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Posted on Mar 31, 2008 in Review, Shopping, Tips | 34 comments

Food books in my kitchen

Food books in my kitchen

New kitchen bookcase after reorganization

On seeing my new kitchen bookshelf that holds most of my cookbooks and some organized lunch gear, reader Spiceaholic of One Bite at a Time asked for a list of all my cookbooks. Twist my arm! Please pardon me while I indulge my inner Virgo; here’s an organized list of my 150 or so books (plus food writing) with brief comments. They’re not all ringing endorsements; some of these I’ve had since college, others are more like souvenirs I’ve picked up in my travels. Plenty of award-winners, though — I do have a weakness for the James Beard and IACP cookbook awards. I’ve underlined my favorites. Have a recommendation for a really outstanding book? Let me know in comments. (Read on for the full list of cookbooks with commentary…)

(Disclosure: Any purchases made through the Amazon links below support Lunch in a Box at no markup over regular Amazon prices. Amazon Japan ships books internationally. Edited to add: There’s a fast and easy way to turn Amazon Japan pages into English. On any product page, there’s a little bit of text in the top part of the right hand column (“Would you like to see this page in English? Click here.”). It’s below the first blue bar, but above the shopping cart button on the right. That’ll turn your whole Amazon Japan shopping experience into English (with the exception of what’s written in the books themselves, of course!). You’ll be billed in yen by Amazon, and your credit card company would handle the currency exchange.)

Packed Lunches:

Kids’ Food:

Bento Lunches:

American & Californian:

Barbecue and U.S. Southern:



Greek, Turkish, and Eastern Mediterranean:



  • 365 Easy Italian Recipes: Fine for what it is, but not a high recommend. One of my first cookbooks.
  • Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Excellent cookbook of traditional Italian food from respected taskmaster Marcella Hazan. I consult this for Italian dishes to see what the proper way is, then riff on my own. No photos, but a workhorse.
  • Marcella Cucina: A glossy photo follow-up by Marcella Hazan.
  • The Classic Pasta Cookbook: Well illustrated visual guide to pasta by Giuliano Hazan, son of influential Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan.



Latin American:


  • The Art of Russian Cuisine: I’ve had mixed results with this book, but plan to re-explore it as I’ve found some good local Russian food markets lately.

Thai and Southeast Asian:




Drinks & Brewing:



  • The L.L. Bean Game and Fish Cookbook: A gift from my Dad. For the next time we hunt elk in the city? Still, it did come in handy when my sister was looking for a deer meat pate recipe.




Food Reference:

Food Writing How-to:


  • Cook’s Illustrated: The Consumer Reports approach to cooking. No ads means no conflict of interest in their reviews. Extensively tested recipes and lengthy articles about how they came up with the “best” recipe help you understand the process and thinking behind each recipe. This helps me break free of recipes and riff on my own, and better evaluate other the recipes on my bookshelf.
  • Fine Cooking: Somewhat like Cook’s Illustrated with glossy photos and advertising, still educational.
  • Saveur: Like a travelogue with authentic recipes.
  • Gastronomica: Academic-focused lengthy food writing, like The New Yorker of food. Very thoughtful.

Food Humor/Kitsch:

Food Writing:

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  1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who wanted to browse yuor cookbooks! :DI have so many cookbooks on my amazon wishlist, now I’ll know which ones to go for and which to cull. ;)

    Thanks for this!!!

  2. Holy guacamole!! I have a lot of these (and MANY more), but I have never made a list – I would be too scared it would take days!!! Thanks for sharing the comentaries – very helpful!!

  3. Wow! So much… When I think I’m always using the same book + Internet.

    Thanks for the comments, it helps to choose which one I’d like (many gifts ideas). I guess I will have to learn to cook in English!

  4. “Oh it will take me a while to compile the list…”
    THAT was not a while for 150 cookbooks. That was in light speed ;).

  5. Yay, you did it! I thought I spotted some familiar spines when you first posted the pics of the shelves.

    Thanks again for posting them, now I can go update my Amazon wishlist and drive Mr. Spice crazy with further cookbook collecting.

  6. oooh, I have to recommend Bravo! Recipes, Legends & Lore.

    i only receieved it as a gift originally because i play violin, and of course a book published about the ann arbor music scene (right by me!) was a good gift..

    but it has turned out to have such fantastic recipes in it! i taught myself to cook real food for the first time with this book, and all of them are really, really good. so far everyone i cooked for has loved it, even if they normally hate the ingredients.

    they’re meant for dinner parties, so you usually have to tone down the portions a lot, though.

  7. Hi, Great organization! And love the book collection. Is there a trick for ordering on Amazon JP? I don’t read Japanese so I can’t quite figure it out. Is there a way to translate it and a way to order in US dollars? Thanks for your help.

  8. @1 from Lydia: Ah, then maybe you’re my cookbook sister! Enjoy poking around the list and feel free to ask questions (I didn’t go into much depth in my comments because of the sheer number of books).

  9. @2 from Sile: I just LOVE poking around people’s cookbooks; I was hoping it wasn’t just Spiceaholic and myself nerding out. Glad to hear that’s not the case!

  10. @3 from stephanie: Sounds like you might be interested in this eGullet thread on how many cookbooks people own. I’m currently taking comfort in the fact that I’m nowhere near the top (maggiethecat has 156,922 cookbooks!!!!!).

  11. @4 from Sophie: I love learning to cook in another language, but it does increase your odds of making a catastrophic cooking mistake. ;-)

  12. @5 from Jessika: Bwah ha hah — you’re right, I turned this around faster than I thought I’d be able to. I’ll credit it to obsessive tendencies…

  13. @7 from Spiceaholic: See what you started? ;-) Yes, looking at the photos in the other post, I can see how you can make out some titles but not all as the resolution is a little lower for loading speed. No longer an issue — thanks for giving me the push I needed to put something like this together.

  14. @8 from hyuju: Thanks for the book recommendation, hyuju! I’ll go check it out.

  15. Whoops, and only now do I realize I spelled receive wrong!

  16. @9 from Jessica: Yes, there’s a fast and easy way to turn Amazon Japan pages into English. In the right hand column (top) on any product page, there’s a little bit of text (“Would you like to see this page in English? Click here.”). It’s below the first blue bar, but above the shopping cart button on the right. That’ll turn your whole Amazon Japan shopping experience into English (with the exception of what’s written in the books themselves, of course!). You’ll be billed in yen by Amazon, and your credit card company would handle the currency exchange.

  17. Thanks so much! This could be dangerous..(inner bento monster starts to grin >=)

  18. Oh…’re hitting on one of my major weaknesses here.

    For vegetarian cooking, I have to note that I really enjoy Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. It figures pretty heavily in my rotation.

  19. Now only if we could get you to translate some of those Japanese cookbooks–hint hint :)

  20. Ok, I have to ask… why would you do anything different in preparing a bento for cram school? I’ll soon be starting one of the nearest American equivalents (bar review) and I can’t imagine what I’d need to do differently, lunch-wise.

  21. @ 14, I share those obsessive tendencies ;) I hope you are not surprised because you certainly shouldn’t be.

  22. Thank you for sharing this with us! It is a good neews for me because I sometimes feel guilty when I see how many cook books I have. I ordered moghul microwave but never received it. I think the best ccokbook for me is written by michele cranston “marie claire cuisine” and I know it exists in english since she is australian. Love also “the vegetable recipes I can’t live without” by Molly Katzen.

  23. @21 from Allison: Thanks for the vegetarian cookbook recommendation, Allison!

  24. @22 from Namahottie: But I’m having so much fun doing my thing here!

  25. @23 from Sunflower: Well, some of that Jukuben book is devoted to after-school snacks before cram school begins, to thermal bento foods for winter, and lunches that can be frozen fully packed and microwaved as is to save LOTS of time.

  26. @24 from Jessika: No, somehow that seems just right. ;-)

  27. @25 from fossettes: I certainly hope you complained about not receiving Moghul Microwave! That’s not acceptable customer service… Thank you for the cookbook recommendations; I’ll check them out.

  28. Hello Biggie! I’m glad you posted this list because I just got an interesting cookbook for my birthday and I thought it sounded like something you would like, as well. It’s Annabel Karmel’s “Lunch Boxes and Snacks“. I haven’t had a chance to try out the recipies yet, but they all look delicious, and it’s very bento-friendly. (In fact, most of the pictures feature bentos, although there’s no mention of them…she even uses your ‘foil as a drumstick handle’ trick! ^_^)

  29. @31 from Mary: I’ll have to checkout that Annabel Karmel book — she also wrote the First Meals book that I used to start Bug on solid foods. Her approach to a wide variety of flavors for kids works well for me, as Bug’s pretty accepting of new foods now (knock on wood!).

  30. I mostly stick to vegetarian cookbooks, but I recommend The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon – a good read as well as a good cookbook. She uses weird ingredients sometimes, and I modify most of her recipes, but she comes up with some really creative combinations. She’s a children’s author as well, and vastly entertaining.

    Another I really like is “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” and of course there is a regular version as well. I also recently got a copy of Buddha’s Table, a veggie Thai cookbook, and I’ve had really good results with it. Seems like he gives a bit more in-depth explanation than some of the other Thai books I’ve got.

  31. @33 from Kara: Thanks for all of the great vegetarian cookbook recommendations, Kara! I appreciate it.

  32. I have been doing the opposite – downsizing! I have only about 10 cookbooks or so, and I really only use 1 or 2. I’ve learned from past “lives” (college, single years, early marriage…)that my taste in books comes and goes…and I have Powell’s bookstore down the street from me. I like selling the old ones for the new ones :)My newest, current, favorite is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

  33. Hi! I am new to this site, but I must recommend that you look into “Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art” by Shizuo Tsuji. It covers so much more than simply recipies, but goes into techniques and equipment needed. I highly recommend this book!

  34. Just thought I’d say, Maggie doesn’t have 156,922 books – that’s just the running total of how many books the posters on that thread have together!

    I was shocked to discover I only have about 140 odd that I can see at the moment – but that doesn’t stop my future MIL from laughing at me for all the ones I do have!