Slate has an interesting article by Sara Dickerman who put several cookbooks through the "Husband Test" to see which cookbooks were most likely to be reused by a husband who was learning to cook. Sara and her husband used several factors to determine which cookbooks would work best:
First, the reference quality: How many recipes does it provide? What kind of glossaries, nutritional information, or conversion charts does it offer? Are the illustrations helpful or purely decorative?
Next, the mushier but crucial category of style: Does the book have panache? Is it written in a way that motivates the neophyte chef? Is it organized well? Does it reflect the way people cook and eat today? How enticing are the recipes?
Finally, what I call "the husband test": How clearly did the recipes direct Andrew? Did the books succinctly define the terms used in the recipes? How did the resulting food taste? And crucially, would Andrew cook from the book when he wasn't helping with this experiment?
Cookbooks that were least likely to be reused by a husband were the The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 13th Edition and the Joy of Cooking. These cookbooks have thousands of recipes but don't have enough personality and are too factual to be re-used by a husband. The two books that did very well were How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and Marcella Says by Marcella Hazan. How To Cook Everything was 72% likely to be reused by a husband and had great definitions and a strong personality. Mercella Says had a very high likelihood of husband reuse score of 93%. Here's why:
MS is an intimate cook's notebook. The recipes have a fine-tuned quality that is hard to find in more comprehensive books, and Andrew responded to them immediately. His veal braised in milk and capers, rapini sautéed with chickpeas, and boiled rice with olives and chili were not stressful to cook, and the meal was, hands down, the best he made, with more complex flavors than any of his other offerings. "I'd eat this in a restaurant," he said without a hint of braggadocio.