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What makes you decide NOT to buy a book?   Go to last post Go to last unread
#1 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 2:56:15 PM(UTC)

I love cookie cookbooks and had been looking forward to the new Cookie Love that's being released tomorrow.  Thank goodness for the Amazon preview!  I discovered that this particular author uses XL eggs in all her recipes.  No one does that - except Ina Garten (which I find equally obnoxious).  I can't imagine why this author chose to do this but I'm certainly not going to stock my fridge with XL eggs just for this cookbook.


 


What is the one thing that would make you not buy a book?

#2 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 4:46:33 PM(UTC)

Originally Posted by: BethNH Go to Quoted Post


I love cookie cookbooks and had been looking forward to the new Cookie Love that's being released tomorrow.  Thank goodness for the Amazon preview!  I discovered that this particular author uses XL eggs in all her recipes.  No one does that - except Ina Garten (which I find equally obnoxious).  I can't imagine why this author chose to do this but I'm certainly not going to stock my fridge with XL eggs just for this cookbook.


 


What is the one thing that would make you not buy a book?



 


You could always just weigh the eggs, mix & make... at least if the recipes in the book are great! I have domestic hens that produce eggs of all different sizes - weighing works well!

#3 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 4:47:59 PM(UTC)

What a great question! My answer is decidedly vague, but sometimes I love the idea behind a particular cookbook and am tempted to buy it just based on that alone, but if I browse the index on EYB, the Amazon look-inside feature, or a copy from the library and there are not enough recipes that make me want to immediately start cooking or baking, I usually take a pass. As inspirational as it might be, the concept alone is not usually enough if a book doesn't have some recipes I would want to start making right away -- even if I don't actually start right away which happens more often than I'd like to admit! And even though I do both, I much prefer baking over cooking, so I think I am much more picky about my savory cookbooks -- getting dinner on the table is more of a practical matter to me whereas baking is more fun and experimental -- so I think I am more willing to take a chance on a baking book than a cooking book.

#4 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 6:06:33 PM(UTC)

Debkellie, you are right that I could weight the eggs but I have no interest in doing so.  Truthfully, it's absurd that this book was written using XL eggs when no other writer/chef uses them.  There are too many other wonderful cookbooks to buy.

#5 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 9:01:18 PM(UTC)

Format problems are often more of a buzzkill for me than content.  For example, size and weight -- a book that weighs more than three pounds needs to have a powerful attraction before I'd put it on my shelf, because it will take an extra effort to get it down again.


Cookbooks filled with pictures of the author -- no thanks. I don't care who they are, I don't want to see them, I want to see the food and/or techniques. 


No listing of the recipes anywhere (chapter tables of contents or main ToC)?  Not an absolute dealbreaker, but there have to be compensating attractions.


No index / weak index:  makes me decide not to buy the book, but also causes me to look extra critically at anything from the same publisher.


This one I admit is a personal quirk: Author on the front cover (unless it's on a removable dust jacket).  That goes double if tattoos are involved.

#6 Posted : Monday, April 6, 2015 10:01:32 PM(UTC)

I agree with all the comments so far but also find that I like to browse through the recipes a bit too.  If I find the cookbook calls for lots of strange hard-to-find esoteric ingredients, I pass it up.  Also, big dense books with really tiny print or fonts that would be really difficult to read while I was making a recipe also turn me off.  I like books that have large easy to read ingredient lists so that there is less chance of making errors while in the midst of a recipe.  I guess functionality rates high with me.

#7 Posted : Tuesday, April 7, 2015 10:34:57 PM(UTC)

I appreciate being able to see the recipes indexed on EYB -- then I get an idea of the range of recipes, and the type of ingredients used. Will this book require many ingredients that I need to go to a specialty or ethnic grocery for? Does it have a lot of herbs/spices that I do not regularly use? Also, does this book have a lot of recipes that I do not have in other books, or it does it mostly duplicate what is already on my shelves?


I also appreciate being able to examine the actual recipes, either on amazon or my local bookstore. I just need a few, to see the author's writing style and organization.


I appreciate lots of pictures of the recipes, as well as any unusual techniques. This often motivates me to choose a particular recipe. I am unlikely to buy a cookbook without photos, although I have a few on my bookshelves.


I enjoy pictures of the place for a regional cookbook; it helps give a broader sense of the culture. 


I will not buy any book with the author's picture on the cover. I consider this narcissistic. I am also critical of celebrities who publish cookbooks, especially if their fame is based on something other than cooking. If the author is NOT a celebrity, and has a few pictures of themselves enjoying food within the cookbook, that is okay. But I want mostly pictures of food, with a few regional scenery/culture photos (if it is an regional or ethnic cookbook).


I have a few cookbooks with poor indexes. This puts them in my "volunteer to member index" list, so that they would be more usable. 

#9 Posted : Wednesday, April 8, 2015 11:34:36 AM(UTC)

Measurements in cups instead of grams totally put me off. Why would any cook (and particularly baker) not have scales nowadays?  If the recipes are in cups they don't get my custom!

#10 Posted : Wednesday, April 8, 2015 3:35:23 PM(UTC)

I've become much more selective and may actually sell some of mine. I always read negative reviews first, if I'm curious about the reviewer I'll go look at other items they've reviewed. I'm mainly sticking with contemporary chef books and anything that's more technique driven rather than another recipe book. Because I'm limiting my future purchases, I'm no longer in the 1 cent plus shipping category. I have no problem paying 100 plus dollars for a book but only if it's a "must have" by professionals. I want to know what Daniel Boluud and David Chang have on their shelves, not other members here. No offense. 

#11 Posted : Wednesday, April 8, 2015 3:58:49 PM(UTC)

I'm going to be the anomaly here, but as a US home baker who has always used measuring cups and spoons, I am the opposite of Susan_F and am not thrilled to see a cookbook that only gives weight measurements. Call me stubborn, but that is just not how I bake -- even though I do have a kitchen scale. I prefer a book to have both measurements so that each person can decide for themselves, though hopefully that means the conversions and testing were done carefully and accurately. I can understand if non-US books don't have the cup measurements because I know they are not used in other countries. Objectively, I know that weights are more accurate, but I just enjoy baking the way I have since I was a child learning from my Mom. Joy the Baker actually wrote a post a few years ago that explained her feelings on the matter and it really resonated with me -- I was glad to hear I'm not the only one!

#12 Posted : Thursday, April 9, 2015 11:44:30 AM(UTC)

My pet peeve is poorly tested recipes and cookbooks with an abundance of errors.  The Splended Table had a great tip in an online article at www.splendidtable.org--"Recipe Testers: They make the mistakes so you won't have to":  Check the cookbook's acknowledgments to see who is thanked for recipe testing.  It will give you an idea if it was tested thoroughly or not at all.  


I avoid anything by a professional chef--unless I hear excellent reviews from home cooks.  Most aren't really written for the home kitchen and cooks.  Many times they require equipment I don't want to buy, or esoteric ingredients, complicated techniques, too much time to prep, etc.  I understand they may have skills that we don't; but that's why i'd go eat at there restaurant...not necessarily try to replicate what they do there. 


Too many esoteric or trendy ingredients.  I may be interested in flipping through a cookbook with 300 recipes for with kale, bacon, or shisito peppers; but I find I don't cook from it often.


The same-old, same-old:  I don't need 50 recipes for meatloaf or roast chicken either. 


There is a great article in Publishers Weekly from T Susan Chang who reviews cookbooks for NPR and the Boston Globe, among others.  She lists Five Mistakes that Make a Cookbook Unusable.


http://www.publisherswee...blisher-should-know.html




I tend to avoid anything that is too trendy.


I usually eschew anything written by or put forth by a professional chef--unless I hear excellent reviews from home cooks.  Most aren't really written for the home kitchen and cooks.  Many times they require equipment I don't want to buy, or esoteric ingredients, complicated techniques, too much time to prep, etc.  I understand they may have skills that we don't; but that's why i'd go eat at there restaurant...not necessarily try to replicate what they do there. 


Too many esoteric ingredients.  I may be interested in flipping through a cookbook with 250 recipes for with kale, bacon, or shisito peppers; but I find I don't cook from it often.


The same-old, same-old:  On the other hand, I don't need 50 recipes for meatloaf or roast chicken either. 


#13 Posted : Thursday, April 9, 2015 5:37:17 PM(UTC)

jenmacgregor18 - I don't know if you have realized but T. Susan Chang is Susie who writes a weekly blog post on Eat Your Books and also reviews new cookbooks each month in our monthly roundup of new releases.

#14 Posted : Friday, April 10, 2015 9:12:15 AM(UTC)

Ha Christine - I knew it would be an American who would disagree!!!!  I guess we have to use what we feel comfortable with (but if you can get a hold of the wonderful Bouchon Bakery, read page 25!).

#15 Posted : Friday, April 10, 2015 12:00:54 PM(UTC)

Jane - Susie does a great job!  I really enjoy the cookbook roundup :)

#16 Posted : Friday, April 10, 2015 1:52:14 PM(UTC)

I reject cookbooks that are "trend specific".  I don't need a cookbook to tell me a "light" recipe is one that has 2-1/4 cups sugar, but "reduced-calorie cream cheese" in a muffin mix.  I don't need to use a vegan cookbook to tell me to make a Chicken Ceasar Salad meat-free by removing the chicken and replace it with tofu.  I don't need a gluten-free cookbook (if I am one of the 4% people who really have a significant gluten intolerance) to make a bewildering assortment of breads, cookies, and cakes.  I really feel intelligent eough to make a Paleo diet by cooking in the manner of only 100 years ago, not someone's guess of cuisine 10,000 years ago. 


I am a sucker for pretty pictures...not that I'll make those recipes.  The Williams of Sonoma series of "365 Days of [soups, salads, desserts, etc.] are great for bedtime reading, and I am not sorry I bought a single book.  I also have become aware of my own personal level of expertise and food preference.  Taste of Home has great pictures, but I go for a little more weird (kale?  NO to Cool Whip).  Pro chefs assume I have access to food which is impossible to find here in far Northern California (whole milk mozzarella?) so that also limits which book I buy.


I have around 600 books, and tons of online recipe access now...thank you, EYB.  My little (relatively cheap) pleasures...I don't need to actually cook from a book to enjoy it. 

#17 Posted : Tuesday, April 14, 2015 6:18:55 PM(UTC)

I'm not a baker so issues of weights and egg sizes doesn't bother me in the slightest - I think I actually make sweet stuff and baked goods (beyond pizza) 2-3 times a year. I'm all about the savory stuff.


I've found in general most restaurant-chef books are not going to be for me. I might like to look at them for the beautiful photos and some technique information, but the recipes are rarely designed for even an advanced home cook. I'm sorry but I am not going to spend all day making 5 different components (each with 5-10 ingredients) for one dinner if I don't have a team of line and sous chefs cooking for me! Or, their recipes require too many ingredients I don't normally keep on hand/can't get without a specialty store trip or order. Also, sometimes such books aren't really tested properly for home-kitchen ovens and ranges vs. standard home appliances. I think this is why I've had a lot of disappointing results even from books by chefs I greatly admire when I've dined in their restaurants.


Also just in general not into the celebrity chef book that doen't have a strong focus on particular cuisines, but is some kind of "grab bag" of recipes they are known for or are too random. I have some dead weights on my shelf by chefs like Cat Cora and Jamie Oliver which fit that description.


Generally I am mostly into subject-specific cookbooks, be it a regional cuisine or one specific type of dish (vegetarian Indian, pasta, risotto, grilling, etc.) These are easier for me to search through when/if not on EYB but I have something specific in mind. And they tend to just be more easily followable recipes.

#18 Posted : Friday, April 17, 2015 1:06:43 PM(UTC)

Okay, I will be a bit of a contrarian.  :)


Here are things that will make me avoid a cookbook unless I hear a good review from a source I trust:


1.  There are too many pictures.  I buy cookbooks to learn recipes and cuisines.  More pictures means less learning.  The exception is pictures that illustrate techniques.  A few pictures of finished dishes are okay, but landscapes, market pictures, pictures of the author, etc. are no-nos for me.


2.  The author is a celebrity who has no training in the culinary arts and has never worked with food for a living, e.g. cooked or run a restaurant.  


3. The recipes are more appropriate for a restaurant setting than a home setting.  For example, they may require you to execute multiple sub-recipes whose yields are much larger than needed for the recipe you are executing.


4. The recipes are too detailed.  A few in-depth examples are fine, to illustrate a technique or class of recipe that may be unfamiliar to many readers.  Of course I am not objecting to people writing cookbooks aimed at beginners.  It is how we all start out and they are a good choice for some.  On the other hand, as an experienced cook I find it easier and more pleasant to follow a recipe that is clear and to the point.


5. The recipes are hard to read.  Tiny print, light-colored print, and page breaks that make you turn a page are sins.


6. The recipes are simplified but portrayed as being authentic.  I have no problem with simplifed versions of recipes or Americanized versions of ethnic cuisines - after all, the results can still be tasty and sometimes that is exactly what you want.  I just want "truth in labeling".


7. The book is a rehash of recipes from the same source that have previously been published.  An annual volume of recipes from a magazine is okay; a book full of the umpteenth versions of basically the same recipes by the same author/source is not.

#20 Posted : Thursday, April 23, 2015 1:23:32 PM(UTC)

I have to agree regarding pictures of the cookbook authors on the cover of the book, throughout the whole book, etc. Such a turnoff.  Maybe one photo inside the jacket or in the intro is ok, but there seems to be a trend of photos on the cover, and almost every page.


And maybe this is trite/silly, but I don't like the ones with "girl" in the title (unless it is really about a child!).


Poor indexing may be one of my biggest pet peeves. It really affects the potential usefulness of a book, although EYB is a good remedy for that :-).


I love it when the cookbook authors add variations to the recipes, and give info on how long the leftovers keep, and best ways to store, whether they freeze well, etc.  That's something I wish was done more often!

#22 Posted : Friday, April 24, 2015 3:19:08 AM(UTC)

ccav  :: I love it when the cookbook authors add variations to the recipes, and give info on how long the leftovers keep, and best ways to store, whether they freeze well, etc.  That's something I wish was done more often! ::


Same here.  I'm currently indexing (at a glacial pace) The Kitchen Garden by Sylvia Thompson.  While I'm not drawn to some of the recipes, I very much appreciate that she consistently notes how recipes or components can be prepared ahead, and how long the dish keeps.  She often offers variations and serving suggestions, too.

#23 Posted : Saturday, April 25, 2015 8:55:46 AM(UTC)
Rick Rodgers is always great at giving good information like this in his books, and in addition I always know his recipes will be a success. Same with Beth Hensperger, Mollie Katzen and of course others.

It really does show that experienced authors, indexers, etc....in a word, quality! -- brings so much value to books. It saddens me deeply that these traits are not always as important to publishers as they could be.


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