Cookbooks Are Hot at Libraries

BlogHer Original Post

New Cookbook BookshelfI have a cookbook problem. I like to be surrounded by dozens of cookbooks. It used to be that I'd go to the bookstore, hit the clearance section and end up leaving with a handful of them. That's changed in recent years. Now my browsing for cookbooks happens at the my library, and I'm not alone. According to Publisher's Weekly cookbooks are the number one non-fiction category in libraries.

"In a survey released by Library Journal February 15, 67% of respondents listed cookbooks (more than any other category) among the top seven categories of nonfiction circulation."

"Cookbooks edged out medicine and health, how-to and home arts, current events and politics, and even biography and memoir. They’ve surged in popularity from 2001, when just 27% of librarians put cookbooks among their top five. In fact, cookbooks’ popularity has increased incrementally every year since 2005, when 45% of respondents said cookbooks were in their libraries’ top five subjects, to last year's 67%."

This doesn't surprise me at all. Back in 2008, right about the time the economy started to tank, Reuters reported that cookbook sales were rising as people started to cook more at home to save money. It makes sense to me that people are turning to the library for cookbooks as well as bookstores..

Even though I check out oodles of cookbooks from the library, I still buy cookbooks and receive them as gifts. In fact, I'm soon going to need a new bookcase for my kitchen because the one I have is overflowing. But one of the biggest changes for me over the last five years is that instead of running out and buying a newly released cookbook, I'll usually request it from the library and give it a thorough going over before I buy it. Back when I was buying whatever cookbooks I could get my hands on from the clearance rack, I ended up with more duds than treasures. Ok, maybe calling them duds is a bit harsh but there were lots of cookbooks that just didn't blend well with my cooking style and preferences. They sat on the shelf taking up precious space when a more useful book could take their place. Running through books at the library first helps me spend my money more wisely. I still fall prey to the odd impulse cookbook purchase, but I've become far more picky about what I buy.

The other really big change on my cookbook shelf is who is authoring them. A few years ago it was cookbooks published by magazines and Food Network stars that lined my shelves. Now the people who top my cookbook wish list are bloggers. The first time I held a cookbook in my hands written by a blogger, I marveled that someone like me sat down in front of their computer and started a blog and somehow ended up with a cookbook. I have to resist the urge at blogging conferences to walk up to people like Stephanie O'Dea and say, "Do you realize you wrote a cookbook? And that it's like, in my kitchen?"

My kitchen has not been the same since blogger-authored cookbooks came into my life. Even though I'm not gluten-free I had picked up a copy of Shauna James Ahern'sGluten-Free Girl, which came in handy when a friend was trying a gluten-free diet to see if would help her health issues. Jaden Hair'sThe Steamy Kitchen Cookbook send me on a scavenger hunt in Chinatown as I tracked down Chinese black vinegar. Ree Drummond'sThe Pioneer Woman Cooks helped me gain the title of Queen of the 2010 Football Season among my husband's friends with her BBQ jalapeno poppers. (Seriously, my husband's friend will barter work for those things. It's awesome.)

Bloggers aren't just lining my personal kitchen shelves. My library has all of those books and many others written by bloggers. I have Mary Osten's (whom I tend to just call Owlhaven) cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a week currently checked out. I'm on the wait list for Erin Chase's $5 Dollar Dinner Mom Cookbook and Domenica Marchetti's The Glorious Pasta of Italy. It's too soon to tell if my library will be stocking Cannelle et Vanille's or The Naptime Chef's cookbooks because they won't be out until 2012, but they are both of my list of cookbooks that I need to check out.

Are you getting cookbooks from the library? Are bloggers on your list of must-have cookbook authors?

Contributing Editor Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

Photo Credit: phil_g | Original for BlogHer

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