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How do you organize your cookbooks?


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on top of the bookcase is periodicals

top shelf is for savory cooking

second shelf is savory and sweet reference (joy of cooking, etc.)

third shelf is baking/pastry

fourth shelf is dessert/chocolate

bottom shelf is oversized (art culinaire) and all those damned expensive spanish pastry books

but roles of books/definitions can change at any time for any reason and it is beginning to be a tight squeeze. i'm trying not to buy any more books at this time.

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We installed glass-fronted cabinets in the dining room to house our modest cookbook collection. The cabinets also house wine glasses and knickknacks. As the cookbook collection grows, the knickknacks will be displaced.

The filing system is idiosyncratic, combining subject matter and size. Categories include general cookbooks, international cookbooks, fruits and vegetables, alcoholic beverages, and an embarrassingly small baking section. These divisions will change as the collection invades new territory.

Music is simpler because CDs and LPs are each uniformly sized. Since size is not a factor, music can be filed alphabetical by artist name within genres. Occasional inconsistencies surface, e.g., King Tubby is filed under “K”, but Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf reside together under “W”.


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Congratulations, dvs!  This is the fun part of moving.

Here's how mine are organized, by shelf (each shelf goes tallest to shortest from left to right).

-things I don't use or don't use much, but like:  Junior League, food producer books and pamphlets, celebrity cookbooks that i don't use much. The Jif Choosy Mothers Cookbook and Dom DeLuise's Eat This, You'll Feel Better fall into that category.  So does the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, and the cookbook by the Ladies' Club of the First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange, GA.

-Reference books: The Food Almanac, Larousse, etc., go here, as do my CIA textbooks.

-Binders of recipes, including my coursework from the CIA, FCI and other places.

-Books I use a lot, like Joy, The Way To Cook, Cake Bible, Classic Home Desserts.

-Beautiful, coffee-table style cookbooks that I use: Charlie Trotter's first one, French Laundry and Bouchon, Elements of Taste.

-I also have a shelf for stuff that I like to read like Ma Cuisine, Fork It Over, Cod, Salt, Gallery of Regrettable Food, Soul of a Chef, Fast Food Nation, Omnivore's Dilemma, etc.

-One shelf of ethnic cookbooks and restaurant cookbooks, and one shelf for stuff like my James McNair and California Culinary Academy series', and a Bon Appetit series.

I also have every issue of Saveur, and every issue of Cook's since it went to no-ads.

-The ones I really don't like (heh) are in the basement, holding up the foosball table, or being used as a printer stand here (spines to the wall).

YOU HAVE A FOOSBALL TABLE!!?? :jealous: :wink:

thanks everyone...

i've gone by size and most used. really, i have less than 50 for now but the wine books of mr. dvs have their own shelf as well.

thanks for all the replys!!

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Mine are sort of 'organized confusion'. I have 200+ just Chinese and they are well organized, and I just have to reach to the books 'spot' to get it. All others -- and there are shelves and shelves of them are placed in their categories -be it regional- ethnic - diet - informational or what, but each doesn't have its own parking space as do the Chinese books.

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YOU HAVE A FOOSBALL TABLE!!?? :jealous:  :wink:

thanks everyone...

i've gone by size and most used. really, i have less than 50 for now but the wine books of mr. dvs have their own shelf as well.

thanks for all the replys!!

I had a foosball table before I had a dining table! Just a few pieces of plywood over the top, and a nice cloth, and voila. And yeah, I was a grownup, with kids, before the dining table was purchased.

I am loving the photos of books and shelves from the others. How's about it, dvs? Let's see yours!

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have one of those 4 shelf Ikea bookcases that are broken into 3 sections per shelf along my long kitchen wall. The top shelf center are my workhorses, i.e. those books that I go to when I want to know how a dish was done by a particular cook. The book has to earn its spot there, it has to be something I refer to regularly. This shelf also includes the recipes I've clipped over the years in addition to my deceased grandmothers handwritten recipe for rolls. Everything else is grouped loosely by cuisine or theme (Foods of the World and The good cook). Magazines are on the bottom shelf grouped by season.

Then there are the 5 banana boxes of cookbooks upstairs that I might need if my interests go in a different direction.................

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I must buy more bookcases and try to find a place to put them. I am considering having a wall removed between my library and the bedroom next to it. Heck, who needs more than one guest bedroom?

Ooops, I shouldn't have mentioned that to my housekeeper. She just said, "What, even more to dust? At least get the ones with the glass doors!!"

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"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


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I keep Raw Power easy to access by never removing it from the CD turntable; it's been in slot #3 for 4 years now; seriously.

I only have about 35 cookbooks, so nothing is that hard to find. Although I had a girlfriend break up with me, caused, in large part, by the fact that I kept Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal on the cookbook shelves.


This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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  • 7 years later...

I have amassed right at 400 cookbooks over the years.  What I have no idea of is ORGANIZATION.


I tried the Dewey Decimal System,  seems it works far better for the rest of the Chemistry Section than cooking.


I tried to do this by topic, what do you do then with Joy...?,  It is very general, especially with N. Americian cooking, I have all three versions.


I am really interested in curing or other preserving methods but this is really close to BBQ and grilling and Butchering.... So how does one type cast a book for that  to work?


You see my problem. How do you do this?  What works for you?Thanks in advance for your help.  I am a big picture guy in most things, I am terrible with details, this is where I have to deal with details or I find little.I use Eat Your Books and Library Thing but then I have to literally read the binding to find the book,  what a pain.



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Hop on down to your local library and check out their shelves. As I recall mine does a decent split of general purpose, specific cuisine, diet specific etc. When I was flummoxed about the name of a title I could generally trace it through its location - it makes that much sense

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General categories with a misc. category at the end. Arranged favorite (or most used) to least favorite (or least used) in each category.

That's what works best for me.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian 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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Here you go:


Link to the shelves (scroll down a bit) and RRO's explanation




"As for the colour coded books..there are two reasons for that. One is, as I mentioned, we have A LOT of books and apart from one shelf of queued newbies, have pretty much read all of them. I also have a pretty strong visual memory, so I realised one day that the majority of time I was looking for a book, I was first picturing it visually in my mind and then irritatedly scanning nine bookcases for books with that colour spine. It was a short jump to thinking that this is how I should organise my books in the first place, though it wouldn't work for everyone I realise. (It's actually been quite controversial among my friends, many of whom dismissed it as frippery and something the village idiot would dream up!).

As for the doing..chronic insomnia.  :rolleyes: I average about 3-4 hours a night, and when you're regularly awake at 4am looking for something to occupy yourself with, reorganising that many books seems like a worthwhile endeavour. wink.gif "

Edited by heidih (log)
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I have pastry books in one bookcase, a shelf of general pastry books like the textbooks on a variety of topics, then on the other shelves they are grouped by topic: bread, ice cream, cake decorating, sugar showpieces, etc. The other three bookcases have some topical sections, like management/logistics, catering, food history, cheesy old cookbooks, celebrity chef authored, kids, modernist, vegetarian, cocktails/wine -and then the rest are by region or country. I have a shelf of general cookbooks as well: 3 editions of the Joy, a Fannie Farmer from 1906, Ranhofer with a deco binding, Amy Vanderbilt w/illus by Warhol, an 1837 pharmacy receipt book, a couple Escoffier versions, etc.

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I use pretty much the same categories that Lisa Shock mentioned above.  Something like that allows you to choose the categories that make the most sense for your own collection.  Lisa uses sub-sections for her extensive pastry/baking/dessert collection as you might for your meat/butchering/grilling books. 

There are always some judgement calls - my Alice Waters books are in with the vegetarian cookbooks rather than the celebrity chef books but at least that narrows it down to two shelves to scout through!

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For books about a specific cuisine, I have them ordered geographically from west to east on the shelf. For books about a technique, I have them ordered from "light" (steaming, salads etc.) to "heavy" (braising, grilling). For general food interest books, I have them arranged alphabetically by author.

PS: I am a guy.

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I don't use a tight system, but have them somewhat organzied into 'countries', famous chefs/restaurants, meat, bbq, baking, pickling/preserving, etc. No particular order within those areas on the shelf. A book on Korean bbq would most likely be in bbq, so specialty books go into that section, Korean cooking would be in countries.
Books like Joy etc are in a 'general' area, next wo which is a small area of vegetarian.
lightly organized chaos always works best for me, I usually remember where I put a book last time I used it.

"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 always thought arranging books by spine color was hilarious, but I realize people really do it. They must have brains that work that way. But cookbooks especially either lose their jackets or never had them, so what do you do faced with 20 whitish spines in a row that are not easily readable?

I don't have that many cookbooks, but mine are often organized by how much they get used: frequently consulted books are easily at hand on a lower shelf, the ones I can't part with but rarely use are way high up and require a ladder. The only books that are organized by topic are baking books and ice cream books, and they are in the middle, easy to reach for my tall husband who does most of the baking and all the ice cream making. I have limited space for cookbooks, and I rarely purchase new ones. If I do, I try to give away the ones I really don't need, so the numbers remain fairly steady.

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A perpetual nightmare!  I separate into very rough categories depending on how I think of each book, and then sort within the categories:

- General purpose books (Joy, the Best Recipe, How to Cook Everything, etc)

- Region/ethnicity books (Mastering the Art of French, Thai Food, etc)

- Food groups/techniques (charcuterie, pastry, bbq, etc)

- Specific chefs/restaurants (Keller, Jean-George, Daniel, etc)

- Miscellany (for all the oddities)

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I sort according to country of cuisine/author (Italian, French, Indian, Spanish, Nordic, Greek, American Chefs, UK Chefs, etc). I also have sections devoted to Modernist Cuisine; Cooking Techniques; General Cooking Instructional Texts; BBQ, Charcuterie and Fermentation; Ingredients Cookbooks; Pastry, Bread and Desserts; Vegetables and Vegetarian; Food Science and Safety; Cheese; and Wine and Drinks. I also use the same categories in my Kindle cookbook library.


With over 1200 books in electronic or hard copy, I find this the best way to keep track.


I also use Eat Your Books to search indexed cookbooks for recipes with ingredients that I have on hand or am considering.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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If you look at each of your cookbooks, which are all non fiction books, on the back side of the title page there will be

copyright info, publishers address and info about the publication etc, and on down below that there "should" be a paragraph

of "pre-cataloging information".  That pre-cataloging info (or Cataloging & Publication Data if it's LC) is what cataloging  and acquisition Librarians use to sort the books into the Dewy (which would be in the 600's applied science) or LC (Library of Congress) cataloging schemes. 


There are plenty of free software's you can download to use for this task. Including using the ISBN  (international Standard Book Number)  


Remember, not every book will have the pre cataloging info.  This information is similar to what web sites use as meta tags and

meta descriptions.  You may have to look for it on the first few pages of your cookbook.


There some ideas on this thread at Chowhound com





And you can look through this Google page regarding free software to organize cookbooks. Remember, some  of it is free and some of it is shareware or trial software. 


Google page query:





You may even shop at some culinary specialty shops and find software for organizing cookbooks or recipes.


If you want to spend some time,  you could go to the New York Public Library and look to see if you can find your cookbook by

title and see what Dewy number that they assign to it.  Similar with the Library of Congress and see if you can find each of your books and see what LC number they assign to it.  Then organize your cookbooks by those numbers.   These are BIG Libraries

and may have all or most of your cookbooks.


NY Public Library:






Library of Congress:



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