Thanks for offering your point of view, Free Rider. I appreciate the input.
Just so you know, let me address your last point first. The Review Staff is required to prepare at least two dishes from every book being reviewed, following the recipe exactly. Most make three or more to assure that they understand the author's style and method of handling ingredients. Or, sometimes, because there's such a diversity of techniques involved. When I was testing Molto Gusto, for instance, I prepared six recipes to assure I was assessing the range of dishes provided.
If a recipe doesn't work out, for one reason or another, most of the review staff automatically prepare an additional one to determine if the "bad" recipe was an aberation, or represented the author's work as a whole.
I would hope that community members who are not official reviewers would follow the same rule when posting a review. But, of course, I have no control over that.
Tell me more about your relationship to photos. This is something I have an on-going discussion about with a chef friend, and I'm always interested in insights from others. From your viewpoint, are photos of each dish a necessity? Something nice to have? Or are they even a tie breaker as to whether or not you buy the book?
Whether or not there's a cultural or historical context really depends more on the book than the review, wouldn't you say? Or are you saying that if the book lacks such you want the reviewer to specifically mention it?
Finally, virtually every baking book, certainly all the bread books, reviewed since I took over as Reviews Editor makes a point about volume v. weight measurements in one way or another. Are you saying you'd want non-baking books to be treated the same? Personally, I don't see the point of that. Most American cookbooks are given in volume rather than weight measurements, so it would have to be offered as a criticism of almost all cookbooks.