Why do we still love cookbooks, when we don't need them? It's true that all you need is access to the internet if all you're looking for is a recipe for Korean fried chicken. But the best cookbooks do more than collect recipes; they engender trust, they teach us basic principles, and much of the time, they're windows into dazzling other worlds. Brillat-Savarin's famous aphorism ("Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are") holds especially true for cookbooks that are personality-driven, like the ones we've chosen here, rather than tied to a restaurant (like 2016's excellent Mozza at Home or Eataly), a dish (tacos, cookies) or a cooking method (like grilling or slow cookers ... always with the damn slow cookers). These eight books offer glimpses into wholly unique points of view. (Note: Online booksellers have distorted pricing so much that we won't list prices or sources here; follow your conscience and buy where you will.)
1. Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking, by Jessica Koslow (Abrams Books, 280 pages)
This is the killer of the bunch. In last year's holiday cookbook guide, I wished for more local restaurants to emulate Sqirl; now I have the bible to re-create that magic at home. A gorgeous document of a magical and deceptively simple restaurant.
2. A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, by Tyler Kord (Clarkson Potter, 192 pages)
Tyler Kord is like your weirdest, most brilliant friend, the one who comes up with completely bizarre systems for everyday processes that turn out to make everything better. If the person you're buying for likes sandwiches (and who doesn't?) and out-of-the-box thinking (not everyone does), this is the book for them.
3. Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories From an Unlikely Life on a Farm, by Molly Yeh (Rodale, 304 pages)
A Jewish-Chinese Brooklynite with a fondness for junk food (Lunchables, Dunkaroos) is transplanted to a sugar-beet farm on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. Hilarity – and a whole new way of looking at life, cooking and eating – ensues in this gloriously inclusive and utterly distinctive book based on the popular blog My Name Is Yeh.
4. The Love and Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking, by Jeanine Donofrio (Avery, 320 pages)
Another cookbook based on a beloved blog, Love and Lemons is just behind Everything I Want to Eat in this year's horse race for most anticipated cookbook. (In fact, it's the book more people have asked me about this season than any other.) And, fortunately, it lives up to the hype, offering a tart and sunny repository of vegetable cookery in a well-designed volume.
5. Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs, by Julia Turshen (Chronicle Books, 306 pages)
Is your gift recipient new to the kitchen, or just interested in thoughtful new ways to problem-solve? Turshen's Small Victories is a like cool drink of water, a treasury of calm, soothing wisdom.
6. Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat, by Chrissy Teigen (Random House, 240 pages)
OK, OK, hear me out. I know: Chrissy Teigen, of Sports Illustrated and Twitter fame? But this is truly the perfect book to turn to for potlucks, family gatherings and office parties. Is it basic? Totally. Is it incredibly useful? Absolutely. Are there some tasty bites to be had? You better believe it.
7. Dalí: Les Dîners de Gala, by Salvador Dalí (Taschen, 320 pages)
Taschen's reprint of this most-sought-after classic answered years of fervent prayers from collectors unwilling to pay upward of $350 for even a tattered old copy. Grotesque, erotic, fantastic.
8. Regarding Cocktails, by Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske (Phaidon, 256 pages)
The tragically early death of Sasha Petraske, a founder of modern mixology, is hardly softened by this book – it only makes it clear how much more he would have had to say and teach. However, as a last testament (the book was finished by his wife), it's a gorgeous piece of work and a fascinating look inside a beautiful mind.