Review: The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

11 Aug

The Cookbook CollectorMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I read this book in one day. I haven’t done that for a while, and it wasn’t a case of not having anything else to do.

Relationships are at the heart of The Cookbook Collector: siblings, friends, romantic partners.

Jess and Emily are sisters, and complete opposites. For the most part, they accept and yet resent each other, not understanding (or wanting to understand) what drives the other.

Their mother died when they were young, and Emily takes after their father– smart, analytical, and driven. Jess is also smart, but her interests are softer and more varied, and she’s not in a hurry to settle down and commit to a career.

Emily is a young CEO of a Silicon Valley high tech company, in a relationship with Jonathan, launching his own company on the east coast. Both are on the countdown to an IPO, worrying about future success of their companies. For all they have in common, they are very different people, and the book watches as they try to figure out their lives can work together.

Jess collects people, and it was interesting watching her pop in and out of conversations with her then boyfriend, her roommates, a neighborhood rabbi, the owner of the rare books bookstore where she works. It’s never clear how the pieces of her life will tie together, but for her, everything really is interconnected.

Add in Berkeley tree sitters, the nitty gritty of high tech life, book collecting, the dynamics of many different families, and more.

I really enjoyed the book, but had a few issues with it.

I expected to see more of Silicon Valley, but more of the action was in Berkeley. I suspect that’s a more interesting setting for most people, but I was hoping to see more of the streets I know. But that’s just me.

With all of the people involved in Emily and Jess’s lives, and in the lives of those people as well, there were points where I was having trouble keeping track of secondary character names. I think that is the one weakness of the book. It contains many stories, all worth telling, but in telling them all, the core is weakened.

All in all, a good read, and one I’ll keep thinking about.

Thank you to Random House for sending me this book for review.


Posted by on August 11, 2010 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Review: The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

  1. Colleen (Books in the City)

    August 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    This book sounds great and the cover is beautiful! Thanks for your review!

  2. Lisa

    August 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I heard Alan Cheuse review this on NPR not long ago and he really liked it a lot as well. I’m going with the theory that the two of you don’t necessarily read and enjoy the same books often so when two disparate readers both like a book this month, it’s got to go on the wish list.


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