What Makes a Good Cookbook Review?

Mark Rotella, senior editor of Publishers Weekly, edits Cooking the Books newsletter, which includes 8 to 10 cookbook reviews.

Mark Rotella, senior editor of Publishers Weekly and editor of the Cooking the Books newsletter, hires cookbook reviewers for PW’s newsletter, which carries 8 to 10 reviews per month.

(The pay is $25, and there’s no byline. If you’re interested, see info at the bottom of this interview.)

The reviews are aimed at bookstore and library buyers, so reviewers rarely test a recipe. The cookbooks Rotella selects are mostly from big names. I spoke with him about what makes a good cookbook review and why:

Q. What is the most important question to ask yourself when approaching a new cookbook for review?

A. See if it lives up to what it purports to do.

I tell my reviewers not to review the book on what they want it to be, but whether the author or publisher has accomplished what they set out to do, and whether they do it well. I usually cut out the part where the reviewer says I would have liked it better if they did this, except when ingredients are hard to find, or when the book needed an index or resource section.

PublishersWeeklyQ. How do you do see if it delivers on its promises? 

A. You’ve got the title and subtitle. You make sure all the information is there, and you figure out what’s different about this book and why would it stand out. Flip through to see how it’s laid out and what it feels like.

Q. How important is it to read the book from cover to cover?

A. That’s a good question. I expect [Read more…]