-cookbook store just up the street, though, so what I'm planning to do is to gather up all the duplicates (I keep buying books I've forgotten I had!) and the less-than-wonderful ones and go do some horse-trading.

                          I have all the Saveurs and a few others - we got rid of the old Gourmets and Bon Appetits before we moved.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Will Owen

                            I'll have to guess 2 feet on the Saveurs..unless you can give me a better total there. Thanks!

                            1. re: melly

                              I have'em all in those magazine boxes we get from IKEA; counting the boxes themselves, it's about 2 1/2 feet.

                            2. re: Will Owen

                              I'm glad to know that I'm not the only buying duplicate food related books (and other books and CD's... )

                            3. About 300 on two bookcases in the dining room which are in active use, and many more up in the attic. Years of Gourmet and Bon Appetit and Martha ...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sheiladeedee

                                Years of magazines...how many feet. Well...I'll just say 6ft?

                              2. Wow, I don't have hardly any compared to some posters here! I have about 30, and at least 3 feet of cooking magazines. I like to get cookbooks only if I plan to use them. I don't have the room to keep so many!!! Where do you all keep them? Private rooms? Specially built annexes on to your houses?? How can one actively use 300 cookbooks???

                                Whew.....maybe I need a cig too, and I haven't smoked in 7 years!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cooknKate

                                  Well, to put this in context, my husband and I have about 60,000 books between us. All on shelves and catalogued. Most of them are his collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction - he is a writer about the genre and this is a working collection. It lives in a four car garage converted to a library. Mysteries and other fiction live in the basement, cookbooks, books about food and travel, and gardening books are shelved in the living room and dining room, my other collections are on shelves in a long hall, in my bedroom and in my office. Non-fiction is shelved in the attic.

                                  As to using 300 cookbooks, I am constantly reading through for inspiration and amusement, although I may not actually cook from every one of them regularly.

                                2. Okay, I have 70. However, at least half of them are baking and confection cookbooks. I also have about 5 feet of magazines. I can't imagine getting to 300, but a woman can dream...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. By conservative estimate I have at least 800, maybe even 900. Many thousands of magazines. I am a packrat and can't bear to get rid of anything. Soon I will be moving again (for, I hope, the last time in my life) and will feel the pain caused by this flaw in my personality.


                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Jim Washburn

                                      You know, if you don't want to just throw out those mags, and you don't want to move them all, you could always donate them to a culinary school. Many culinary schools would be thrilled to receive a donation of cooking mags, especially older issues. With such a generous donation, they might even give you library privileges, and you could still have access to the mags, and many more!

                                      1. re: Non Cognomina

                                        When I moved across the country I tried to donate 15 years worth of Gourmet mags to a culinary school, and the receptionist said "hey, I'll take them myself!" and was at my door within the hour.

                                        then when my mom died I got her 25 years of Gourmet, oy.

                                      2. re: Jim Washburn

                                        Hmmmm...you people who don't do your own homework. We stacked enough magazines up to make a foot and it is about 50..depending how thick each of them are. Now we are talking about girth. Okay...so thousands eh? I'll say a low estimate of 60 feet. Whew!

                                      3. Gosh, you people make me feel like a total wimp: I have 100 (+/-10) plus every issue of Gourmet since 1988. I'm not as big a fan of the magazine as I was in the past, but I've got several people who've given me gift subscriptions over the years, knowing I liked it, so they keep on coming.

                                        I made a decided decision about 8 years ago that I would discourage cookbook gifts, except for ones I really wanted, and only buy books that I was desperate for, so that the collection did not expand past the shelves I have available in the kitchen. Even with prudence, it's grown, but still! 1500! That poster might want to consider opening a book shop :-) Or at least letting me come over to read them.

                                        I would say my most unusual cookbooks are three: one is a first edition of Pearl Buck's Oriental Cookbook, published in 1972; the second is a first printing of Helen Gurley Brown's "The Single Girl's Cookbook" (it's a riot!), from 1969, and the third is a book that I picked up when travelling in the south at a second hand bookstore called, "Butchering, Processing and Preservation of Meat" published in 1955 and "Written primarily for the family to help solve the meat problem and to augment the food supply." Oh, and it's also approved by the Whole Earth Catalogue. I bought it thinking that if Armageddon ever comes, I'll be able to put my money where my mouth is, as a city dwelling meat-eater, or at least I'll have a text that will tell me how.

                                        I also have my mom's copy of MTAOFC from when she got married in the 1960s and my grandmother's copy of Fanny Farmer, from when she got married in the 1930s.

                                        I LOVE cookbooks, and this is a really fun thread!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: DanaB

                                          In case you are ever asked...you have approximately 4 1/2 feet of food magazines. I want to come and read your cookbooks!!

                                        2. Okay...an estimated 5,563 cookbooks in 16 post of what you have out there! Okay...and 93 1/2 feet of food magazines! That is the total height of an entire NBA team..give or take. (I am including the bench warmers).

                                          1. 75, down from 150, with most of the extra 75 given away to friends, libraries, or goodwill stores, after copying out the two or three recipes in each that I _did_ use. I now have a rule that unless there are a dozen recipes I will make in my first browse-through, I won't buy it. I have four feet of magazines, plus three three-inch three ring binders full of magazine, newspaper, and internet printouts... PLUS, 1 gigabyte of recipes stored on my laptop. : ) I am trying to reduce my paper useage, but it's no fun to curl up at night with a laptop!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Notorious EMDB

                                              I have a terrible confession to make...

                                              Because I got tired of making copies from all the cookbooks I went through, I started tearing out the pages from the cookbooks of only certain recipes. I did pass the cookbooks on to other friends to did the same (and so on, and so on...).

                                              Now, I feel kind of bad about it--most were older books. But, it did force me to go through books, thus eliminating a 100 or so. (Just wish I had not done this to a few very unusual books--like the WWII General one, mentioned above.)

                                              1. re: Notorious EMDB

                                                One gig...two CD's? Pictures included?

                                                1. re: melly

                                                  only a few pictures. mostly text. sad, I know. How many recipes for lentils and duck can one possibly need? : )

                                              2. I am glad the posts keep coming in.

                                                5638 cookbooks, 98 1/2 feet of magazines (am including the three 3" binders), and 2 CD's. That's just 17 chowhounds!

                                                1. My husband threatened to divorce me if I brought EVEN ONE MORE cookbook into the house, so now I sneak them into the garage (sure hope he doesn't open his trunk...). When they numbered 350, I brought half of them into the office and gave them away to other cooking freaks. I gave away my 10 feet of 'zines in order to have room for all my Cooks Illustrateds and Chocolatiers. BTW: I found Emily Luchetti's Four Star Desserts on the web for over $200 - sure wish I had bought that one.

                                                  1. I have 62 cookbooks and 8 feet of cooking magazines. Knowing there are people with more cookbooks than I have make me feel comfy with keeping them coming :). I have given some books away over the years that I never cooked out of, nor found much inspiration in.

                                                    1. 5,870 books (approx) and 106 1/2 feet of magazines and 2 food recipe CD's with 19 chowhounds contributing.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: melly

                                                        Just thought of something, does dvd's count? I have six which is on cooking with or without actual recipes. Body & Soul (Kylie Kwong), traditional German cooking, How to Eat (Nigella Lawson, and three on scandinavian cooking.

                                                        1. re: melly

                                                          I'd love to be invited to y'alls estate sales (tee hee).

                                                        2. Well...that could be another topic! I'd have to add my stuff in. I think we'll stick to "reading" material. Who does the one on cooking with or without recipes??

                                                          1. About 150+ cookbooks, maybe 35 "other" food and wine books and 5 feet of retained magazines.

                                                            1. Over 200 cookbooks including reference-type books, plus lots of "food lit" books. I don't keep the magazines the way I used to though, just no space. We had shelves built into our kitchen for my cookbooks but I have way more than the shelves will hold.

                                                              By the way, for you L.A. hounds, this coming Sunday, August 6th, is the annual used cookbook sale sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Southern California. It will take place at the Hollywood Farmers Market during market hours. I think I'll be working there some of the day too, stop by and say hi.

                                                              (I donated 2 boxes of cookbooks for this event but somehow that didn't seem to clear a lot of space on my shelves.)

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Debbie W

                                                                Oh, gosh, thanks one whole he## of a lot. Just the news I needed to hear. I guess maybe I'll go to Surfa's sale on Saturday, and then just camp out at that end of town until Sunday. That way I can spend ALL my money this weekend instead of merely most of it...

                                                              2. 6,255 cookbooks and 111 1/2 feet of food magazines with 21 chowhounds contributing. (Averages out to 296 cookbooks each and 10' of magazines).

                                                                1. I started keeping track when I brought home dupes on more than one occasion (usually older, out of print books) but that kind of fell by the wayside. Last time I had an accurate count, it was somewhere between 550-600, though I could probably get rid of 200 or so without skipping a beat. Now if I only had the space to keep them, and all my other books, easily accessible instead of overflowing the shelves and piled into any and all available free space. LOL

                                                                  I tend to rip pages out of current mags when I keep them at all (after a while, they all start to look the same) but I do have a few shelf-feet older mags that I keep whole, mostly from 50s-70s.

                                                                  1. That doesn't include all the food-related books, just the ones that can arguably be called "cookbooks."

                                                                    So books by Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher, books like "Cod" or books about "kitchen science" are not included in the total unless they have a significant number of recipes or discussions of specific techniques. Wine books are excluded, too. Including all that, my total's probably around 600.

                                                                    1. 6,805 cookbooks and 114 1/2 feet magazines with 22 hounds contributing!

                                                                      1. I just did a rough count and I still have over a thousand cookbooks. I say still because I gave away about 700 last year when we moved. I still have too many. If I were forced to move to an even smaller house I think I could live with only a hundred of them, but it would take me months to sort out which ones were keepers.

                                                                        1. Well, I have been feeling gluttonous because I have been on a cookbook buying tear.... bumping up my grand total to 32. Ya'll have made me feel so virtuous.... and jealous. I move for my job every couple of years, so there is no way I could have hundreds of cookbooks. But I sure would like to spend some time in your libraries!

                                                                          1. I've been collecting cookbooks for 36 years, since I got my undergraduate degree and bought my first cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, from a guy who sold "slightly damaged" books at the Orange County Fair in Middletown, N.Y. That was the beginning of quite an adventure (some might say obsession.) I now own over 6000 cookbooks and a huge number of food-related magazines. I also have a database full of thousands and thousands of recipes, food articles, and food-related links. What can I say? I love the subject and never get tired of learning more about it.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Nancy Berry

                                                                              Wowza! How many feet of mags do you think?? How big is your database? Just a guess will do.

                                                                            2. Am waiting for Nancy to get back to me about her mags and gigs...but with 25 hounds contributing we have about 7,032 cookbooks.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: melly

                                                                                I don't think that you added correctly. I alone have over 6000 cookbooks.

                                                                                1. re: Nancy Berry

                                                                                  Nancy...I got so excited when I saw the number I blanked it out! That is 13,837 cookbooks! So, how many feet of magazines do you guess you have? You are the cookbook goddess.

                                                                              2. My MIL gave my husband 125 cookbooks. A first edition Fanny Farmer is one of them and the orignial Joy of Cooking.

                                                                                So our count is up to 13,962.

                                                                                1. I was hoping we'd make it to 25,000!! Anyone else? Anyone at all?

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: melly

                                                                                    Oh, all right. I have about 150. As for mags, only a few Cook's Illustrated. Too bad my good friend the cookbook consultant who has 4,000 cookbooks isn't on Chowhound.

                                                                                  2. I have around 600 food books of all descriptions. But I stopped buying about 5 years ago. Definitely need to reorganize them too.

                                                                                    I pretty much have thrown away most of the magazines, they are too hard to find anything in.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Chris Weber

                                                                                      A really great cookbook that came out last year which i would not be without - it's a biggie - "The New Best Recipe" by America's Test kitchen.

                                                                                    2. I have around 50 books and no magazines (well maybe an inch or so). I've thrown out or sold many books as I move a lot, sometimes I'll just save a couple of pages with recipes I like. I try to have 5 or so books for each major cuisine (an simple one, a classic/historical one, and a couple of celebs). I also immediately triage any magazine, or newspaper, again tearing out the pages I'm interested in. I've assembled my favorite recipes in a bound notebook that sort of evolves as I find new recipes and throw out others I don't use.

                                                                                      1. Just counted...85! But that's only on the designated cookbook shelves. As I have 8 oversized floor to ceiling bookshelves, it's quite possible many more have migrated in among the novels, philosophy, humor, geology, history, etc.
                                                                                        My favorite cookbook: sentiment wins over style - Better Homes & Gardens 3 ring binder with the red checkered tablecloth cover. It is from the 50's, has THE campiest wackiest Freudian photos of food - paleolithic food porn. It belonged to my mom and may have figured prominantly in the early development of my obsession with food.

                                                                                        1. Wow, I thought I had too many books. My current count is 51. Yesterday, I sold 4 boxes of cookbooks at Strand. So, I'm guessing I was around 100. I'm limiting my collection to one shelf of books I regularly use. What are everybody's top 5? If you could only own 5 cookbooks for the rest of your life, what would those be?


                                                                                          Bittman's How to Cook Everything
                                                                                          Lord Krishna's Cuisine
                                                                                          Peterson's Glorious French Food
                                                                                          CIA's The Professional Chef
                                                                                          Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: dummy

                                                                                            World of Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
                                                                                            Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
                                                                                            Classic Indian Cuisine by Julie Sahni
                                                                                            Simple Cuisine by Vongerichten
                                                                                            Moosewood Cookbook (sentimentally, my first cookbook)

                                                                                            1. re: steinpilz

                                                                                              These are the ones I am using the most recently:
                                                                                              Food and Wine of Greece-Diane Kochilas
                                                                                              The Professional Chef
                                                                                              The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook
                                                                                              Jewish Cooking-Marlena Spieler
                                                                                              The Book of Salads-Sonia Uvezian
                                                                                              (I use Moosewood & Enchanted Broccoli Forrest too)

                                                                                            2. re: dummy

                                                                                              I'll cheat a little here -
                                                                                              Joy of Cooking - my 1960s version and the new revision both
                                                                                              Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II
                                                                                              How to Cook Everything
                                                                                              The Best Recipe
                                                                                              my old Fannie Farmer cookbook - from the late 60s

                                                                                              Newer cookbooks seem to have limited selections of sweets, desserts, canning and preserving etc. So I need a couple of oldies.

                                                                                            3. Count is 14,898 cookbooks and 114 1/2 feet of food magazines with 30 chowhounds contributing. That's alot of books.

                                                                                              I am too tired to think of my five favorites right now. I am off to bed.

                                                                                              1. Last time a counted, during a move, I had 1,000 cookbooks. The old time life series are some of my favorites. Some of them were written and edited by James Beard and those are especially good. There are usually about 200 at work for my cooks to use. Lost count of the magazines a while back.
                                                                                                They seem to multiply on their own.

                                                                                                  1. re: melly

                                                                                                    Add our measly 49. But, two of them are binders with selections of interest from every Gourmet and Bon Appetite in the last 10 or 15 years (epicurious.com) plus all kinds of old NYTimes clippings, self-invented renditions of dinners out, and winning family recipes from who knows where. I assume those last ones still just count as 2.

                                                                                                    Doesn't the existence of epicurious.com, available as a 'cookbook' to everybody with Web access, count as several thousand copies of magazine issues that everybody 'has'??

                                                                                                    1. re: ShortOrderHack

                                                                                                      Maybe it's just my age but I prefer the whole process of revisiting recipes in books that I have cooked from in years past. When I'm writing menus I use cookbooks for insipiration. I'll thumb thru my trusty time life series complete with it's outdated pictures and glorious descriptions of foodstuffs from around the world.

                                                                                                      If I need a technical reference then I'll use the internet for something specific.

                                                                                                      But, then again I still have music on vinyl. Let me tell, listening to Johnny Cash on the turntable while making duck confit is a good Sunday evening ritual at my house.

                                                                                                      1. re: chef poncho

                                                                                                        I agree there's nothing quite like thumbing through cookbooks. I like to sit with several books open and synthesize a recipe from a few that are "close but not quite". I can always tell where the favorite recipes are by the amount of food stains on certain pages. Hmmm, I suppose I could even make a meal out of thumbing around and nibbling off the little stuck bits :) I'm also very happy that my toddler occasionally enjoys picking out a cookbook with pictures, and bringing it to me for perusing together. Can't do that with epicurious!

                                                                                                  2. Hmm, I'll cop to having double digits. Now, if we're counting magazine cut outs, own recipe books, and cards, etc, then that might reach triple digits.


                                                                                                    1. We could long debate how to count magazine recipe cut outs...but if you have them in a binder, well that's a "book". My opinion only. It could be an entirely different topic.

                                                                                                      I have to say...there is something to be said for having and using cookbooks, writing snail mail, calling on the phone. I obviously use the internet as well.

                                                                                                      So we have 15,997 (approx) cookbooks and 114 1/2 feet of food magazines with 32 hounds contributing. I know I probably have lots of magazines in the garage in boxes I haven't counted. I've been lazy. I'll do the deed and figure it out. Later.

                                                                                                      1. I have about 200. Looking at the numbers on here, I feel little deprived....I don't get too many new books, unless I find really good prices. I mostly buy from used book store or at book sales. Once in a while I will pay big bucks at book fairs for some "collectible" items - I'm a sucking for antique cookbooks. I do have a small collections of cookbooks, old and new, focused on the Bay Area.

                                                                                                        Anyone know of a good place to trade cookbooks?

                                                                                                        1. I'll add my PALTRY number of 54 cookbooks, all of which I use on a regular basis. I own the most cookbooks within my closest group of friends (one of my "friends" would tell you that's because I'm not a good enough cook to make anything without a recipe), but now I'm completely inspired by the rest of you and now I feel like I can give my love for cookbooks full license! Thanks everyone! (If I add to my collection anytime soon, I'll repost for the tally *melly* is keeping.)

                                                                                                          1. Okay..16,251 with 34 chowhounds contributing. That stack of 114 1/2 feet will be increased with the 25 years of Gourmet mags (posted further up). So, 174 1/2 feet of magazines!

                                                                                                            I hope this thread has not decreased the value of this fabulous website with paltry pandering toward a possibly pathetic topic (by a newbie no less).