2012 Gift Guide: Books

For the cookbook fanatic, the nightstand reader, or the hardcore food-writing fan, a book (or two or three) is the greatest of gifts. Our picks range from coffee-table-worthy restaurant cookbooks to an eighteenth-century household guide—there’s sure to be something here to suit any library. See all our perfect present ideas in the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide »

The Penguin ‘Great Food’ Series

These twenty books, each an excerpt from a great culinary resource–from Elizabeth David to MFK Fisher to Samuel Pepys–provide an elegantly-packaged cross-section of the last few centuries of food writing. Give one or two as stocking stuffers, or go all-out and buy the whole boxed set. Penguin Great Food Series, $8-$12 each at Amazon.com Amazon

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Edible Selby

Photographer Todd Selby has an uncanny eye for the beauty of the unconventional kitchen; in his second book, he features cooks, chefs, and other culinary creative types in their workspaces–complete with recipes and witty hand-drawn illustrations. Edible Selby, $20.24 at Amazon.com Saveur

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Blogs as Books

Few things make us happier than seeing our favorite food bloggers make the transition to paper-and-ink cookbook authors. These three, from the women behind Canelle et Vanille, Smitten Kitchen, and What Katie Ate are among 2012’s very best. Small Plates and Sweet Treats, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and What Katie Ate, all at Amazon.com

Dirt Candy: A Cookbook

New York City chef Amanda Cohen serves vegetarian food like you’ve never tried it before at her East Village restaurant; her cookbook serves recipes just as original, all of it presented in a surprisingly useful-in-the-kitchen comic-book style. [Dirt Candy: A Cookbook], $12.98 at Amazon.com Saveur

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Julia Eternal

There’s a reason Julia Child is the superstar of the cookbook world: her wisdom, humor, and failproof recipes have enraptured generations of home cooks. We can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t welcome at least one of her volumes this holiday season. The French Chef Cookbook, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and As Always, Julia all at Amazon.com Amazon

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The Great Restaurants

Besides the quiet imagery of their covers, what these three books have in common is lineage: Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Grant Achatz’s Alinea, and Rene Redzepi’s Noma have shaped the entire world of restaurants, one paving the way for the next. Give the restaurants’ cookbooks as a set, for a powerful narrative of the contemporary restaurant. The French Laundry Cookbook, Alinea, and Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, all at Amazon.com Amazon

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Do It Yourself

Go beyond dinners and lunches and start making your pantry staples with these three books, each an expert guide to making breads and pizzas, pickles and preserves, and sweet fruit jams. Flour Water Salt Yeast, The Preservation Kitchen, and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, all at Amazon.com Amazon

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Season’s Readings

SAVEUR editors and contributors pick the very best books of 2012–from the vibrant simplicity of Japanese Farm Cooking to Modernist Cuisine at Home‘s surprising high-science approachability. See the gallery: Best Cookbooks of 2012 »

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