I receive a lot of cookbooks as gifts and to test and I’m very picky about the ones I let take up space in my kitchen. I donate five or so for every one I keep, these are the ones that made the cut; the ones that are, for me, the best cookbooks of all time.

book on quilt with coffee

“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it.
Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?” 
― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

What You’ll Find Here

This is a carefully gathered, much-loved collection I started when I began learning to cook from Julia Child and my mother-in-law almost 20 years ago. You’ll find cookbooks for beginners, vintage cookbooks, cookbooks for baking and entertaining, and several others. The point of the post is these are the ones that work. The recipes aren’t always simple (though many are), but they are reliable.

Where To Buy Them

Before you buy any cookbook, I encourage you to check it out at your local library and to check out Thriftbooks and eBay for used ones, as well. I love to comb thrift stores and used book stores in search of my favorite cookbook authors. Most of the links here are affiliate links, and you can find almost all of these cookbooks on Amazon, but I never recommend anything I don’t truly love. Several of them are also free on Kindle Unlimited lately.

cookbook with spices on table

The List

  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child
    But, of course… French cooking is my first love, and this the encyclopedia of French cooking; a must for any serious cook. 
  • Baking with Julia – Dorie Greenspan
    Companion to the tv show on PBS, this book, for me, is the gold standard of baking cookbooks. I always go here first. Everything I’ve tried turns out perfectly; biscotti is my favorite. 
  • One Bowl – Kelly McCune
    I think this is a terrible name for this cookbook because it makes it sound like just another casserole cookbook and it couldn’t be less so. These recipes do end up in one pot but they are quite advanced, with complex flavors. McCune’s biryani is a staple in our house, and easily one of my favorite recipes ever. Her pho will take you ages to make – like pho should – and is completely worth it. I’m also excited to try adapting some of these recipes when my Instant Pot gets here. Stay tuned…
  • How to Cook – Delia Smith
    This was a gift to me when I first started learning to cook, and I am grateful. It’s one of those cookbooks I pick up and read with tea or coffee because it’s a delight to browse. Her recipe for eggy, perfect pancakes will change your breakfast game for good. 
  • Nordstrom Friends & Family Cookbook – Michael Northern
    Nordstrom recipes never fail. I have literally used every recipe in this book. I can’t pick a favorite. 
  • Nordstrom Entertaining at Home – Michael Northern & John Clem
    I hosted a luncheon three years ago and served six different salads from this collection. People still talk about it – they’re that good.
  • William Sonoma Cookbook – Chuck Williams
    My stepfather was the first great cook I knew. This, his favorite cookbook, was published in the 80s and is the one I reach for most for recipes that never fail and nostalgia’s sake. (His favorite WS apron is still my go-to, as well.) Unfortunately, I can’t find it anywhere to link to it, but I think you’ll find most 80s-era WS cookbooks to be successful. You can keep an eye out at Thriftbooks and eBay
  • The French Laundry Cookbook & Ad Hoc – Thomas Keller
    I can never get enough Thomas Keller (watch his classic chicken video); these books are beautiful and a joy to read and cook with. They are not beginner books nor quick recipes. These are for when you want to take your time and enjoy cooking with truly impressive results. **Update – Both are available to read on Kindle Direct as of the date of this publication, check them out here!
  • It’s All Good & It’s All Easy – Gwenyth Paltrow
    These bring a contemporary edge to my cooking when I’m in the mood. It’s very easy for me to slide into French and Italian meals every day because that’s my comfort zone, but when I feel like exploring new ingredients and learning new things, I reach for one of these. It’s All Easy is my favorite, the ingredients are a little more complicated in It’s All Good, but both are fantastic. The recipes are quick and easy, and so clean. Some of our favorite weeknight dinners come from Paltrow.
  • In A French Kitchen – Susan Herrmann
    Full of delightful stories and characters, this book is not actually a cookbook but is such a joy to read. The simple, delicious French recipes are perfection. My lunch and breakfast tables are getting fancier by the day. 
  • Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes
    This is to Italian cooking what French Kitchen is to French. Also more story than recipes, it gives an insight into the daily, simple cooking of Tuscany and inspires all kinds of beautiful, often rustic, dishes. There is an actual cookbook by Mayes, as well and I’ve been meaning to grab it but for now, the novel is my dogeared recipe source. 

Coming Soon – My Favorite Healthy Cookbooks

I didn’t include my health food and diet cookbooks on this list. If you’re looking for diet ideas, I really love the Sonoma Diet (the absolute best Mediterranean diet plan, and totally foolproof weight loss, in my opinion), and the Flat-Belly Diet. I also use a lot of Suzanne Sommers‘ recipes when I’m trying to go as healthy as possible.

I’m currently checking out Anthony Bourdain, Ina Garten, and Lidia Bastianich cookbooks I’ve recently received. I like to try recipes from each category before I make a recommendation, so stay tuned for more on those three. I also have some new Emeril cookbooks I can’t wait to report back on.

Lastly – have you tried Kindle Unlimited? For just $9.99 a month, you can get access to over 1 million books – check it out! I’d love to hear about your favorite cookbooks and online resources to add them to my “to read” stack. Thanks for sharing!

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