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2021 CODES List-Cookbooks Announced

CHICAGO — The CODES List, a committee of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), has announced the 2020 selection of essential cookbooks for public libraries. The CODES List: Cookbooks 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 2020 that will meet this year’s unique needs and stand the test of time. They will become reliable favorites and nourish readers, today and for years to come. 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 Thursday, February 4, 2021 during the Book & Media Awards Virtual Ceremony.

The 2020 selections are:

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona by Jackie Alpers. West Margin Press.

Homey and yet polished, this small gem delivers a flavorful journey through southern Arizona cuisine. Bright, vivid photos and rich context convey the unique culture and spark any appetite.  A glossary of pantry items, cheese, and most importantly peppers, round out this title, that while specific to a region, will be a pleasure to all. Barrio Sonoran Sourdough Bread with Pistachio Compound Butter is a treat. 

Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets, and Railways of India by Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy. Clarkson Potter.

Combining a James Beard winner with a travel writer creates an exciting culinary tour of India without leaving your home. No lack of diversity here. The vivid pictures of the locations and the food makes readers want to cook their way through the book. Use the recipe for chai tea and make it an essential part of your day.

Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France by Melissa Clark. Clarkson Potter.

Well-known food writer Clark brings the delights and challenges of French cooking (by way of Brooklyn) into everyday home kitchens. From solid mains to a range of sides, soups, desserts, and more, her well-selected range of recipes delivers clear instruction, interesting personal detail, and multiple get-dinner-on-the-table options. Bake the French Yogurt Cake with Cherries and Cardamom, a versatile lovely loaf.

The Good Book of Southern Baking: A Revival of Biscuits, Cakes, and Cornbread by Kelly Fields with Kate Heddings. Lorena Jones Books. 

The friendliness and generosity of spirit that characterizes the South is a major part of this wonderful collection almost as if baker Fields were in the kitchen offering advice. From savory to sweet, to very sweet, these recipes are the result of years of family tradition and time spent in major bakeries. While all parts of the south are included, there is a distinct NOLA spin. Be seduced by the Fig and Brown Butter Custard Tart when figs are in season.

In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen. Ten Speed Press.

The conversations with the bibis (grandmothers) provide a unique and endearing perspective into their personal family cooking and the various foodways of these regions of Africa. The 75 recipes use simple procedures, simple ingredients to create incredible flavors. The Somalia Beef Stew and Malva Pudding Cake are winners.

100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen, with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. Chronicle Books.

Serving first timers and old hands alike, Kieffer steps bakers through solid basics such as ginger, oatmeal raisin, and multiple iterations of chocolate chip, before moving on to innovative techniques such as pan-banging and masterpiece recipes such as the Neapolitan. On top of its elegant and lovely design, accompaniments include ice cream and fillings. Make the Chocolate Sugar Cookies for a delightful twist on a classic.

Fresh From Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country by Michal Korkosz. The Experiment. 

For those who think of Polish cuisine as merely potato pancakes and cabbage rolls, this charming collection will be an eye opener and a treat to the palate. Poland’s strong agricultural tradition is reflected in vegetarian sensibilities and the use of modern seasonal ingredients. The photographs show the finished dish, and for some, like pierogi, are instructive as well. Try the Barley Risotto with Asparagus, Cider and Goat Cheese.

The Honeysuckle Book: 100 Healthy, Feel-Good Recipes to Live Deliciously by Dzung Lewis. Rodale Books.

This fresh collection delivers Asian inspired flavors married with a California family vibe. Perfect for anytime, Lewis covers it all, from coffee and tea to multipot cooking, while also providing tips, menus, and one-hour favorites. Most importantly, delicious recipes and mouth watering photography will make this book a new go-to in the kitchen. Enjoy the slow-cooked pork Bahn Mi Sandwiches.

Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence by Claire Saffitz. Clarkson Potter.

Saffitz eases the complexity of sweet and savory bakes with streamlined recipes and helpful hints. Going deeper than most cookbooks, she provides guidelines for time and difficulty and even the seasoned baker will benefit from the captivating and instructive photos. Experience the Babkallah, two familiar recipes unexpectedly combined. 

New Homemade Kitchen: 250 Recipes and Ideas for Reinventing the Art of Preserving, Canning, Fermenting, Dehydrating and More by Joseph Shuldiner. Chronicle Books.

Shuldiner and his Institute of Domestic Technology have resurrected the lost art of domestic science in this clever and informative book that covers all varieties of kitchen staples and is a nostalgic read from cover to cover. Curious culinarians and mixologists will be inspired to create, rather than buy, what is needed to fill their pantry. Refresh your larder with homemade mustard.

Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. Ten Speed Press. 

In an ode to Palestinian culture and cuisine, two cookbook veterans have brought together 120 recipes that reflect the geography and identity of a small piece of the Mediterranean landscape. The beautiful illustrations honor both the food and the place; the vibrant dishes reflect tradition and modern kitchen realities. Ingredients are readily available and techniques basic. The Eggplant Chickpea and Tomato Bake is a great place to start.

Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry. Ten Speed Press.

With a playlist that spans two pages and a suite of vegan-cool dishes, Terry’s offerings turn a head of broccoli or an ear of corn into a meal to savor and delight. His choice to organize recipes by base ingredient helps cooks find endless inspiration for dinner. Try the Barbecue Carrots with Slow-Cooked White Beans one cold, rainy weekend.

The CODES List: Cookbooks committee includes: Neal Wyatt, Library Journal, chair; Sarah Tansley, Chicago Public Library; Danise Hoover, Brooklyn, NY, and Sharon Rothman, White Plains Public Library, NY

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

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