I have over 700 cookbooks in my collection. Here are some of the best (still in print), sorted by category:
(always under construction)
Learning How to (Really) Cook
Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page
This is an outstanding book about creating your own recipes. It covers what ingredients and spices compliment each other and how to creatively use contrasting tastes and textures to improvise your own tasty inventions. Also covers how to make your masterpiece as beautiful as it is delicious. Highly recommended!
The Professional Chef, Seventh Edition by Culinary Institute of America
The standard "textbook" of America's best cooking school. Not a cookbook, although there are plenty of recipes. If you ever wanted to learn what the professional chefs have been taught, this is the book. Massive - 1078 pages.
La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan
Outstanding course in cooking. Not a cookbook, although there are plenty of recipes. Written by the founder of the La Varenne Cooking School in Paris. Over 2500 color photos illustrate everything.
Think Like a Chef by Tom Collichio
This book focuses on teaching you how to learn to develop your own dishes - the process of creating your own recipes. A delight to read, from a professional chef who understands the process chefs go through when inventing new dishes and can explain it clearly. There are lots of recipes to illustrate his points along the way, but it is not primarily a recipe book.
The Complete Book of Sauces by Sallie Williams
Excellent quality sauce recipes - everything from magnificent sauces for entrees to dessert sauces. Of all my sauce books, this is the one I go to first when I need some new ideas. The Cognac Cream Sauce on pg 19 (served over grilled veal chops) is worth the price of the book by itself.
Sauces by James Peterson
Classical and contemporary sauce making - teaches the art of sauces. Huge book (598 pages), for professional chefs or serious home cooks. Many recipes are time consuming. Bound to be a classic, and winner of the 1991 James Beard Foundation "Cookbook of the Year".
Splendid Soups : Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups by James Peterson
Perhaps the best book ever written on making soup. Not just a book of recipes - it teaches the art of soup making, and provides guidelines for creating your own soup masterpieces. Probably not for beginners.
Thai Food by David Thompson
This is the bible of Thai cooking. The only book you need. Totally authentic - destined to be a classic.
Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco by Paula Wolfert
This is the bible of Moroccan cooking. Anytime chefs mention Moroccan food, this book always gets mentioned. If you haven't cooked Moroccan food, you are missing one of the world's finest cuisines.
Classic Indian Cuisine by Julie Sahni
A true classic, and a complete course on Indian cuisine.
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
One of many great Indian cookbooks from America's best-known Indian food author.