Popular Instagram account Books About Food has amassed a following of thousands by carefully curating the best food books you may have missed. And now it’s gone a step further by launching a new site, which aims to be a comprehensive directory of top cookbook releases.

If you’re after some creative culinary inspiration, you need to follow Books About Food. As its name suggests, this popular Instagram account carefully curates the best cookbooks on the market, and it sets itself apart by pinpointing well-designed releases which you do not usually find on high street shop shelves.

The idea for the project began in 2016 when Popsa design lead and feed curator Jamin Galea took a short holiday in Paris. “I came across the most beautiful book called Five Morsels of Love in a bookshop called Artazart,” he tells Creative Boom. “At a glance, I couldn’t tell it was a cookbook – I picked it up to have a look, and it was incredible cover to cover. An amazing collection of family recipes with anecdotal stories, which was later referenced in a collection of essays put together by Daunt books called In The Kitchen, published in 2020.”

Sadly, the book was quite hefty, meaning Jamin could not fit it into his hand luggage. Not a problem, though, right? Surely he could just order it online when he got home? Apparently not. “It wasn’t available anywhere; I was gutted,” he reveals. “After some further Googling, I found out the book was self-published by the author herself, Archana, in Bangalore, India.

“I got in touch with her via Facebook and got chatting, eventually getting a copy shipped over. This experience made me think there must be hundreds of other beautiful cookbooks we don’t get to see just because they get lost in a sea of other book genres when they’re released or aren’t published worldwide. Somebody must start documenting them for others to see. Later that year, I started the Instagram account @books.about.food.”

With Books About Food, Jamin wanted to celebrate one of the best-selling non-fiction genres. He picks out the ones that he feels deserve more attention and are the best designed. By posting them to Instagram, he wants them to become more well-known.

“Alongside that, we want all the people involved in the making of the book to get publicly credited for their work,” he explains. “We want to try our best to change the industry and ensure all the people who work on these projects get the credit they deserve. To do this, we find who did what on each book and tag them. We’re not particularly interested in selling the books or giving them a star rating – there are lots of other resources out there that do that.”

It’s proved to be such a popular approach that Jamin feels like Instagram can no longer meet the needs of the project. “We get a lot of messages asking for advice on who to work with, which books are my favourite, what books I recommend, etc,” he reveals. “And on top of that, a lot of people have told us how they use the account for inspiration, to build mood boards for clients, to see what books are coming out next, and even to spot design trends.”

All of this is compounded by the limitations of Instagram. Visitors want to be able to filter the results and search for specific titles, something the platform is not geared towards. So, to step things up a notch, Jamin has been working with his friend Sam Garson to build a platform for the community where these functions can be achieved.

“After a year in the works, alongside our day jobs, we’ve just launched a website to accompany the account,” Jamin proudly announces. “The website is a design-forward, highly curated experience. It’s a much smarter version of the Instagram account, full of really useful features. In a way, think of it like it’s the IMDb of cookbooks. It’s a corner of the internet solely dedicated to the best in this genre (away from all the other books).

“It’s the only place online where visitors can see all the cookbook releases across all publishers in one place organised by release date and alongside a directory of all the people that make them possible — from cooks and authors to the designers, editors, stylists, photographers and others.

“Amongst features such as filtering covers by colour and frequent collaborator analysis, we also automatically generate portfolio pages for all the people mentioned in the directory, which they can manage themselves if they’d like.”

While curating the project, Jamin has been struck by how the humble cookbook has evolved from something quite utilitarian and instructional into objects that are a whole lot more. “The modern cookbook — the kind we’re interested in — is a piece of art,” he says.

“They’re a personal extension of the author. They’re subject-specific, full of stories, narratives and context, not just recipes. They’re pieces of art we very happily have on show on our shelves – these days, you barely see a photo of a kitchen or a living room without beautiful cookbooks stacked in them. They’re now a parallel to owning vinyl records. They’re extensions of us, too, in a way. We meticulously choose which ones we buy or gift as they say something about us too – we’re particularly fascinated by this.

“From an industry perspective, we learnt it takes a small village of highly-skilled creatives to put a cookbook together. We found that all the people involved in the making of cookbooks are really lovely people. We’re yet to come across somebody that isn’t. They’re incredibly passionate in what they do and are actively engaged in supporting each other – even across publishers.”

When it comes to deciding which books make the cut of the Instagram page, Jamin admits that it can be a subjective process. “We look at various things when considering which cookbooks to post on the account,” he says. “As a rule, we tend to go for less commercial books — ones you won’t necessarily see on a supermarket shelf.

“The first visual criterion is a simple, uncomplicated cover. If it’s a graphic cover, we look for colour blocking or a pattern of some kind. We like simple graphic shapes (with an idea baked in) or a really confident typographic treatment. If it’s an illustrated cover, we look for interesting quirks or amazing details. We rarely post covers with faces on unless the face is framed really well with graphics or supported by strong typography.

“If it’s a fully photographic cover, it’s even more subjective. But a smart crop, a clever idea in the styling, the lighting, and an overall visual balance are things we’d look for. Having described this, though, sometimes we do post books about food that might not fit any of the above. We like supporting self-published cookbooks, or ones that are for a good cause or initiative.”

If you’re an author or publisher with a book you think would be a good fit for the new platform, the Books About Food website allows account holders to submit their titles for consideration. All you have to do is fill out a short form so the team have all the relevant details.

“If you want to get featured on Instagram, drop us a DM or email — we reply to every message,” Jamin concludes. “Some publishers and authors sometimes send us copies of their books so we can have a proper look. If we like them, we also post stories about the internal spreads.”

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