Essential Cookbooks 2024: The CODES List

BALTIMORE- The CODES List, a committee of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), has announced the 2024 selection of essential cookbooks for public libraries. Essential Cookbooks 2043: The CODES List highlights titles for both avid home chefs and those just learning the rewards of making a meal. The list further supports those who appreciate the many joys of reading cookbooks, even if they rarely venture into the kitchen. As judged by librarians who cooked from them and hosted book groups about them, these are the cookbooks from 2023 that will stand the test of time, become reliable favorites, and nourish readers. This juried list marks an initiative from CODES to help librarians identify works destined to become the backbone of our most popular collections, works that serve as sure bets for readers and standards of their genre. Look for more lists in the coming years addressing additional topics vital to public libraries.

The list was announced Saturday, January 20, 2024 during the Book & Media Awards Ceremony at ALA LibLearnX.

The 2023 selections are:

Baking Yesteryear: The Best Recipes from the 1900s to the 1980s by B. Dylan Hollis. DK. ISBN  9780744080049.

Hollis brings his immensely popular exploration of nostalgic baking adventures on Social Media to the page in this highly entertaining and fun cookbook. He has researched and modernized recipes from antique cookbooks to highlight memorable standouts like Tomato Soup Cake, along with some not-so-palatable ones (Pickle Cheesecake). This fun trip down memory lane is sure to spark conversation and experimentation!

The Cook’s Book: Recipes for Keeps & Essential Techniques to Master Everyday Cookingby Bri McKoy. Revell. ISBN 9780800742942.

Laying out the basics, from tools to techniques, intended to elevate even the most beginner home cook’s game, McKoy recreates her online The Everyday Kitchen Masterclass on the page. Beyond guiding readers through sauces, soups and sides, there are chapters on everyday food and wine pairings and setting up a bar cart. The author’s reassuring “you can do it!” tone shines through in recipes like Eat, Pray, Love Pasta and “Julia, Ina, and Bri Walk Into a Bar” Stew.

Every Season is Soup Season: 85+ Souper-Adaptable Recipes to Batch, Share, Reinvent, and Enjoy by Shelly Westerhausen Worcel with Wyatt Worcel. Chronicle Books.  ISBN 9781797220307.

Worcel presents vegetarian recipes with suggested meat additions and interesting twists to satisfy your cravings from hearty to light, hot or cold. Soup, the ultimate comfort food, is naturally versatile and allows everyone to follow the instructions exactly or let their interpretation reflect favorite flavors and on-hand pantry provisions. This compilation of one-pot wonders and embellishments takes cooks from preparation to storage. Gruyere, Cauliflower & Potato Soup stands out as a velvety masterpiece to savor.

The Global Pantry Cookbook: Transform Your Everyday Cooking with Tahini, Gochujang, Miso, and Other Irresistible Ingredients by Ann Taylor Pittman and Scott Mowbrary. Workman. ISBN 9781523516858.

Kick up your kitchen game with the 51 featured ingredients – from anchovies to marmite to za’atar – with this compendium of recipes, food prep, shopping tips, and more. Extensive background is given for each, including source, use and storage. The authors bring their shared culinary experience and cultural backgrounds with creations like Singapore-ish Succotash and Oaty McOatface!, designed to get those back-of-the-cabinet bottles and jars into rotation.

Juke Joints, Jazz Clubs & Juice:  Cocktails from Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin.  Clarkson Potter.  ISBN 9780593233825. 

In a comfortable chair or as part of a celebration, enjoy the classic and innovative recipes that originated in the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Tipton-Martin provides historical backgrounds for each recipe and a bibliography of unique resources.  Readers can also check out no-alcohol (“Zero Proof”) drinks.  If you’ve never heard of an Arf and Arf or a Cosmockpolitan, gather your friends and try these concoctions.     

Latinísimo: Home Recipes from the Twenty-One Countries of Latin America by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780525659259.

Gutierrez, a respected food authority, provides an encyclopedic collection of home recipes arranged by ingredient rather than geography. Capturing a broader connection between these primarily Spanish-speaking countries, the author’s lifelong collection includes dishes that home cooks make today, a perfect book to taste and explore Latin American cuisine. Don’t miss Pasta con Palta (Pasta with Avocado Pesto) or El Picadillo de Nikki (Ground Beef with Olives and Capers).

Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours by Adeena Sussman. Avery. ISBN 9780593327777.

Sussman invites us to experience Sabbath meals from her Tel Aviv kitchen with food created in a relaxed atmosphere with deep cultural roots. Dishes inspired by memories of her youth along with contributions from chefs and home cooks encourage us to come together to relax and unwind around a tantalizing table. Since Jewish tradition suggests Sabbath as down time with little to no work, these dishes showcase sound preparation and smart cooking techniques. Share Chicken Thighs with Roasted Figs & Grapes with family and friends to nourish souls and appetites.

Signature Cocktails by Amanda Schuster. Phaidon Press. ISBN 9781838667559.

Schuster’s stylish compilation of cocktails traces 600 years of the evolution of mixology.  Each two-page spread relates the creation story, date and place of origin and the recipe beside a handsome photo of the drink.  From well-known classics to contemporary takes, there is something here for every tippler, plus a set of detailed indices that will make aficionados swoon. The tasty Suffering Bastard created in 1943 at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo will quench the thirst of bourbon or brandy and gin lovers and leave them wanting more.

Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook: A Cookbook by Sohla El-Waylly.  Alfred A. Knopf.  ISBN 9780593320464. 

Not the “kitchen sink” of cookbooks, but close enough.  With clear instructions, beautifully- illustrated techniques, honesty and great humor,  El-Waylly guides and encourages the readers through essentials for all the major food categories.  Emphasizing that learning is a process, and mistakes can be fixed, readers will embrace the relevant “Get Loose!” and “What the Hell Happened” pull-outs. Start or finish your day with a (Better Than Drake’s) Coffee Cake.  

Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds by Hetty Lui McKinnon. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780593534861.

This approachable and gorgeous vegetable-driven book highlights both the love and care McKinnon shows in her work as well as her attachment to and appreciation for her heritage, East Asian by way of Australia. Stories of her late father are expertly woven between the recipes creating a delight for readers who desire a lasting relationship with food, family and history. Chocolate-Eggplant Brownies and Pea and Kimchi Falafel illustrate the inventive and surprising nature of McKinnon’s flavorful fare.

Veg-table: Recipes, Techniques, and Plant Science for Big-Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals by Nik Sharma. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9781797216317.

A standout that aims to ensure every cook’s success, Sharma offers a number of features that make this cookbook especially pleasurable to cook from, beginning with valuable information on selecting and storing produce, suggested pantry items, and a blessedly minimal list of tools and equipment. Every section includes lush photography and thought-provoking tidbits on the origins and histories of the star ingredients. If you have ever struggled to love lima beans, try the Chilli Beets + Lima Beans with Cucumber Olive Salad; it’s like taking off Clark Kent’s glasses and finding Superman underneath.

A Very Chinese Cookbook: 100 Recipes from China and Not China (But Still Really Chinese) by Kevin Pang and Jeffrey Pang. America’s Test Kitchen. ISBN 9781954210479.

In this warmhearted and deeply personal volume from America’s Test Kitchen, bantering father and son duo, the Pangs, educate readers on Chinese cuisine. Detailed ingredient information, tools, and techniques, with the help of numerous instructional photos, translate into many mouthwatering dishes with difficulty ratings from novice to advanced. A simplified Scallion Pancakes recipe produces perfection in a fraction of the typical steps.

Essential Cookbooks 2023: The CODES List committee includes: P.J. Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, NC, chair; Dodie Ownes, Denver Public Library, CO, vice-chair; Ron Block, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH; Jessica Jones, Takoma Park Maryland Library, MD; Edward Kownslar, Stephen F. Austin State University, TX; Jean Moats, Johnson & Wales University, NC; Christa Van Herreweghe, Kirkwood Public Library, MO.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need. Learn more at