I just had to participate in this week's Weekly Geeks, because the assignment is let's talk cookbooks!
I have a fairly large cookbook collection. I've been inspired by two people in this. First of all, my late mother-in-law, who not only had a huge collection of cookbooks, but who would actually read them. She might take one up to bed and read it there, just like it was a novel. And she made notes in the margins, about things she might like to try, or things she'd tried and modified. I love to run across these notes, "needs more sugar!", when I'm reading her old cookbooks.
I'm also inspired by a very good friend who is the author of several really great cookbooks. Her Dinner Parties: Simple Recipes for Easy Entertaining is one of my go-to cookbooks when I'm planning a party. Knowing her over the years, I've become familiar with the process of writing a cookbook, from coming up with a concept, menu planning, recipe writing and best of all, recipe testing. I've helped her test recipes many times, and it's always a yummy experience. Also, my family and I have been the beneficiaries of her recipe-testing jags, when she might bring over, say, a summer fruit tart, and say, "here, what do you think?" I think I'm in heaven!
One of the best things about cookbooks is reading them. I love a well-written cookbook. For funny cookbooks, I go to the Beat This! Cookbook series by Ann Hodgman, who used to write for Spy Magazine. She is absolutely hilarious. She also wrote a cookbook entitled One Bite Won't Kill You--so you see what I mean. It's next on my list to buy.
I also read cookbooks because they are beautiful. One such beautiful cookbook I received as a gift is Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. Lucques is a local restaurant that is just wonderful--I've eaten celebratory meals there for years. Goin is a famous local chef, with several great restaurants in Los Angeles.
I also love Nigella Lawson's cookbooks, which are very readable (and her website is great). She's also quite watchable on TV. And my favorite book on baking, which contains my favorite easy chocolate frosting recipe, is The Baker's Dozen Cookbook: Become a Better Baker with 135 Foolproof Recipes and Tried-and-True Techniques.
And, last but not least, as a cook I've turned to the internet for recipes quite a bit lately. There are some great cooking blogs I check regularly. These are wonderful because they usually post great pictures of the food (which is another hallmark of a good cookbook). My favorites are, of course, Books and Cooks (which combines two of my passions), and also Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker, and the Paris-based Chocolate and Zucchini--all of whom have lovely writing styles.
Check these sites out, they're great!