The value of single-subject cookbooks

Pretzel Making at Home

Single-subject cookbooks are suddenly becoming quite popular. Susie discussed this trend in her blog, Return of the single subject cookbook, giving them a ringing endorsement, " all the things we love about books - the sheer amount of  value packed into one appealing, portable package - are what make single-subject books so irreplaceable."

To carry on the discussion, there's an interesting article asking Should You Write a Single-Subject Cookbook? on the Will Write for Food blog. Written by Andrea Slonecker, who wrote Pretzel Making at Home (a single-subject cookbook if we've ever heard one), she points out the pros and cons of writing a single-subject book from the author's side.

The obvious major pro is the fun of really delving into a subject about which you're passionate. There is, however, another pro - easier publicity. As she points out, "Total immersion in the subject makes the author a go-to expert, which opens the door for further opportunities such as interviews, articles, and, for some, spokesperson work."

The major con is also obvious: The subject had better be fascinating, as you're going to have to live with it for a long time. And another con - these books tend to be lower priced.

She also gives another interesting piece of advice - be sure to differentiate between a fad and a trend. Trends last longer, giving the book legs, and are usually about ingredients rather than cooking style. But they are also more popular to write, so there probably will be competition. With fads, it's all about timing - the book has to be the right book at the right time.

Actually, this provides an interesting perspective for purchasers as well as authors - something to think about before investing in a cookbook. Maybe with fads, it's better to borrow than buy.


  • FuzzyChef  on  7/2/2013 at 10:59 PM

    As a cookbook reader, I find the value of single-subject cookbooks rather dubious. I think I've checked out a dozen different ones from the library in the last year, and I didn't even *think* about buying any of them. The problems with these cookbooks are several: 1. who really needs 40 recipes for guacamole? 2. despite their lower cover prices, SS cookbooks still seem light on a recipes/dollar ratio. 3. authors tend to get desperate and start throwing in ludicrous or off-topic recipes to make their page count. The last is the real tragedy, especially for otherwise competent recipe writers. I borrowed a "desserts in jars" cookbook this year, and toward the end of the book, the author had resorted to recipes involving placing cookies in jars to make their count ("Bake cookies. Place in jar"). And this was a, by all other accounts creative and competent cook. The only SS cookbook I own is "bagels", and that' basically because I got it for a dollar at a yard sale, and I still use the basic bagel recipe.

  • krusso119  on  7/3/2013 at 1:46 PM

    There are somewhat silly single subject books like "100 of the Best Guacamole Recipes" - and than there are single subject books on subjects like pickles & fermentation, cheese-making, making fresh pasta, bread making, making ice cream, books about oysters, sushi, soup, etc. that can be fascinating, very in-depth and extremely educational. Its ridiculous to put all single subject books into the same category as to value. I own at least a hundred single subject books in my cookbook collection (and I'm sure that's a very conservative estimate) and the vast majority of them are quite wonderful.

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