Alas, this isn't a perfect world, which is why I'm bookmarking reviewer T. Susan Chang's list of seven questions she asks herself when rating cookbooks. I think it is going to come in handy when I'm trying to decide if a cookbook is worthy of a spot on my shelf.Her questions consider everything from the clarity of the recipe instructions to the overall design of the book. Here is what she asks herself when reviewing cookbooks:
• Is it useful? Would an enthusiastic cook be able to find a week's worth of recipes in the book?
• Is it thoughtful? Has the author thought of the reader's needs?
• Is it new? Are most of the recipes fresh, not just the same old classics?
• Does it tell a story? Are the recipe headnotes and text a pleasure to read?
• Is it well-designed? Is it good-looking, with a design that doesn't get in the way of actually using the book?
• Is it focused? Is it more than just a random collection of recipes the author has cooked lately?
• Is it the best of its kind? If a book even comes close to a Yes on this question, it is a contender.
To qualify for her best-of-the-year list, a cookbook must have a Yes for the first three questions. The last four are a little more personal, reflecting what she looks for in a cookbook — thoughtful design, a compelling story — which also happens to be what many of us want from a cookbook.
• Check it out: The 7 Questions of a Cookbook Reviewer at Cookbooks for Dinner
• Get T. Susan Chang's recommendations: 2011's Best Cookbooks at NPR
What do you look for in a cookbook?
(Image: Faith Durand)