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This TikTok Cookbook Is the #1 Book in the US
Plus: Introducing SPN Design Editor Frances Baca!!!!
Howdy cookbook fans!
And welcome to a very special issues of Stained Page News! I am thrilled to announce book designer Frances Baca has officially joined the newsletter as the SPN Design Editor! This means Frances will regularly contribute design pieces, including in these news digest issues. You’ll find her first entry, on Andrea Gentl’s Cooking With Mushrooms, below, but you also may remember her from previous SPN entries such as:
And here’s her bio:
Frances Abrantes Baca is a book designer, creative director, and publishing consultant working in Berkeley, California. She has designed and art directed countless cookbooks, and was the founding design director of the much-loved food and culture journal Gastronomica. Her work has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, the Society of Publication Designers, the Association of American University Presses, Graphic Design USA, the New England Book Show, and Bookbuilders West. You can hear more about her thoughts on cookbook design in the Salt + Spine podcast, and follow her work on Instagram.
Please welcome Frances to the best lil corner of the cookbook internet in the comments! And now, cookbook news.
I had to learn what was going on in my industry, in my craft, in my art, in my field. And so reading is absolutely one of the best pieces of advice I can give anybody. Read. I spent all my free pennies and free minutes as a young cook buying cookbooks. I now have a cookbook collection of over 2,500 books. I love to read them and reread them. It’s a wonderful thing.
TikTok Title Baking Yesteryear Officially A #1 Bestseller
I’ve talked a lot about TikTok food folks getting book deals in this space, and how many followers nets you a deal. What we haven’t covered a ton is sales: a lot of these books make the nonfiction charts, but a lot of them are also just doing well within their own niches. Which is fine, niches are sort of TikTok’s whole deal.
WELL. No more: Baking Yesteryear by B. Dylan Hollis is officially the bestselling book in the country with 126,987 copies sold as of August 4. Not the bestselling nonfiction book, the bestselling BOOK. Take that, Colleen Hoover. Hollis shares baking recipes from 20th century cookbooks with his 10.1 million TikTok followers, often making outlandish-seeming dishes that turn out well. And people love it: he sold more than twice the copies of the #2 book, dragon fantasy novel Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros.
RIP British cookbook author and artist Colin Spencer has died at the age of 89. Extremely prolific—he was also a novelist—Spencer wrote 18 cookbooks, including several vegetarian cookbooks and 2002’s award-winning British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History. For more (and there’s a lot more, he has a very interesting story), head over the the Guardian for an obit. [Guardian]
The Creative Brief with Frances Baca
Cooking with Mushrooms by Andrea Gentl
Foraging mushrooms in the mountains and forests of Northern California, I recall fondly the memory of holding handfuls of freshly picked chanterelles, morels, and porcini—their earthy, gritty bodies resting lightly in my hands. In an astonishing feat of design magic, Andrea Gentl’s Cooking with Mushrooms vividly captures this sensation. The book is impossibly lightweight, its faintly grained cover printed end to end with a gorgeous photograph of various fungi—their creamy browns, yellows, and oranges peeking around hot pink vertical O-bands (paper bands that wrap around the front and back covers). The entire package evokes the look and feel of a basketful of mushrooms.
My delight at the physicality of the book doesn’t stop there. The interior pages feature a cream-colored uncoated paper (lacking any type of finish) that has the toothy texture of a mushroom, soil still clinging stubbornly to its skin. Uncoated paper is an unusual choice for a cookbook. Coated paper, whose smooth surface prevents ink from pooling and spreading in its grain—resulting in crisper type and images—is almost always a publisher’s first choice for punchier photos and cleaner all-around print reproduction. However, the expertise of Cooking with Mushrooms’s printing and production team, not to mention Gentl’s mastery of light and shadow (she shot the photographs along with her partner, Martin Hyers), capture beautifully every minute detail in the images. “The paper feels almost alive,” remarks Gentl, and, indeed, running your fingertips along the photos is a surprisingly satisfying tactile experience.
Designer Su Barber treats the content with restraint, setting the pages in quiet sans-serif type with ample white space. The only touches of muted color appear as a few small circular sidebars and slender stripes along the edge of each chapter’s pages—also a handy navigational element. “My guiding principle was to let the photography and writing take center stage,” says Barber, adding that the design grid underpinning the composed pages allows the photographs to set full frame, without any cropping. Gentl’s photographs certainly merit this respect—they are exquisitely detailed, dramatically lighted, and elegantly styled, yet they manage to feel completely accessible—and are well complemented by the simple recipe design.
Cooking with Mushrooms's cover, however, is the real stunner. The publisher, Artisan, further shunned convention by bravely embracing a design without a title printed on the front cover. Only an impressively abundant selection of mushrooms stretches from front to back, with the title and author printed on the spine. “The team was excited by the idea of a photo-only cover,” remarks Barber. “Everyone loved that the paper band communicates the necessary information while the book is for sale, but can be removed after purchase.” The eye-catching pink (an inspired last-minute color choice by Gentl) O-bands perform the necessary duty of—on the front—identifying the title, subtitle, and author, and—on the back—displaying blurbs. But once they are slipped off, we are left with a remarkably unique cookbook that feels sprung from the very earth that inspired it.
GAME TIME Kotaku reviews Venba, an Xbox game in which you solve culinary puzzles to help a Toronto-based family who have recently immigrated from India to piece together a family cookbook. (The game is named after the mother of the family.) The review calls the game, which seems to have somewhat simple gameplay paired with impactful storytelling, “deceptively resonant.” [Kotaku]
Coming Attractions: Mamrie Hart, Sam the Cooking Guy, Fat + Flour, Pastabilities, Cocktail Farm
Mamrie Hart, co-host of the podcast This Might Get Weird, to write All I Think About Is Food: A Vegetarian’s Guide to Never Missing Out on the Fun. The book will be comprised of dinner party recipes, including “meals composed of leftovers designed to cure even the worst hangover.” The PM copy says the photography will be “campy” so that’s something to look forward to. Countryman, Pub date TBA.
YouTuber Sam the Cooking Guy (3.57 million subscribers) to write his third cookbook: Sam the Cooking Guy and the Holy Grill. Grilling! Countryman, pub date TBA.
Baker, cookbook author, and owner of LA’s Fat + Flour bakery Nicole Rucker to write Fat + Flour, with recipes for “cookies, cakes, and pies,” with home cook techniques. Knopf, pub date TBA.
Jeffrey Eisner, who has written several cookbooks, to write Pastabilities, “with low-effort, maximum-flavor pasta recipes and photographs of every step.” Voracious, pub date TBA.
And last but not least, Belinda Kelly and Venise Cunningham, founders of Simple Goodness Cocktail Farm in western Washington State, to write Drink Your Garden, with drinks recipes and tips for planting a cocktail garden.
Texas cookbook author and filmmaker Adán Medrano, who is perhaps best know for coining the term “Texas Mexican” and his extensive writings on the foodways that term encompasses, has donated his archives to the University of Texas at San Antonio Mexican Cookbooks Collection. According to a press release, the collection includes “drafts of the two books, menus, recipes, research files, speeches, presentations, lectures, essays, photographs, course material and notes from his time as a student at the Culinary Institute of America.” [UTSA]
Cookbook review: Vegan: An Indian Cookbook by Niaz Caan. [The Caterer]
8 ways to organize your cookbooks. [Homes & Gardens]
The oldest cookbooks in the world! [Daily Meal]
10 cookbooks from Vancouver. [Victoria Buzz]
Okay that’s all for now cookbook fans! Have a good week. Say hi to Frances in the comments. Smell you later!!!