The most popular cookbook for the year you were born

It’s always fun to take trips down nostalgia lane, and especially so if the journey involves cookbooks. The folks at Delish have a treat for by way of a listing of the most popular US cookbook for the year you were born. The only caveat is that the detailed portion of the list only goes back to 1980; those of us older than 38 have to make do with the top books of our respective decades. 

cookbooks on shelves

It should be no surprise that for the 1930s, Joy of Cooking topped the list. The 1940s saw James Beard’s Hors D’ouvre and Canapes (revised in 1963 and 1985) taking the top spot, and by the 1950s, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (first published in 1950 as Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book) was at the peak. There is no top cookbook listed for the 1960s, but it may well have been the same as that for the 1970s, the epic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Its first printing was in 1961, and has since sold millions of copies. 

If you are under the age of 39, the list shows you the most popular book for the actual year you were born, starting in 1980 with the first edition of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. I’m not certain what sources they used to determine the popularity of the books, since there are some headscratchers on the list. Was 1992s Are You Hungry Tonight: Elvis’ Favorite Recipes (reprinted again in 2002) really the most popular for that year?

Did that volume outperform Cuisine Economique by Jacques Pepin, The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook by Brinna B. Sands, The New York Times Cookbook (1992) by Craig Claiborne, Simple French Food by Richard Olney, or Moosewood Cookbook, New Revised Edition by Mollie Katzen? ‘Are You Hungry’ wasn’t the only Elvis themed cookbook for 1992, either – there was also Fit For A King: The Elvis Presley Cookbook. My favorite book for that year was Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion by Marcel Desaulniers. Oh, the 90s. 

If you are looking for the name of the most popular cookbook to put in your child’s or grandchild’s memory book, in recent years two big names have been trading the title of most popular book back and forth. Since 2012, the most popular cookbook has been by either Ina Garten or Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman). Using the EYB Library as a source for most popular, since the early 2000s, Yotam Ottolenghi and Jamie Oliver would compete with Ina as the top author, with Nigella Lawson also in the running.

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  • Jane  on  July 31, 2018

    I'd love to know the source for their top-sellers information since some of those listed seem suspect (apart from the Elvis titles Darcie mentioned). E.g. I love Marcus Samuelsson but was The Soul of a New Cuisine really the top selling cookbook in 2006 across the whole USA? And a food encyclopedia (albeit a very good one) was the top seller in 1999? Though the picks from 2013 on are the same as in our own posts about the US best sellers so maybe I shouldn't be suspicious.

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