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Joy of Cooking: a Book that Shaped America

john's picture

Last month, the Library of Congress selected eighty-eight works of fiction and non-fiction from our nation's varied literary past--more specifically, books that have deeply affected the lives of American readers--to include in an exhibition entitled "Books That Shaped America." We are very proud and honored to report that The Joy of Cooking is part of this exhibition, which is designed to spark a national conversation about American literary works and the relationship we have with them. From the Library of Congress press release:

"This list of ‘Books That Shaped America’ is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books--although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "We hope people will view the list and then nominate other titles. Finally, we hope people will choose to read and discuss some of the books on this list, reflecting our nation’s unique and extraordinary literary heritage, which the Library of Congress makes available to the world."

Well, that's kind of a moist blanket. Though we are slightly biased, I think it's fair to say that "best" is at least a halfway-decent characterization of JOY (as well as Moby-Dick, which nearly tops my own, unofficial list). Seriously though, I can imagine the many belabored conference calls and discussions it took to get a consensus on the most influential books in American literature, and I am sure that omitting the implied value judgements a word like "best" conjures probably shortened the selection process by a few years. The fact we made it through the Library of Congress' deliberations and on to this list (sandwiched between The Sound and the Fury and Gone With the Wind!) is a testament not only to the lasting popularity of the book, but also its perennial, sauce-spattered place in American kitchens, ever-ready to help generation after generation of perplexed, curious, harried, or forgetful cooks.

We would like to thank the good folks over at the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library for their similarly grand gesture of recognition, and, most importantly, all of our devoted fans and readers who continue to make working on this book truly a joy.




Deacon CEC's picture

I am courious to know if I was to buy one copy of the Joy of Cooking which one would you you tell me to buy? The 75th addition or the All purpose? What does one have the other ones? Is there a real difference in the editions? Or is there such a thing as one that is newer and has some or all the old in it? I understand there is an even newer version available, what's up with that one. I went to Amazon and I got confused at the different dates they list! There is no preview, except for the older one. If you were to recommend a replacement for my worn out and tattered copy copy-written in 1987 I think...what would you suggest?

Confused, Deacon CEC

john's picture

You're right... after nine editions it's all a little confusing. I would recommend our current, updated ninth edition. It was published on our 75th Anniversary in 2006. The "All New All Purpose" JOY (8th edition) was published in 1997 and, due to many factors, is our least favorite (the family lost editorial control over that one). Many of the recipes worth salvaging from that edition made it into the 2006, which also restores sorely-missed material from the 1975 JOY (our all-time bestselling 7th edition, of which you have a 1987 printing).

I hope that clears up the confusion!
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