It must have been something I ate - J. Steingarten
For sheer entertainment value, plus exquisitely mouth watering and complex recipes. Look no further, I've read this book 4 times over just for a laugh, and used his pizza dough recipe to great acclaim countless times. This from Vogue Magazines myth debunking, food writer extraordinaire, Jeffrey Steingarten. He's way nicer in writing than on TV, you'll love him, I swear.
Ratio: The simple codes behind the craft of everyday cooking - M.Ruhlman
Trains you to become a more intuitive cook. Great basic recipes for a burgeoning chef from sauces to pasta to consomme.
On Food and Cooking - The science and lore of the kitchen - H.McGee
For food nerds, biologist chefs and farmer scientists that want to understand why cakes rise, just how long those eggs will keep and the history of smoked fish.
Rebar Cookbook - Alsterburg/Urbanowicz
Health nuts, vegans and vegetarians love this book. I must confess, I make fun of every one of my friends that professes that their potluck dish is 'from the rebar cookbook'. I hate hippie food, but must confess that this book is worth it's weight in gold. And the restaurant is in Victoria, BC, so support local:)
The River Cottage - MEAT - H.Fearnley-Whittingstall
Just to counter the Rebar book, all meat eaters must get this one. If you eat meat, you should know about it from all aspects; farm to table as they say. This book is a candid look into how your meat gets to your table, why knowing about your farmer is important and how to prepare the bounty that comes from proper butchering of well cared for animals. Great recipes on how to use all of the animal and how to make brains taste like a million bucks:)
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
From one of my favourite magazines, Cooks Illustrated. This is the easiest cookbook for new chefs to use as the instructions are very explicit. You almost can't mess any of the 1200 recipes up. If you want to know how to cook the basics of everything perfectly... this is the book for you.
Taste - Sybil Kapoor
Sour, salty, bitter, chili, sweet and flavours are the categories for this amazing distillation of what makes our tongues tick. The recipes are simple and beautiful, just like Italian food. I can't recommend this one enough, but it may be out of print, not sure.
These books are mainly for super foodies, as you need nutso things like vacpac machines to actually make the food. I use them for inspiration; the flavour combos are mind boggling in this cutting edge culinary manifesto. This book is Grant Achatz's of Alinea Restaurant, Chicago which is consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in the United States. A former sous-chef at The French Laundry, Achatz won the James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award for 2008.
Moosewood Cookbook - Mollie Katzen
This is my #1 hippy, vegetarian go to cookbook. One of the worlds top selling cookbooks from the former Moosewood Restaurant, New York. Why? Because, purely, the recipes are simple and so yummy (love the stuffed zucchini). No pictures in this book though, booooo.
Wood-Fired Cooking - Karlin
One of my favourites for the backyard backyard barbequer or the camp cook. Fire does make things taste better, it's not just because you're hungrier outside. Gorgeous recipes from super simple cast iron bread (I get comments on this one all the time) to fire roasted marinated vegetables.