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Lindacakes

Culling Your Cookbook Collection

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We all love to collect cookbooks; we have many threads devoted to our cookbook collections, which cookbooks to buy, best of the year, best of type, etc.

What about when you want or need to cull your collection?

I just have too many and I need shelf space. I've devoted a lot of time to this activity already, sifting through the books, shifting my existing book collections around, moving things off the shelves to make space.

One of the ways I've been able to cull is to pull the many baking books I've received as gifts. My friends mean well, but they don't know what to pick. Then there's the books I've gotten for a couple of bucks. Some I can't bare to part with, but good cookbooks are really easy to find second hand -- most people who inherit them don't know what's good or of value.

I realize I have a lot of books that are strictly for reference, even if they aren't reference books. I've got a lot of books that I think are beautiful, particularly candy and cookie books, that I just want to have around and just want to look through. I also have an entire shelf of various shades of Asian cooking, and I don't cook Asian food . . .

What to do? How do you cull your collection?


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Did it with my teeth gritted. Quite painful. Am not finished yet.

Go, girl.

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Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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I bought a lot of cookbooks when I first really got into cooking (at university), and in retrospect, most of these are not particularly great cookbooks. I haven't ditched them yet (mostly because they've been packed away), but when they're unpacked soon, I don't see a need in keeping them.

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Obviously there are cookbooks that I'd never cull....no way...no how.

Cookbooks that are on the potential cull list generally only have a few recipes that I'm interested in anyway, so I don't usually find it a bit painful to save those recipes and then send the book off to eBay or wherever.


~Martin

Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist, contrarian and natural born skeptic who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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I'm in the process of doing this now. It is taking much, much longer than it should. It is an (almost) impossible process. As someone mentioned above, I also bought many cookbooks (particularly baking books) when I first started learning and doing. Now I have more of an idea of what I like and which ones I actually will use, whether for reference or for the recipes. I brought several up to Housing Works yesterday, and I sold two a little while ago (they were particularly expensive books; buyer was happy, seller was happy). I also have a lot of the "discount" books, but some of them are so offbeat I want to hold on to them, even though I don't use them. Ay, there's the rub -- wanting to hold on to things, even if I don't use them. My non-food-related books are also a part of this winnowing, which is particularly difficult because re-reading is one of my favorite things in the world. Well, this should be my biggest problem in life!

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I've done some serious culling a couple of times. I try to be as cold-hearted as possible. My criteria are cooking usefulness (including reference information), reading enjoyment, and emotional association. First, I triage: absolutely no way, probably no way, possibly way. I then go through the possibly way group--more than once, if needed--and choose the lowest-rated, so to speak, based on those three criteria.

What helps is that I donate the departing books to my local community college's culinary program. Some go into their libray; the rest are available for students to take. All are tax-deductible, within the limits of the law.

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Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and their readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

"A vasectomy might cost as much as a year’s worth of ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it’s equally enjoyable." -Ezra Dyer, NY Times

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I have put books that I think I can part with in a box and put it in the basement. Later when I come across that box I look through it again. Seeing there is no more room on the shelf and I have not missed the books I usually take the box to the big second hand book store in town . Then at the counter if I have any regrets I take the book back home. That does not happen very often.

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I do this often---mainly because I buy cookbooks at the used bookstores and don't feel bad about spending $7 and under on hardbacks I might only use once or twice. I keep them 6 months to a year or so, then re-sell back to the same stores. Some books make the "keepers" cut, others are resold for bookstore credit. I've found fantastic bargains this way (first editions, signed copies, out of print treasures). I see it as "renting" the books for a while, then reselling to get a new batch to consider. I cull when the bookshelves get too full; I put the duds on specific shelves. Once the dud shelf is full, back to the bookstore I go.

As of late, I've also been buying single-topic cookbooks as e-books. I needed cracker & crisp recipes to develop materials for a cooking class, and it was way cheaper to buy 7-8 cracker cookbooks in e format over paper format. I won't be using them very often, but they're a nice recipe resource.

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Okanagancook, great process. I think I'll get onto it. Like others above, I too have the sort of cookbook that one buys in the beginning of a cooking career...except that I started very late...and should really part with the ones (which aren't too marked up, too stained, too broken, etc) which can still be recycled.


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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I have turned my family (daughter, SIL, son, DIL) loose at Christmas, asking them each to pick a certain number off my cookbook shelves. Each of them cooks, and they have different interests except they all like bread books. I have one bookshelf of "don't touch" books, and should they pick one off the other shelves that I'm not ready to give up, I write their name in it to have later. My best friend also comes in for a selection. I'm usually surprised by the books they choose, and sometimes I have to suggest a similar book I think they would like better.

All other books I either re-read and save, give to charity, or send to my niece, but I'm thinking I really need to sell some of those. I read about a book a day, and they do pile up.

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Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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My public library takes all books and they have a book sale once a year. for about $ 1 for the better ones. they do well and the place is mobbed.

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I have some I'd love to get rid of, but I am so damn lazy that I don't want to go the Ebay route. I'd love to donate them somewhere, but where? Does the DAV take cookbooks? Public library?

Yes to both, at least here in Florida. Also, check with your local extension office. HTH!

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"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I ended up shuffling around my collection and learning that I enjoy reading about food as much as cooking -- a large portion of my collection is intended to be reference.

I parted with baking books for the most part -- I try not to eat wheat and that limits what I'm able to bake when I have the time to bake. Knowing that helps me target which books I really want to explore more.

I have a collection I moved into the kitchen that are not-serious books, books to help me do quick vegetable dishes mostly. Books I could let go of, but in the end may be books I'd actually cook from more than reference. Those I can let go of.

And, I cheated, and moved a bunch of stuff (i.e., not books) off the shelves so I'd have more shelves!


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I'm culling mine little by little and putting them on ebay. Mostly I am getting rid of books I bought in the early '90s and some holiday and regional cookbooks that are not of much interest to me.

I still have to delve into the footlockers of books that have been stored since before I moved up here in 1988.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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I had two Charlie Trotter books in the pile to get rid of, mostly because I've had them for ages but don't use them. I bought them when I was just becoming interested in food (I kept reading about this guy called Charlie Trotter). But since I was always more interested in baking rather than cooking, these books were things I would get to "later." I have "Gourmet Cooking for Dummies" -- yes, really -- and "Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home." They are no longer in the "culled books" pile, and the "Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home" book is getting a serious look-through.

Any books you've gotten rid of but later regretted?

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Something you might consider if you have books you definitely don't want is selling them through Amazon's Marketplace. It's not difficult to set up an account, and although Amazon takes a small cut, they take care of pretty much everything. Especially if the books are old, you may be able to sell them for more than list price. Although most of the books I've sold this way have gone for $20 - $30, I got $100 for a bar book I bought for $10, and $90 for a cookie book I bought for $15. If the books are out of print and still in demand, it can be worthwhile.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Something you might consider if you have books you definitely don't want is selling them through Amazon's Marketplace. It's not difficult to set up an account, and although Amazon takes a small cut, they take care of pretty much everything. Especially if the books are old, you may be able to sell them for more than list price. Although most of the books I've sold this way have gone for $20 - $30, I got $100 for a bar book I bought for $10, and $90 for a cookie book I bought for $15. If the books are out of print and still in demand, it can be worthwhile.

I'm curious, if you don't mind telling, what were those books?

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The bar book was The Bartender's Guide and the baking book was Great Cookies. The prices seem to depend largely on what's out of print or just out of stock. As I said, these two were anomalies, but it's been pretty lucrative for me.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Hmm. The books I've offered to Amazon have been worth peanuts compared to what I paid, and their "small cut" has been rather large. I wonder what I've done differently than you, JAZ?

Ah well, I console myself with the donation to the "Friends of the Library" booksale, or to friends' collections, and the knowledge that I enjoyed the books until I decided to find them another home. (But still...what did you do differently? :laugh: )


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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it's something I need to do in the coming weeks, I'm out of space and have books on top of books. I will move my German books to an other room and start getting rid of magazine books (cooking light etc) and other books I never use. My "admired chefs and restaurants" books will stay. I might move my specialty books out of the livingroom too, charcuterie, pickling, things like that.

I actually could get rid of Modernist Cuisine, I doubt I'll ever cook from it, but I won't. Nor the Fat Duck book, which I own twice, the first large edition and the smaller mass market one. Very doubtful I'll ever use them. But they're so pretty :-)

But my recently self imposed rule is, if there's no room, no more new books, or old books have to go. At least into a box in the garage....


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I just tried Amazon last night and ended up aborting the mission. They want an outrageous cut and I'd rather give my books away, even the valuable ones, than give that kind of support to Amazon.

Now that I've filled up a box, it's getting much easier. I get happy when I find something else I can throw in there. I like the clarity that is coming through in what's left.

I'm keeping the box around for a while and I keep looking in there and there's nothing I want to retrieve.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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I just schlepped a full box of cookbooks up to Housing Works last weekend. I did have a few pangs at first, but they didn't last. Now I need to refill the box for round two.

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I just tried Amazon last night and ended up aborting the mission. They want an outrageous cut and I'd rather give my books away, even the valuable ones, than give that kind of support to Amazon.

That was my sense of Amazon, also, although I may revisit the issue with regard to valuable books, if I ever decide to part with them. For the books I've given away so far, I've much preferred the feeling that I've given to a useful cause, and I wasn't obliged to wait for a buyer.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Since I started this thread, I had to vacate half of my space and most of my cookbooks are in storage. Interesting to see what I grabbed to keep with me. Mostly fruit and vegetable books, only three baking books including Paula Peck and Maida Heatter's chocolate book. I was sitting on the fence with a whole box of oversize baking books. They were sold. I miss them, though, I just plain liked looking at them.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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