Book Details

How to Write a Great Book

Every writer's “how-to” book promises to reveal the secrets successful writers use to create great books. They never explain why they, themselves, haven't made use of those much-vaunted techniques to write their own great books. Have you ever seen any how-to books on lists of “great books of the world” or “books you must read before you die”? Have you noticed that the authors of such “how-to” books are rarely recognized as great authors, themselves?

Why do you suppose that is?

Author Details

Gary Allen
Gary Allen (who was once an illustrator) now cooks, eats, dreams, talks, and writes about food. After writing The Resource Guide for Food Writers (1999), he edited Remarkable Service for The Culinary Institute of America (2001). He's contributed articles to Culinary Biographies (2006), and Scribner's Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (2003). He was Associate Editor of, and contributor to, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (2004) and The Concise Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (2007). The Herbalist in the Kitchen, a reference work on herbs and spices, was published by the University of Illinois Press (July, 2007). He also co-edited, with historian Ken Albala, The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries for Greenwood Press (October 2007). He has contributed many articles to other food encyclopedias—from Oxford, Greenwood, and others—such as: Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia (2008); Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, 2nd edition (2010); They Eat That? A Cultural Encyclopedia of Weird and Exotic Food from around the World (2011); The Oxford Companion to Sweets (2015); Savoring Gotham (2015); The Oxford Companion to Cheese (2016); and We Eat What?: A Cultural Encyclopedia of Bizarre and Strange Foods in the United States (2018). Reaktion Books, in England, published three of his books: Herbs: A Global History, (2012); Sausage: A Global History, (2015); and Can It! The Perils and Pleasures of Preserving Food (2016). His most recent book is Sauces Reconsidered: Aprés Escoffier, (2019, Rowman and Littlefield). He has self-published five additional books: Human Cuisine —an anthology of writings about cannibalism—humorous, scary, thoughtful, disgusting, and touching—(print and Kindle editions, 2008, with Ken Albala), Terms of Vegery (Kindle only, 2012, with Karen Philipp), and How to Serve Man: On Cannibalism, Sex, Sacrifice, & the Nature of Eating (Kindle only, 2012), plus How to Write a Great Book and The Digressions of Dr Sanscravat: Gastronomical Ramblings & Other Diversions, both 2019. He's published occasional stories in others' anthologies: The Anxious Groom (2004); Prima Materia Volume 4 (2005); Fear and Loathing of Boca Raton (2007); and Let Them Eat Crepes (2010). “Wheeling” is one of those rare fictional pieces. Occasionally, 'midst chewing and swallowing, he writes for magazines (he's a regular contributor to Roll Magazine), e-zines, and symposia, including that of the Association for the Study of Food and Society, for which he served as their vice president, webmaster, and newsletter editor. He was, for years, food history editor at the James Beard Award-winning website, He has also published, for over a decade, a monthly electronic newsletter about online resources for food writers, which is now part of his blog, Just Served ( He speaks, or reads, at many events: libraries, bookstores, conferences, historical society meetings). You'll find a partial directory of his online writings at “A Quiet Little Table in the Corner” ( or visit his own website: “On the Table” ( In his spare time, he teaches food writing—plus courses in food history and culture—at Empire State College (part of the State University of New York).