Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Books are always fantastic gifts, no matter the occasion, and we have a whole host of recommendations for you over on the Bookworm page of our holiday gift guide.

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We'd be remiss if we didn't suggest, first and foremost, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by our very own Kenji López-Alt. This 900-plus-page volume is a James Beard Award winner and a New York Times best seller for good reason: It's packed with excellent recipes, techniques, and tips, all backed up by the rigorous testing Kenji employs in his Food Lab series right here at Serious Eats.

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Maybe the person you're shopping for has a budding interest in Japanese cuisine, and not just sushi and ramen? In that case, try either Preserving the Japanese Way: Traditions of Salting, Fermenting, and Pickling for the Modern Kitchen by Nancy Singleton Hachisu—a primer for readers unfamiliar with the long and varied tradition of preserving foods in Japan—or Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton, which offers a similar guide to Japanese clay pot cooking.

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For friends and family hoping to add Middle Eastern dishes to their repertoire, we recommend Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, and Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Amid Zahav's many helpful kitchen techniques, Solomonov's trick of blending garlic with lemon juice to tame the garlic's bite is the secret to a tahini sauce that's mild and aromatic, not overwhelmingly pungent. As beautiful to look at as it is satisfying to use, Jerusalem, drawing on the authors' separate and shared culinary experiences in the titular city, is chock-full of recipes you'll want to make again and again, like chermoula-rubbed roasted eggplant.

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If you have a friend who can't resist the lure of a farmers market, pick up Ottolenghi's Plenty More, a book focused solely on demonstrating the versatility of vegetables; while some of the recipes may be a little labor-intensive, the results are well worth the time and effort. Another option: Elizabeth David on Vegetables, a collection of the revolutionary British cook's simple, straightforward, and delicious plant-based recipes, accompanied by gorgeous photography and a few of her very best essays. Both of these books would be perfect for the vegetarians in your life, of course, but even the meat-obsessed cooks you know will find a lot to enjoy within their pages.

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Speaking of, for anyone who loves their meat and is amply supplied with patience, either Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, or Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, by Meathead Goldwyn and Greg Blonder, should be just the ticket. Beyond the great recipes, these books provide an encyclopedic wealth of information on their respective subjects, and the authors are clearly adherents of the philosophy of Jacques Pépin, namely, that good cooking favors prepared hands.

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Which brings us to the man himself. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen is no mere celebrity-chef memoir, just as Jacques Pépin is no mere celebrity chef. Pépin, along with Julia Child, is responsible for teaching a generation of American cooks, and he could easily be described as the progenitor of any number of culinary projects. This wonderfully written book is part bildungsroman, part love letter to the American experience from an expat-turned-immigrant who has left everyone in his adopted nation forever in his debt. A perfect gift for any serious eater, any cook, or any reader.

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See the rest of our gift picks for bookworms right this way »