Too Many Cookbooks

I have a lot of cookbooks, for a person who rarely uses one.

In the past I decided to limit myself to these two bookshelves, imposing a strict one-for-one discipline.  If I wanted a new one, I had to get rid of an old one.  In this way I got rid of a lot of perfectly good cookbooks, and acquired some that I hoped would be even better.

When I had a personal chef business, I needed all these books in order to surprise and delight my clients.  And then…..the Internet became a superb recipe source, both in English and in French, I stopped cooking for a living, and I started neglecting my cookbook collection.  Plus, as you’ll notice, they no longer fit into two bookshelves.

And so, I’ve decided to give some of them away to you, dear readers.  But which ones?  Nearly every one tells me a story, and whispers its desire to live right here cozily near its familiar neighbors.  But reason prevails.  And here’s my plan.

Several times a week I’ll pick up one of these treasures and give it a good look-through.  I’ll cook the one recipe from it that speaks to me the loudest on that day.  I’ll share the recipe with you.  I’ll do a little review of the book.  And then I’ll decide.  Will I use it enough to warrant keeping it?  Or would one of you appreciate it more than I would?  The truth will out, and my library will shrink.  And you’ll have a chance to help me clear my shelves.  Stay tuned.

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20 Comments on “Too Many Cookbooks”

  1. Wendy Says:

    great idea! As I mentioned I am also guilty of not playing with my cookbooks as much as I would like so have started picking 1 a week to cook from.

    Looking forward to your reviews and possibly to some of your books 🙂

  2. Jeanne Says:

    Only two bookshelves?! I cannot admit how many bookshelves are filled with cookbooks in my house. I’ve had to buy a second copy of a few! I recognize many of these titles, so this will be good incentive for me to revisit some recipes too. What a great way to spend the summer!

    What will you start with?

  3. Ujwala Samant Says:

    So, so true! I’ve been culling my books, but then I always find another to read. My newest is Silk Road Journey: Vegetarian cooking and the other is a cookbook set in the Grand Trunk Road… Ever since the internet, I don’t buy as many books. We swap books though… and some like an old book that has recipes of French ways of making sirops, liqueurs (even with prunelles) etc, those I can’t find on the web, I am keeping.
    Enjoy your culling 🙂

  4. Jessica Says:

    This sounds like fun!!

  5. Debra Lane Says:

    OMG – I just counted my bookshelves of cookbooks and its 16! A friend who downsized her living space gave me boxes of her cookbooks as well as all the ones I had. I can’t seem to resist adding more to the collection when they speak to me. I really should downsize also.

  6. Abra Bennett Says:

    Well, we could all start downsizing together and make it a cook book exchange. As to where I’ll start, I haven’t yet decided whether to go in order down the rows, or do it randomly. I’m sort of leaning toward the latter.

  7. Sandra Gilmore Says:

    One way….pick a color and go through all the books of that color. I agree that with the internet, one can find more recipes for an ingredient, course, etc than going through cookbooks….and a lot less time consuming. However, they are in some respects like a security blanket. I have many that I haven’t even opened having been given them by friends.

  8. Margaret Says:

    Abra, a Guild at my church had a “used cookbook” sale and realized several thousand dollars for their various good works. Interestingly, the books which did not sell were the “low sodium”, “low calorie”, “low fat”, etc.– The healthy cook books never left the sale table.

  9. Fabre Says:

    Abra, looking at your shelf looks like my own living room – maybe you will inspire me to weed my own collection!!!!

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    Geez, if all of you are trying to get rid of your own cookbooks, nobody will want mine!

  11. Tamara Says:

    I too tried the get one-get rid of one method. The only problem with it is that I get new ones and then I sort of don’t follow thru on the second part of the approach. Ao I switched to an it has to earn its space approach. Still my shelf overfloweth and I add a few now and again. If you have a couple (not too many) to share, I would happily give them a loving home, though it looks like we overlap a bunch. Love your cook from it and see how it feels approach.

    I still prefer a book to the internet. I like to browse, or pull out one that hasn’t been out in a while, and visit with it like it is an old friend. I especially like recipes with food stains, little notes, and stars all over them, and books that fall open to a favorite page.


  12. My hand is up – I also have cookery books that I never look at. OTOH, there’s my mothers from the 1950s that’s covered with food, pungent with accumulated scents of (mainly) successes, and one of my favourite of all books (along with Relativity by A Einstein!). I’m new here, but am already looking forward to learning more – I’m the cook in the house but always considder myself a learner!

  13. Meredith Says:

    I feel your pain! I now make myself check it out of the library, cook at least 5 successful recipes from it before I buy. That being said, I’ll still take your castoffs! It’s a sickness, I need help…

  14. Margaret Pilgrim Says:

    Hold on, everyone. I have just found a new use for all of those books we’ve been hoarding.

    My orthopedist has prescribed that I ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes a day…forever. So I got the bike and parked it in my seldom-used breakfast room, facing my cookbook shelves. I’ve found that a book nestles nicely on the little ledge on the bike’s control panel. So now I pull down a long-ago acquired book and pedal my way through what I have to admit are pages and pages that I have neither read nor used. What a treasure trove, and what a way to make 20 minutes of sweat and puffing go quickly.

  15. Nancy Says:

    Ha, mea maxima culpa! I’ve been looking through my own cookbook collection (much less restrained than yours) and thinking that I really must cull it. Actually, I have culled it every year and donated to the Friends of my local Library Book Sale. But it’s still too big, and I still need to cull. I’ve never been a professional cook; my ideas are bigger than my time; and those wonderful chocolate desserts just don’t fit any of my friends’ diets.

    And yet…and yet – I see at least 3 titles in your photos that I’ve been thinking about buying. (I also see at least a dozen books that we have in common, and I’ll be keen to see whether they go up on the giveaway block.) I’m up for a swap, or a purchase, or a donation to your favorite cause! Maybe there needs to be a Friends of French Letters cookbook swap?

  16. silvia carry Says:

    Dear Abra, as usual you inspired me! I have way, way to many cookbooks for someone who rarely uses them, and, in the rare occasion that I do, I keep going back to the same ones over and over again.
    I’ve culled them over the years, then, one book at a time, the collection grew again.
    I would participate in whatever project you come up with.


  17. Wow — you touched a nerve! Like others here, I too have way too many cookbooks. I read them like essays or fiction — but when push comes to shove am likely to cook an old favorite or search the web (if we don’t go out or get take-out).

    I would love a way to get rid of unwanted cookbooks without just abandoning them — maybe a dada mailout, sending cookbooks (instead of arty postcards) to perfect strangers. Naw, the times are too weird for that.

    It would be great if our library would keep them (they don’t have a great collection of cookbooks), but they sell all donated books at the annual fundraiser.

  18. Silvia Says:

    215 I just counted them. So, even if I had an improbable ambition attack, I still couldn’t cook my way through them if I lived to be 150.
    Some are going to have to go. Even if Diana would take some and my daughter Tina’s husband will take some. I’d probaby be left with over 150….
    And what about the collection of Gourmet and Bon Appetit that I’ve been saving since 1095 or 96 (I forgot)?

  19. Shel Says:

    @Silvia … “And what about the collection of Gourmet and Bon Appetit that I’ve been saving since 1095 or 96 (I forgot)?”

    That’s a pretty complete collection; they only started publishing after William the Conquer brought French food to England. You only missed the first 30 years.

    -Shel

  20. silvia carry Says:

    LOL, Shel…
    I have to stop posting from the Ipod touch, too many typos…
    The funny part of it is that when I saw the photos of your bookcases, my first thought was “Gee! let me see if which of these books I might want!”


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