Cookbook Gift Guide 2016

Working on your holiday gifts? Take a page from our book

All December long, we're bringing you the recipes, tips and tricks you need to Feast your way through the holidays, no matter how you celebrate the season.

Don't let anyone tell you differently: Print media lives. These 10 cookbooks, both old and new, prove that culinary literacy isn't just valuable—it's delicious. So make sure these books find their way under the tree (or menorah) for your loved ones who'd rather spend winter in the kitchen than in an armchair.

① A Cozy Coloring Cookbook, by Adrianna Adarme ($16)

The blogger behind A Cozy Kitchen takes two comforting pastimes—coloring and cooking—and combines them into one whimsical book. Fairy bread with honey butter is your chance to use every crayon in the box as you color in the sprinkles, and chai gingerbread cookies work as a practice round for decorating the real things. Images of Adarme's adorable corgi, Amelia, pepper the color-forward recipes (think spring pea pesto and baked funfetti doughnuts). Don't forget to buy colored pencils for the complete package.

② Chelsea Market Makers, by Michael Phillips and Cree LeFavour ($30)

A combination of delightful illustrations and need-this-now food photography line the pages of the second book from the always-bustling New York market. It functions both as a general market guide and a behind-the-scenes look at the various food stands and passionate artisans that drive each one. You'll get a rundown on ramen, learn how to make a rye sourdough starter like Amy Scherber of Amy's Bread and discover how to spot fresh seafood—and then turn it into homemade lobster rolls.

③ Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker ($35)

Want to know the ultimate mother-daughter bonding activity? Try writing a cookbook together, which is exactly what Irma and Marion did 85 years ago when they first published this perennial best seller. Generations of folks have become better humans (or least better cooks) because of the pair's helpful, colloquial instructions for essential tried-and-true recipes. Let this prove that crown roasts and steamed pudding are always relevant.

④ What Good Cooks Know, by The Editors at America's Test Kitchen ($35)

Gift this at your own risk: Your go-to cooking buddy might replace you entirely with this superior kitchen companion. Simple and attractive promises, like "How to Make Food Taste Better," make it hard to say no to the trustworthy kitchen genius's collection of 20 years of tips.

⑤ Freemans, by Taavo Somer ($60)

Talk to a New Yorker about Freemans, and they might recall warm artichoke dip and devils on horseback enjoyed at the Lower Manhattan restaurant, but Somer, the man behind it all, is mainly design oriented. The book explores his oasis-like restaurant through vignettes and photos of the taxidermy, old paintings and antique finds that fill the space. You'll also take a look inside Somer's other ventures, including his own rustic, idyllic home in Upstate New York. If you're hungry for more, there are recipes for Freemans classics—like that artichoke dip. 

⑥ Vegan Cuisine, by Jean-Christian Jury ($125)

What seems at first glance like another impressive coffee-table book is actually as comprehensive and useful as a cookbook gets, vegan focus notwithstanding. With more than 800 recipes, no cuisine goes untouched. There's Thai butternut squash curry, and rigatoni with roasted eggplant and cashew ricotta that's fit for an Italian movie star. And the 116 pages of inventive desserts and smoothies make the argument that vegans might really have more fun.

⑦ American Cake, by Anne Byrn ($30)

For those who want dessert with a side of history. Cakes have shaped America's past (and vice versa) to delicious effect, and Byrn proves that it's not just chocolate layer or simple pound cakes that are at the root of this story. There's also a spiced currant-studded number from Martha Washington, a 1917 applesauce cake made with World War I rationing in mind and a chocolate sauerkraut cake for which you can thank the Pennsylvania Dutch.

⑧ Food Anatomy, by Julia Rothman and Rachel Wharton ($17)

Food books by culinary professionals aren't exactly hard to come by, which is what makes this one by a charming illustrator so special. Learn your peppers, beans, pasta shapes and more via adorable (and accurate!) drawings and helpful explanations. There are recipes scattered throughout, but you'll learn something beyond how to make Real Deal Buttermilk Pancakes. Like what exactly is a "wrecked and crying" or a "cluck and grunt"? Simply refer to the short-order egg lingo page to find out.

⑨ Scandinavian Comfort Food, by Trine Hahnemann ($35)

Perfect for your long-distance best friend, this book can essentially take the place of a warm holiday hug. It's all about hygge, the comfort embodied by Danish culture, home cooking and general attitude toward life. Or, as Hahnemann says, "Hygge is more than anything the atmosphere created by hanging out." It doesn't hurt when there are sweet rye rolls and caramelized potatoes also hanging out at the table, and photographs of the author's meals at home bring a real-world genuine quality to the idea.

⑩ Eating Words, Edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Roger J. Porter ($20)

To be fair, this isn't a cookbook, but it is the best collection of food writing that's surfaced in recent years. Not everyone wants to whip up perfect madeleines, but no one is immune from Marcel Proust's iconic words about them, or the other many vignettes that start with the Old Testament and end with the critics of today. The introduction by Ruth Reichl should push you over the edge.