We were lucky enough to be sent a series of galleys from William Morrow. These are uncorrected proofs of books coming out in the fall, in our case they are cookbooks with one wine book thrown in for good measure. The proofs were offered to us for possible review on this site. We are under no obligations and so we jumped at the chance to get a sneak preview. This way we'll know for sure which books we actually want to buy when they come out in November.
Uncorrected proofs are interesting because whether they are good or bad, you have to wonder what the final product will be like. Will it change dramatically or will it simply be a tweaking of typos and awkward grammar? We started with two different books. The one I'm reading is by a well known husband and wife team. The book is much like their first one, chatty and informative with very tasty sounding dishes. I haven't gotten very far into the book so I cannot yet speak to techniques or flavor pairings because those things take time to develop. So far it seems like an interesting book geared towards the average home cook. The writing is a little bit simplistic but the information is solid and the style is personable.
On the other hand Alex is reading a proof that we were both looking forward to, by a well known chef. Again, we are both in the first third of our books so it's a bit early to judge the overall effect but he has been somewhat disappointed by this offering. Mainly because in his opinion it is not written well. There could be loads of information and great stories but if the book is not well written then what is your incentive to slog through it?
Anyway, we're both going to attempt to read all of the books before we make a decision about which ones to write about. In theory we'll have access to interviews with the authors so that should make for some interesting blogging. We love talking to other chefs and cooks to get their take on things. But that's a ways down the line. My questions today are about cookbooks and the writing. Whose responsibility is it to make sure that these books are great reading material? Is it all about the pictures? Photos and recipes are extremely important, but to me a book is still a book and the writing is an integral part of the whole. Is it the chef's responsibility to make sure that the book draws in the reader and makes them want to run to their kitchens, or to the chef's restaurant as the case may be? Or is it the writer who partners with the chef who should be creating castles in the sky and seducing the reader into the chef's world. Do they stand in each other's way at times or are they each autonomous in their separate realms? The best books seem to come from writers who have or build a relationship with the chef/cook/oenophile that they partner with. Is it the editor's job to pull it all together into a cohesive whole? I ask these questions because I can think of a few books that were eagerly anticipated and incredibly disappointing due in large part to the actual contents or lack thereof between the book covers. There's so much time and effort that goes into the creation of a book, whether the final result is satisfying or not. It seems such a shame that any of them should be a disappointment. Of course I say this as a writer who has never had a book published, but then again I'm always collecting information for the future.