It's good to know, before you give, what kind of cookbook the recipient might prefer. For instance, do dietary needs necessitate cookbooks which provide nutritional breakdowns for each recipe? Does someone prefer photographs of every recipe? Is the recipient in need of a quick and easy cookbook? a general, all-purpose cookbook? a cookbook which gives metric equivalents? Think through what the recipient's needs might be and choose accordingly.
One final thought: it's a good idea to give a cookbook you have tested yourself rather than a random one from the shelf. Exceptions are those cookbooks widely known and loved by millions (Joy of Cooking) or produced by widely respected food magazines/publishers (such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, etc.).
The following lists are suggestions in various categories. These are simply cookbooks I'm familiar with; if you have another suggestion, leave a comment! There's always the cookbook you make yourself of your favorite recipes! Notations are as follows: Pics=Photographs; Ill.=illustrations; ND=nutritional data given.
General, All-Purpose Cookbooks
(for those who are just starting out, love to cook in general, or whose current cookbooks are falling apart; everyone should have a couple of these)
- Joy of Cooking, new edition. Ill. Huge, comprehensive, and a combination of older editions.
- How to Cook Everything, 10th ann. edition. Ill. Slightly less huge, very comprehensive. (I don't own this one yet, but it's on my Christmas list!)
- Better Homes and Gardens. Pics, ND. Great all-purpose cookbook; easier to navigate and cook from in some ways than Joy.
- America's Test Kitchen Family Favorites Cookbook. Pics. Another great all-purpose cookbook; one you can "trust." Very good for those who love to cook or who don't know how.
- Southern Living Ultimate Cookbook. Pics, ND. Great Southern food and lots of general recipes.
(For those on a budget or trying to cut food costs; these cookbooks give lots of recipes for breads, basic main dishes, breakfast foods, etc.--meals are inexpensive to make and/or lots of recipes for things people usually buy already made--like granola bars or the like)
- How to Cook Everything, 10th Anniversary Edition. Ill. (also gives lots of suggestions for adapting recipes--very convenient for budget conscious cooks!)
- Joy of Cooking, newest edition. Ill.
- More-with-Less. Premise of the book is about cooking/eating more/better with less! Lots of tips for stretching the budget and lots of very inexpensive recipes.
- Better Homes and Gardens. Pics, ND.
(Want to know what the rest of the world eats?
- Take Out Tonight! Weight Watchers Cookbook--Pics; ND. Very tasty international recipes that don't hurt those New Year's Resolutions!
- Extending the Table. In the spirit of More-With-Less; ordinary food from around the world.
- How to Cook Everything, 10th ann. Ill. Lots of international recipes scattered throughout.
- Joy of Cooking, newest edition. Ill. Lots of international recipes scattered throughout.