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How to organize our cookbook collection? [moved from General Topics board]

My wife works in the cookbook industry. We have hundreds of cookbooks. Actually, a few thousand. An entire wall of cookbooks now encompasses our living room in the city. Our collection at the country house is growing. The collection keeps growing even though my wife is choosy about what is admitted into our shelves.

Well, now we can't find anything. It's VERY disorganized. I need some help. I haven't found anything helpful online.

I would love suggestions on how to organize the cookbooks.

I've been a frequent lurker and reader for several years, but this is my first post.

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  1. Mine are in two areas - the ones I use most regularly - maybe 30 or so, are on a bookshelf in the kitchen. The rest are in another room organized - frankly - by size. I have about 100 only, though.

    My suggestion would be though to figure out how your wife accesses her cookbooks - by which I mean - when she wants to find a cookbook, does she think of the cuisine/region/technique, the author's name, or the title? Depending on what the answer is, I'd organize them along those lines.

    Congratulations on your first post - let it be the first of many!

    1. MMRuth made a brilliant suggestion on a similar topic. I don't have nearly as big a problem as you do, but also feel helpless when I have to find something. She suggested making a photocopy of the index in every cookbook and keeping that filed. With your collection, I'd go further and suggest that you keep them either sorted by topic and within that topic, stacked in alphabetical order by author, or just alphabetically. Keep your index file in the same order as the books.

      I've just made a start by buying a low-cost photocopier (Costco - around $70).

      1. I do mine by departments, like in a bookstore:

        Eastern Europe
        Mediterranean / Middle Eastern
        Other Asian
        Other Latin American
        American standards (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, NY Times)
        American regional
        Theme (barbecue, fish, game, ginger)
        Chefs (that don't fit in any particular region)

        1 Reply
        1. I do the same but separate bakng from dessert books since not all desserts are baked

          1 Reply
          1. re: Candy

            I'll probably do that someday too if we accumulate more non-baking dessert books.

            1. re: yayadave

              Why pay for it? You can use Homebase for free. Once you downloaded the software, it will ask for some personal/business information, like some sort of registration. You can leave those fields blank and still able to use the software.


              1. re: anna

                The problem with both programs is that they don't help much with recipe access, ingredients, etc. While it would be quite time-consuming, scanning the Indexes into one of the growing number of search programs, some free, would be the way to solve that problem. Too obsessive for most.

            2. I have one glass-covered bookshelf and a regular bookshelf filled with cookbooks. I put the antique/collectible cookbooks behind the glass. As for sorting, it's done by several categories: Bay Area, ethnic specific, general cookbooks, dessert, baking, etc. Within each of those categories, I tend to group books that are similar, such as putting all the chocolate books together within dessert.

              1. Although we don't have this challenge with sorting cookbooks; we are quite selective about which books we ACTUALLY buy and which we just take pages from BUT when it comes to music we have an entire room and two years ago we alpha'd by Artist and then color coded each spine by genre. Perhaps this could translate for your collection...recruit a few volunteers :) or you could be there awhile!

                Boy, 1,000 cookbooks that's a real LIBRARY!

                1. I would maybe organize them by author, then enter them into LibraryThing with tags for cuisine, features, and location. This method has the advantage that you wouldn't ever have to remember whether you put that book of Italian desserts with the Italian cookbooks or with the dessert cookbooks.

                  Or I would go to WorldCat (you can usually get access to this through your local library) and label the cookbooks with their Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress number and order them that way. That would put them in order of cuisine, roughly, though of course it's your collection, so you can adjust to what makes sense for you. Hrm, actually, I just remembered LibraryThing provides the call number for most books now. I think LT would be a great choice for you. And you could see who else has the same cookbooks (if you're interested in that sort of thing).

                  Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!

                  1. I have hundreds of cookbooks.I organize them by types of food.ˆhave several sections.Ethnic cookbooks,celebrity author cookbooks,poultry,beef,seafood,barbque cookbooks,breads,pies&tarts,cakes,desserts,etc

                    1. You are welcome to look at my partial organization of cookbooks in the hundreds ... it is online at:


                      I see people organizing their books on LibraryThing even going so far as to tag the books as to which bookcase in their home has them.

                      You might have a bookcase that houses all your favorites and then other smaller cases with sub-catagories.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                        Thanks for the link to your collection and to LibraryThing. It seems to be just what I need.

                        1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                          wow, what a great site. I've just finished putting some titles in. Very nice, thanks for posting the link.

                        2. I'm really glad for this thread. I have the same problem...