No Proustian daydreams here—these are real cookbooks, with real recipes! I either own or have used all of these cookbooks myself, and recommend them for you as well. They'd also make great gifts for loved ones. Not ready to commit with a purchase? Borrow them from your local library for a test-drive first!

Joy of Cooking: If you have only one cookbook in your home, this better be it! The definitive guide to all things culinary, from basic preparation to advanced techniques, with helpful guides and diagrams throughout. When I'm wondering how to cook something, or need a baseline for a new recipe, this is where I start.

Nigella Christmas: I find myself gazing through this magical cookbook at all times of the year. There is something compelling about Nigella Lawson's desire for abundance coupled with her need for ease. She wants everyone to feel the warmth and comfort of the season, including those doing the hosting. And although I may never actually roast a whole goose for Christmas dinner, my mind is at rest knowing I have an expert to consult if I do!

Around My French Table: Dorie Greenspan's triumphant and inspiring cookbook makes French food accessible to all. Peppered with charming anecdotes and brimming with helpful suggestions, this is a must-have for even the most modest of Francophiles.

New German Cooking: If asked, I might say France has the most delicious food—but Germany has an equally wonderful cuisine, full of flavor and unabashed comfort. This cookbook captures those wonderful dishes perfectly, and they are much easier than you think. An excellent resource for hearty, everyday fair.

Jamie at Home: This gem contains the recipes from the television series of the same name, and I'm so glad it does. Jamie Oliver's enthusiasm is infectious, and his encouragement genuine. He is in your corner, and he wants you to succeed in making some fantastic, easy, and healthy food for you and your family!

Roots: A fascinating guide to all things underground (edible ones, that is). A great cookbook to help vegetarian and omnivore alike increase the number of plants in their diet. Familiar and unusual are beautifully photographed and allowed to shine with an abundance of creative recipes.

The Taste of Country Cooking: This charming cookbook doubles as a memoir, a recollection of a time when everyone followed the seasons out of necessity, and hard work resulted in the pleasure of a full larder. Edna Lewis recaptures the joys of her childhood, while sharing treasured family recipes with enormous respect for their ingredients and history.

The More-with-Less Cookbook: More like a collection of recipes from friends and family, this cookbook has been a trusted kitchen companion for decades—as well as one of my first introductions to the importance of stewardship and sustainability. Way ahead of its time, this culinary classic is still extremely relevant today.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Full of Deb Perelman's inimitable style (not to mention fantastic recipes), this cookbook gives you the tools to make the most of everything with the least amount of effort—and the results are simply delicious. The dishes are gorgeous, and equally perfect for fabulous entertaining and the quiet of every day.

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