cookbooks on bookshelf

Recommended Reading

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved cookbooks. As children, my sister and I would nestle on the sofa, The Encyclopedia of French Cooking opened between us, and we would turn it carefully, page by page, scrunching up our noses over the sautéed chicken livers and sighing over the Raspberry Charlotte and Grand Marnier Soufflé. I didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, but I knew I sure wanted some.

My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was eleven, James McNair’s Pie Cookbook, and I made every pie in the book. It was the beginning of what has become a carefully chosen and beloved collection that completely dominates our living room bookshelf.

Here are some of my favorite books, organized in the following categories: Urban Homesteading, Cookbooks, For Young Readers, Food Memoir, and Food Blogging. I say ‘some’ with all honesty, as it was very hard to narrow the list down, while keeping it diversified.

However, this is a growing list! Check back occasionally to see what is newly added, and don’t miss my monthly series, Bite this Book, for more recommended cookbooks, author interviews and giveaways.

Note and disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I do not accept payment in return for featuring a book. All the links below take you to Amazon. When you click, it takes you to their website, and anything you purchase there (not just the book) will help support Simple Bites. Thank you in advance for your support.

Urban Homesteading

Managing a homestead isn’t all baskets of pretty blue eggs and bushels of newly harvested baby greens – there is a lot of sweat, grime, and yes, blood, that goes into it. Good solid reading and reference material are essential.

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living

by Rachel Kaplan

Cover for Urban Homesteading bookAs pretty as it is useful, this resource touches on everything you need for getting your urban homestead up and running, with a wealth of DIY projects from chickens to compost, canning and cheesemaking. A gem of a book; it will engage you with its color photos, helpful charts, and practical sketches.

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

by Jeff Potter

Cover for Cooking for Geeks bookThis is Danny’s preferred cookbook, obviously appealing to the engineer that his is. Geeky or not, this is a book packed with information. Every time I pick it up, I loose myself between the covers for half an hour, usually reading one of the many fascinating interviews with food professionals like David Lebovitz and Lydia Walshin.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

by Gail Damerow

Cover for Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens bookThe only resource you will ever need for raising chickens, I am convinced. Covers breeds, coop structures, health issues, butchering and much, much more.

Cookbooks

This is not a ‘best of’ list of cookbooks by any means, but these are the ones I can vouch for, believe in, and frequently cook and bake from. I have accidentally ripped their covers and spilled flour on them. I’ve left them stacked up on the kitchen counter, within arms reach because of recipes between their pages that are calling me.

Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Everyday

by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Dundan

Cover for Spilling the Beans cookbookA straightforward and thorough book on beans that also manages to be utterly elegant to boot. Spilling the Beans contains scads of new dinner recipes and an entire section on baking delicious desserts with beans.

Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round

by Marisa McClellan

Cover for Food in Jars cookbookPacked with full-page color photos, and engaging anecdotes from Marisa’s food-centric upbringing, the Food in Jars cookbook is a fresh approach to home preserving. It holds a wonderful assortment of over 100 recipes from pickles to jam, fruit butter to salsas and much more. The small batch recipes make them approachable for novice canners, and there is enough variety in the recipes to entice the more experienced home canner.

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes

by Joy Wilson

Cover for Joy the Baker cookbook I love Joy’s pretty cookbook because no recipe comes across as daunting, and yet most seem special enough for an important occasion like Mother’s Day or girlfriend’s birthday. The children love her Carrot Cake Pancakes and Browned Butter Rice Crispy Treats, while I go straight for anything with chocolate.

Savory Sweet Life: 100 Simply Delicious Recipes for Every Family Occasion

by Alice Currah

Cover for Savory Sweet Life cookbookPractically organized into sections by occasions, like “Snow Day” and “Game Night” as well as holidays like “Mother’s Day” and “Christmas Morning”, Alice’s cookbook packs plenty of inspiration between its covers for every sort of celebration. Alice’s warm and reassuring voice and her beautiful photography makes this a delightful cookbook to work with.

Perfect One-Dish Dinners

by Pam Anderson

Cover for Perfect one dish dinners cookbook

I’ve discovered that what makes guests most happy are simple meals with quality ingredients that are packed full of flavor; oh, like every recipe in Pam Anderson’s Perfect One-Dish Dinners. This cookbook opens up a whole new spectrum of ideas and inspiration that will have you wanting to entertain every night.

Gourmet Today

by Ruth Riechl

Cover for Gourmet Today cookbookEveryone should have a cookbook in their repertoire that is the absolute last word on everything from apples to zucchini. When I was growing up, that book was Joy of Cooking; no matter what I was preparing, I knew I could always find a recipe there. But times have changed, and as Gourmet Today author Ruth Riechl put it, “You aren’t eating the way you used to…the time had come for us to create a new cookbook, one dedicated to the way we are eating right now.”

Now, Gourmet Today is my resource for all things vegetarian, grilled, and much more. With recipes for ever occasion (and budget), this cookbook truly meets today’s needs.

For Young Readers

Many of our favorite childrens’ books relay important messages such as sustainability, preserving the harvest, trying new foods, hospitality, local eating, and growing your own food. Others are just plain silly. Each one is frequently brought to bed and requested at story hour.

The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes

by the fine editors at Phaidon Press

Cover for the Silver Spoon for Children cookbookYippee! Finally here’s a cookbook for my kids full of well-balanced recipes that feature wholesome ingredients such as beans, fish and vegetables. All dishes are depicted with absolutely charming step-by-step illustrations that present cooking as fun – and easily holds the attention of my 5 and 7 -year olds. This is the cookbook that will nurture an appretiation of good food and help inspire a lifetime love of cooking.

The Little Composter

by the fine editors at Phaidon Press

Cover for the Little Composter board book for childrenThis one is for the babies, as it is never too early to encourage a connection between food and nature. As this adorable lift-the-flap board book is currently Clara’s favorite, I had to include it in the bunch.

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat

by the fine editors at Phaidon Press

Cover for Minette's Feast book for childrenAny parent that has ever entertained a romance with the city of Paris or an affection for Julia Child will fall under the spell of Minette’s Feast. The text is cute, but it is the illustrations by Amy Bates that are so charming, you won’t mind if this is your child’s most requested bedtime read.

Food Memoir

It was food writer Molly O’Neil who said that food preferences, habits and rituals are also intimate windows into disparate cultures, classes, eras and places. We see this clearly between the pages of our favorite food memoirs, the latest, hottest coming-of-age stories. I’ve fallen hard for food memoirs and non-fiction this year, reigniting a love that began with Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and several of Ruth Reichl’s reads many years ago. Here are some of my favorite books.

Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater

by Gail Simmons
Cover for Talking with my Mouth Full bookI adored Gail’s frank and friendly account of her food-centric upbringing, her journey as a food writer, and her rise to TV fame. I’ve watched enough Top Chef to have Gail’s voice in my head as I was reading – and she writes exactly as she talks (not everyone does). I couldn’t wait to steal away each day and hang out with Gail!

The fact that Gail is a Canadian girl and part of the book takes place in my Montreal is just icing on the cake. Buy the book; her amusing account of working as an assistant to Jeffery Steingarten is worth the price tag alone.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

by Gabrielle Hamilton

Cover for Blood, Bones and Butter bookGabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones, & Butter is an expertly written autobiography about a chef searching for purpose in her life and finding it through cooking. From one artfully recounted story to the next, we follow author Hamilton from kitchen to kitchen, breathlessly anticipating her next adventure, her next mouthful.

As Hamilton so passionately depicts, there are few life stories as exciting and colorful than that of a chef; in the evenings, I found myself getting Danny’s attention and forcing him to listen while I read excerpts out loud. Both delicious and engrossing, Blood, Bones & Butter is a must-read for any foodie worth their salt.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

by Tamar Adler

Cover for An Everlasting Meal bookIf the recipe headnote is your favorite part of a cookbook, you’ll fall hard for the narrative cookbook, An Everlasting Meal. Written by Tamar Adler in a series of essays, the the rustic, soft spoken instructions of this book read almost like prose – incredibly practical prose.

Tamar weaves in instructions on how to salvage burned or over-salted dishes, reminds us not to overlook the humblest of ingredients, and generously gives us strategies for economical cooking.

A Homemade Life

by Molly Wizenberg

Cover for A Homemade Life bookMolly’s absorbing cookbook-memoir is one that you tuck under your arm and head outside with a glass of lemonade to read in peace. Once you have spread a quilt in the back yard and plopped down, prepared to be transported.

When hunger pangs finally force you to stir from your afternoon interlude, bring the book into the kitchen and dreamily prepare her father’s recipe for French Toast. It is perfect, as is A Homemade Life, and a breakfast staple around here, along with the Buckwheat Pancakes.

One of my favorite books. Ever.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

by Ruth Reichl

Cover for Garlic and Sapphires bookI’ve long been a fan of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs, but Garlic and Sapphires was the most fun to read. It is an utterly fascinating look into her exploits as a New York Times food critic  – and she was wild. As someone who has spent a significant amount of time in the professional kitchen, I reveled in her positive food descriptions and shriveled with her harsher judgements.

Food Blogging

You’d be surprised at all what goes in to maintaining a blog, but these books might give you an idea. They are all fantastic resources that receive plenty of thumbing through from me.

Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling

by Helene Dujardin

Cover for Plate to Pixel bookAs a loooongtime fan of Helene’s blog, Tartelette, I was thrilled to hear she was writing a food photography and styling book. I pre-odered it as soon as I could and have been learning ever since it arrived. She packs a lot into this easy-to-read book. It’s a must for aspiring food bloggers who wish to improve their blogs visuals.

Food Blogging For Dummies

by Kelly Senyei

Cover for Food Blogging for Dummies bookFood Blogging for Dummies is a hefty manual for virtually every aspect of the craft. Kelly’s writing reads like a friend briefing you on the latest and greatest in the food blogging scene over a cup of coffee. She’s not preachy and speaks from the perspective someone who has been there. If you’re thinking of starting your own food blog, or kicking your current blog into high gear, Kelly’s book is the one for you.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

by Bryan Peterson

Cover for Undersanding Exposure bookWhile I admittedly don’t ‘understand’ everything in Understanding Exposure, it has helped my photography quite a bit. Written for any and all cameras, this books lays a foundation for solid photography skills.

The New Food Lover’s Companion

by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Cover for the New Food Lover's Companion reference bookThis book is the ultimate kitchen pal – a comprehensive dictionary of over four thousand food, wine and culinary terms. It’s fun for just browsing, but can be a real help for those head-scratching exotic ingredients or old-school cooking terms.