Organizing a Cookbook Collection

Help for everyone who loves to buy, read, and collect cookbooks! Even if they don't cook.…

By FamilyTime

 For many of us, stacks of shiny new cookbooks at the local bookstore are as enticing as dark, rich chocolate truffles or crisp fall apples. We have to have them!

When we see new cookbooks splashed across our computer screen, we have to order them. And when the package arrives, we tear into it as happily as a child at a birthday party.

When we see well worn cookbooks at yard sales or second-hand shops we are intrigued. And what a bargain they generally are!

Collecting cookbooks whets our appetites for foods yet to buy and meals yet to cook. Reading them transports us to far-away lands and times gone by. They open windows of understanding to other cultures and inspire us to nurture our own families.

But for anyone who indulges, these collections can become monsters who defy taming -- unless we exercise some organizational skills.

By Food Type? Technique? Course? HELP!
When you have only a few cookbooks, sorting them seems easy. General cookbooks go here, baking books go there, and the holiday manuals on the high shelf.

When you have scores or hundreds of books, the task is formidable.

You can catalog the books numerous ways:

  • Alphabetically by author.
  • By cooking style - baking, quick-and-easy, general.
  • By region or country.
  • By food type - vegetable, chocolate, pasta
  • By course - breakfast, dessert, main course
Once you begin sorting your books into the appropriate piles, you will notice cross pollination. Julia Child's books could be general and French; Maida Heater's could fall under baking, American, or desserts; Emeril Lagasse's books could be regional or entertaining.

Make the Decision and Then Compromise
Consider how you use the books in your collection. Is it mainly for cooking? For reading? For research?

    Devise a list of categories that work for you. For example:
  • General cookbooks
  • Baking and dessert books
  • Pasta, rice and grains.
  • Vegetarian.
  • Ethnic and regional cooking books
  • Grilling
  • Entertaining and holidays
  • Specialized equipment books (crockpot, food processor or juicing books)
  • Low-fat cooking and other diet books
  • Reference books
Decide which books belong most firmly in which category and put them on the appropriate shelf or in the right crate.

Keep a list of the categories and then color-code each one. Post the list on the end of the bookshelf or keep it in a computer or paper file.

On the spine of each book, affix a color-coded adhesive dot that applies to its primary category. Under it, put all other color-coded dots that apply to that book. The trick is to keep the number of dots to two or three.

You could come up with another system based on, or similar to, the color-coding one.

Return the Books to Their Place -- Every Time
When you pull a book from your collection, put it back in its rightful place after you are through with it.

If the books mount up on the kitchen counter or nightstand, make an effort to re-shelve them.The higher the stack, the harder it will be to re-shelve.

Keep Trusted Friends Nearby
Every home cook has a hodgepodge of volumes he or she depends on for reliable recipes, good advice, or comfortable companionship. Keep these few books on the kitchen shelf. Their dog-eared pages and scuffed book jackets are welcome company during our busy days.

On the other hand, don't neglect the less-perused volumes. Grab a book you have never used and try a recipe. That's the fun of it, right?