- Never buy a cookbook for the pictures. In fact, never look at the pictures because most of the "styled" pictures are not even food. They are make-believe just like magazine covers.
- Never buy a cookbook that is too broad (Great Recipes of the World, Fish Cooking, Splendid Soups) or too narrow (Grill Cooking, Oysters, Biryani).
- Never buy a cookbook on vacation. The fantasy clouds your judgment. You'll never cook from it ever again.
- Most cookbook authors just like novelists only have one book in them†.
- Don't give up your classic cookbooks when the author recycles them for an "anthology". This means they have run out of ideas.
- Rarely should you buy "celebrity chef" cookbooks. Remember, you pay for their talent at their restaurant not for a shittier home-made version thereof.
- Books that teach technical skills are worth their weight in gold. (The exceptions to the "celebrity chef" rule are ones that are technically engaged.)
- Always gauge how long an author has engaged with a culture before buying a book. The longer they have spent time, the more authentic the cooking is likely to be. The CC has made this mistake in three entirely separate languages. It's universal. The categories below are the only ones that should be purchased — they are in no specific order.
- A cookbook from someone within the culture.
- A cookbook from a first-generation immigrant of that culture.
- A cookbook from someone who has spent their life understanding that culture‡.
- Conversely, if an author seems to flit about cultures, all the books are crap.
- Shamelessly sell, donate or recycle. Cookbooks are worse than cars. They depreciate to zero the moment you buy them (with some rare exceptions.) So dispose them off if they no longer serve a purpose.
† Frequently, the first one is a masterpiece. In fact, the greater it is, the more skeptical you should be about the second. ("They poured out all their energy on the first one. There's nothing left.")
‡ The people living within a culture and first-generation immigrants are not necessarily the best judges of their own culture. In fact, their logic tends to be faulty or filled with superstitions and half-truths. It frequently takes an outsider to write cogently and analytically about something.