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Sep 26, 2012 12:01 PM

What are your criteria for adding a cookbook to your collection?

I love cookbooks, and I'm guessing you do, too.

But, lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed by my cookbook collection. I keep reorganizing my home in order to fin ways to add more shelf space, but now I've gotten to the point that I have books in so many rooms in so many little spots that I have hard time finding some of my books when I need them. EYB has certainly helped me make better use of the books I have, but it's also made me more aware of books I hadn't heard of.

I've been really trying to cut back on my purchasing lately but, sometimes, I still find myself buying books on impulse that I regret later... I think I need some strict criteria. Mine have been a loose combo of:

COTM and/or

written by an author I love and/or

meets my current cooking goals (in my case, efficient, family friendly meals)and/or

is indexed on EYB and/or

is for a cuisine or cooking method not duplicated by any other cookbook I own...

What are your criteria for adding a book to your collection?

Also, when you buy a book on impulse and regret it almost immediately, do you have the courage to get rid of the book right away or does your guilt cause you to hang onto it even though, deep down, you know you will probably seldom cook from it, if ever?

EDIT: and P.S. lately I have had the STUPIDEST reason for buying books on impulse and that is that I haven't had time to renew my library card, so I've been buying books just so I can get a look at them.


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  1. Haven't bought a new cookbook in years but used to be that I would justify it if there were >10 recipes I would ACTUALLY cook. Now books on food literature are a different story. It's all I read practically. Even then I buy used on Amazon. I must say I have quite the library.

    1 Reply
    1. re: letsindulge

      I'm impressed by your willpower! You know, I think my old rule of thumb used to be 2 recipes, but now that my collection is so overwhelming and so many recipes are available online, 10 seems like a good number.

      What if you can't get your hands on a cookbook to see what the recipes are like? LIke a hard to find out of print book or some of those books out of the UK and such?


    2. Get rid of an existing one. After a point one has decide if they are really using it. and if so, how much or how often. This has helped me keep the collection down to about 50 books.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mike0989

        That's a strategy I should really employ in many areas of my life, actually.

        I would love to be able to get to about half of what my collection is now.


      2. I've evolved a lot as a cook since my culinary book section took root so now I can say that I would not have bought or have outgrown many of them (that I am now culling). My criteria certainly have changed. Now the books I buy must be very different and unique, preferably encyclopedic, use challenging techniques and/or ingredients, etc. Many of them now are one specific topic such as truffles, olive oil and chile peppers. Many are are very "ethnic" for lack of a better term, including books from Persia, Libya, Croatia, Lithuania, Germany...

        My collection is now pared down to about 500 but many include food writing, too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefathome

          Very interesting! I should think about which books I've outgrown (and might be hanging onto for sentimental reasons, perhaps).


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I did that exact cull a few years back. I'm glad I did it, and I didn't get rid of any books I regret, but it's amazing how quickly the vacuum was filled.

            Now I'm having serious space issues again, I've really run out of places to store books and I'm going to have to cull again. But this this time I'm dreading it. I have a huge collection, over 820 books, but I love my books and I don't know how I'm ever going to decide which ones to let go of. What I NEED is a bigger house!

        2. With so many people, and animals, in bad shape, I can't justify trite expenditures on cookbooks any more. Standing pat, getting recipes off the web and adding the new cookbook fund to the charity pile

          2 Replies
          1. re: malabargold

            >>>With so many people, and animals, in bad shape, I can't justify trite expenditures on cookbooks any more.<<<

            Two months ago, I literally donated the money I was going to spend on books to my local animal shelter. This means more to me than owning another cookbook, no more of which do I need (I'm old).

            1. re: Jay F

              Actually, I don't consider my cookbooks expenditures trite at all. What I feel guilty about is excessive consumerism if I don't use all of the books I have. (and buying a book because I'm too busy to renew my library card is completely bogus.)

              But I think books in general, and cookbooks in particular, have a great deal of value. I have traveled 5 continents and food has always been my primary entree into an unfamiliar culture. History is hard for me to absorb, but it's easy for me to learn it in the context of a cuisine. Food has also been my way of staying connected to a culture after my travels have ended.

              I literally have built connections to other ethnic groups in my community through cooking and eating together. I have also brought communities together this way.

              FInally I don't feel bad supporting writers and photographers and researchers. Where would we be without artists? Also, several of my books have been written by farmers and artisans.

              I volunteer plenty of my time and money for organizations that work to heal the earth and its people. I have served in both staff and board level positions in social service organizations. The maybe $200 a year I spend on cookbooks is a drop in the bucket compared to that, especially when I learn so much from my books.


            1. re: Harters

              I'm swayed by chowhounds who are swayed by media hype.