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Mar 4, 2011 06:34 AM

How do you organize your cookbooks?

I seem to have been on a bit of a cookbook-buying binge since prior to the holidays in December and I'm getting tired of organizing and, re-organizing my bookshelves.

I'd be interested to hear how others have organized their bookshelves. Is there a "best way"?

Currently this is (more or less) how my shelves are organized:

Seasonal Books
Multi-purpose & Reference Books
Single Topic Books (Soups/Stews, Beans, Meat, Mushrooms etc )
International (sorted by country and/or region)
Chef and Restaurant books
Misc books organized by Author name
Big Books (that don't fit on shelves where they should be placed)

I also keep a small shelf in the kitchen w books I use the most at any given time.

I often wonder if there's a better way.

What works for you?

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  1. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that my cookery books are arranged by colour! Not very scientific, or indeed useful, but cookery books are the only books that cover the whole spectrum of colours. My design and architecture books run from white with black print to black with white print, with a spattering of red in the middle. The cookery books look so nice and rainbowy! Plus I'm quite strict about culling one every time i get a new one, so they still fit on one (long!) shelf.

    2 Replies
    1. re: gembellina

      Mine are by color too! They're in a large bookcase in my living room, right next to the kitchen doorway. If I didn't order the books by color, it would be so busy it would be unpleasant. I also tend to remember cookbooks by color, so it usually takes me little time to find the one I want. Previously, I used to group them by country cuisine.

      1. re: gembellina

        I do this too. They look great! And I can't find what I'm looking for.

      2. I'm with you on the logic you're using. Sorting by region/cuisine and keeping a couple close at hand in the kitchen. We have floor-to-ceiling built in bookshelves in our finished basement and that's where the bulk of my books live.

        One resource I can personally recommend is Eat Your Books -

        This website service is fabulous. You key in your books (after registering and paying the fee) and the site "knows" what's on your shelf. You can then search your OWN books for recipes...type in "bechamel" and the site will tell you which of your books has that recipe.

        I am using my OWN books (rather than just Googling a recipe) vastly more since signing up for the service.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Monch

          I agree that EYB is a terrific help in optimizing use of cookbooks and I think that's why I'm really feeling the need to get my real bookshelves in order. Part of the problem is that EYB has made me feel less guilty for buying new books since I know I will use them. So then I get my 3 new Chinese cookbooks only to find that there's no more room in the Asian section of my bookshelf!

        2. I arrange mine by size so that they form a gentle curve (and each shelf has a general culinary theme). I keep the recipes contained therein organized with

          1. I'm lucky enough to have a floor to ceiling bookcase in the kitchen next to the doorway that leads to our library/den, eight shelves about 18" wide. The books are placed according to cuisine, country, author, or appliance/reference. I've had to move my Italian and Mediterranean books into the library where the American focused books reside. Some shelves in both the kitchen and library are able to accommodate tall books.

            Because I hate disorganization but fully understand the concept of color in design I have managed to place compatible colors together within a section. However for me, like with like helps keep things readily at hand. I can't say enough good things about Eat Your Books. What a great asset that site has been.

            12 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              Slightly off-topic, does the EYB inventory go back, say, 20 years? Like Frugal Gourmet, Greens?

              1. re: c oliver

                Yes, CO. I have entered most of my 1975 cookbooks. They may not all be indexed but the option to Request Index is there. They've even managed to index the American edition of Larousse Gastronomique...

                1. re: Gio

                  Thanks, Joe. I just unpacked a bunch that I haven't used in a few years.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Oh my goodness, Gio. I was multitasking (not my strong suit) and read your post to read that you'd entered most of your one-thousand-nine-hundred and seventy-five books into EYB. I began to get heart palpitations until I fairly quickly realized my error.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Now that's a good laugh, Joan. Nope. Not even close to that amount. I think at this point I have about 118 books listed so far. I have a few more to go, but all my older books are not in EYB's inventory.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    You don't have to pay to see what they have. Not every book I own is indexed but enough are especially the more popular the book is. It is not based on how new the book is at all.

                  3. re: Gio

                    Second on EYB. I really love being able to say, hmm, I have a pound of ground lamb in the freezer, what shall I do with it? With EYB, I have dozens of ideas from my library, without having to pull them all down from the shelf to start.

                    1. re: Splendid Spatula

                      Or the "which damn book is that recipe in???" syndrome.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Hah... that's My syndrome. These days organization of anything in a kitchen makes cooking so much more enjoyable.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Much of my house AND my life is DISorganized but my kitchen's in pretty good shape. Now I'll sign up for EYB and that's going to make a big difference. 'Course it won't take care of those church cookbooks from the south but ya can't have everything.

                          1. re: Gio

                            My syndrome too. It is so nice to be able to put in the key ingredients and have EYB identify which book your recipe came from. I use it for this feature more than for anything else. Second best use for me is creating a shopping list when i am already at the grocery store and need to get the ingredients for tonight's recipe.

                            1. re: dkennedy

                              I'm so glad I'm I'm in good company :)

                    2. I think "organise" would be an extreme misrepresentation of the situation Chez Harters.

                      1 Reply