Our Favorite Books to Give Food Lovers (2017)

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Photograph: Donna Ruhlman

There's a book out there for every person, no matter what their interests are. And if their interests are food-related, then you've come to the right place. Over the years, we've conducted dozens of cookbook reviews and shared our personal recommendations for food-focused literature. You can see the full collection of our picks here, but we have several new picks this year, and they're perfect for cooks looking for new recipes—or just a great read.

BraveTart, the Book!

I may be a touch biased when I say this, but I'm just going to lead off with the best food book of the year: Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts, by our very own Stella Parks. I suppose this could be seen as a kind of selfish gift to give, since you'll probably be getting some delicious sweet things in return. But it's more than just a collection of recipes: There is a host of essays on the origins of various iconic sweet things, like the chocolate chip cookie and the snickerdoodle, that are well worth the purchase price on their own. (Want a sample? Check out an excerpt about how Oreos got their name.)

Think of it like The Food Lab for dessert, but with a historical bent. Speaking of which...

The Food Lab

Based on the column of the same name, J. Kenji López-Alt's The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science is a must-have resource for any curious home cook. Within its 960 pages the reader will fine a plethora of recipes, accompanied by deep dives into the science behind the techniques that make them exceptional. As detailed and reliable as those recipes are, the book's goal is to offer a thorough understanding of why delicious things taste the way they do, and its vast scope makes it a perfect gift for novices and veterans alike.

Reinventing the Wheel

If you know anyone who's as obsessed with cheese as we here at Serious Eats are obsessed with Stella's recipes, then Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is the gift to give them. Bronwen and Francis Percival offer up a passionate appeal for examining the way cheese-making has evolved over the years, and resurrecting or rediscovering some of the processes and practices that have been lost along the way. For a more in-depth look at their project, take a look at our interview with the husband-and-wife duo, or at their articles on L'Etivaz and Kirkham's Lancashire.

The Art of Eating

This book is for anyone who loves good food and good prose. A collection of five of MFK Fisher's books (Serve It Forth, Consider the Oyster, How To Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets), The Art of Eating is sure to give the recipient hours upon hours of reading pleasure.

Home Cooking

Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking is filled with kitchen stories that are charming, honest, and laugh-out-loud funny. Colwin is equally entertaining recounting her successful cooking escapades as she is telling tales of her disasters, and she also has a knack for vividly describing the included recipes, which are both accessible to home cooks and consistently, reliably delicious.

The Flavor Thesaurus

Part culinary resource, part poetry, The Flavor Thesaurus examines the strange chemistry of flavor pairings, offering up explanations for why classic flavor combinations use, as well as inspiration for new ones. It's a great gift for any cook, whether they're novices or old hands in the kitchen.

The Complete Nose to Tail

My go-to cookbook recommendation and gift for cooks, The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking combines Fergus Henderson's seminal cookbook, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, with its sequel, Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook. The kind of British cooking Henderson produces is the good kind: simple but sophisticated, adventurous yet wholly accessible. If you've ever had roasted bone marrow at a restaurant, the dish was probably inspired by Henderson (or by someone who was inspired by Henderson). While it may seem like the focus is solely on offal and meat, every recipe I've ever made from the book is stellar, including the pantry staples (like "trotter gear," or chicken stock fortified with pig feet) and the salads.

But Wait, There's More!

We're not done. You can find plenty more gifts for the bookworm right this way »